Friday, February 22, 2013

Red Tail Query and Blakeman Reply

  Pale Male on Flagpole in Central Park - photo by Lincoln Karim - 9/30/06

On February 20th I received the following report, via e-mail.:
My name is Robert Hartwick and I live in Westwood NJ.
I had a strange encounter with a Red Tail and I can't figure out what was happening.My wife and I used to feed the song birds with feeders in our backyard and would occasionally see a Red Tail perched on the back fence about 50ft away but nothing up close and personal as I am about to relate to you.

Last week as I was leaving my doctors office and walking toward my car in his parking lot I took out my car keys, pressed the remote to unlock my white Ford Taurus sedan. I opened the door and was about get in when I heard a high pitched rattling sound. This caught my attention and I looked up and there was big red sitting flat footed and facing me in the middle of the roof. He was only 2ft.from me(length of my arm) and I stood there and watched him. He didn't move or make any sounds,just stared at me so I stared back. He didn't even blink. In real time probably 30sec. Then I got in the car,started the engine and I could see him through the windshield as he flew away.
Do you have any idea what was happening? I've been wrestling with this for a week and I haven't the foggiest idea what was happening. 
Yours truly,
Bob H
           Robert J Hartwick 
P.S. He didn't even scratch the paint.

I sent the query on to the Ohio hawk expert, John Blakeman. His reply follows: 

Yes, this is strange --- but not unheard of. A Red-tail jumped up on a car in Philadelphia a year or so ago, and stood there while people watched close by. It may have brought a captured pigeon to consume on the car.
The exact reason this hawk perched itself on the car in the story is unknown. But the more significant matter, I think, is this. This was a Red-tail accustomed to cars and urban or suburban life, paying little
attention to close-by humans --- much in the manner of Pale Male and many of the other urban Red-tails of New York City.
Yes, until Pale Male and his urban counterparts revealed the potential of this species to become acclimated and tolerant (even unconcerned) about humans close at hand, this sort of encounter would have been readily dismissed or discredited. No longer. This was a 21-century urban or suburban Red-tail, for which the car was merely a temporary and convenient perch, and the driver pretty much a non-factor.
Now the vast majority of Red-tailed Hawks, both urban and rural, retain a wild wariness of humans or cars. But the Red-tail we know today, in many cases (as here) is not your Grandfather's Red-tail.
--John Blakeman


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

LATE NEWS: It's a boy!

I wasn't able to post Murray's great European Goldfinch photos until now. [Every once in a while my computer seems to follow a different drummer] But here they are, as splendid as ever. [And don't forget to click on the photo to enlarge.]

He is a very beautiful European Goldfinch.
I did not see him with the American Goldfinches that frequent a feeder bag.
I have read that "On males the red on the face extends to the edge of the eyes,on females it does not" so
I'm guessing a male.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

FLASH! [second post today]

Black-headed Gull [winter] - photo from Wikipedia

1:40 pm on Tuesday --Tom Fiore sent this report less than an hour ago:

Tuesday, 19 Feb., 2013 Central Park (reservoir), Manhattan, N.Y. City

On Central Park's reservoir this mid-day were at least several thousand gulls, and scanning thru them I found & photographed a 1st-winter-plumaged Black-headed Gull, which was mostly sitting (as were 98% of all the gulls) at or near the median divider of the reservoir, & the Black-headed much closer to the north end of that dike than otherwise - it was seen & photographed in flight as well as on the dike, & seen moving about just a few dozen yards, generally within the few dozen other gulls at/near the northern portion of the dike, at ~12:30 to 12:45 pm today.  I am returning, despite less than lovely (wet) weather arriving, to scan all the other gulls & also see if the Black-headed can be re-found in fairly quick time, or not... more to follow if/when further sightings have occurred...

I'd add that with so many gulls present, chances of any other uncommon or rarer species increase a bit, at any location gulls gather. I can't predict whether this concentration at the C.P. reservoir will continue in the weather that is coming in, or after it.

good gulling,

Tom Fiore

John names the pale robin

photo of a leucistic American Robin in Prospect Park, taken from Robb Jett's website: []

Just received the following explanatory note from our old friend 
John Blakeman in Ohio:


The pale robin [in yesterday's post] is a "leucistic" American Robin. This is not so infrequent in this species. It conveys a slight disadvantage, inasmuch as it draws the attention of Cooper's Hawks and other bird-eating raptors. If the robin is otherwise healthy (usually the case), the bird can be attentive and avoid an aerial pounce of a Cooper's Hawk.
But in some cases, the bird's inability to lay down proper pigments during feather development is associated by other genetic defects which can restrict the robin's attentiveness or ability to safely escape. That's almost surely not the case with this leucistic bird, as it's survived the summer, fall, and much of the winter with its light-colored feathers.
A good number of hawks have been visually attracted to its white feathers, but it's been a survivor.

John Blakeman

Monday, February 18, 2013

It's Pale, it's Male, but it's not Pale Male

 Tom Fiore,  the main character of my first Central Park book Red-Tails in Love, sends a photograph and writes:

Hi Marie,
I photographed this American Robin in Central Park on Feb. 17th, just west of the reservoir. It may be the most unusually plumaged of that species I've seen.  I may see if I can find it again - it certainly stands out well.


American Robin [very pale] Central Park, west of Reservoir - 2-17-13
photo by TOM FIORE

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Jack is absolutely right

Jack Meyer writes in regard to yesterday's post:

The first of those ‘odd ducks’ looks to me like it is mostly if not entirely a male Gadwall. Note the very fine vermiculations on the sides, and the
silvery tertials.. .

PS: I wrote this yesterday and forgot to mail it.