Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Pale Male and Lola teach snotty kid a good lesson

Karen Kolling asks a question and John Blakeman answers:

What does locking talons do when redtails fight, as in the photos of 3/17/08 on I would think it would really endanger their feet, and so possibly cause a serious or fatal injury. It doesn't seem like a good strategy.

Blakeman replies:
Actually, it's the opposite. The locked talons keeps the birds from sinking them into flesh, which really would be hazardous. The talon locking is rather ritualistic, keeping both birds from being seriously injured. Many animals have similar less-then-deadly intra-specific (same species) confrontation behaviors.
The young hawk learned its lesson. Stay away from 927 Fifth Ave. There's a pair of mean adults that will come right out and attack. The young bird was almost surely just moving north in migration and was unaware of the nest or territory. It's real mistake, however, was its failure to fly right off when it saw the resident bird approaching. It was acting like a snotty know-it-all adolescent. The attacking adult taught it a lesson that will never be lost upon any future visit to Central Park.
Personally, I've never seen such an encounter. In most cases, the passing bird recognizes its intrusive error at the first sight of the approaching resident, whereupon the non-resident literally turns tail and exits the territory. But this self-absorbed young bird had some lessons in Red-tail territorial etiquette to learn, which were well taught by the our resident adult.

--John Blakeman