Kara C. Donohue and Alfred M. Dufty, Jr. wrote an excellent paper about using size measurements and weight to determine sex in Red-tailed Hawks, Sex determination of Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis calurus) using DNA analysis and morphometrics, J Field Ornithology, Vol 77, Issue 1, pp. 74-79.
This paper shows how hard it is to tell a Red-tail's sex. I would caution anyone who thinks they can quickly tell a Red-tails sex by simple observation to think twice before declaring the sexes of our two Cathedral fledglings.
Update: This note sparked a discussion between Donna Browne and John Blakeman about this year's fledglings sexes on Donna's blog, palemaleirregulars. My comments above were to start a discussion about the sex variations beyond just height. I think Donna and John are exploring this very well on her blog.
I went up to the Cathedral early Sunday afternoon during the break in the rain. I was able to find one hawk before a downpour occurred. The fledgling was on a chimney on the Cathedral School. After the rain started, the fledgling flew into the scaffolding on the southern section of the Cathedral School. I bet it was looking for a dry spot.
Summer Friday's allowed me to get out of work early and go up to the Cathedral around 2 p.m. I was the only one hawk watching when I arrived, and looked high and low for the hawks. I searched the Cathedral exterior from Morningside Drive and 113th Street, the St. Luke's building, the Cathedral grounds, and Morningside Park but came up empty.
I parked myself on a bench overlooking Morningside Park, hoping to at least see the parents fly over the park. I started drinking some iced tea, relaxing on a hot, humid summer day, and then looked up. I was pleasantly surprised to see both fledglings within 10 feet of each other. Finally, I could hawk watch from a bench!
The fledglings, who have become difficult to tell apart, stayed in the tree until the early evening when their father brought them a rodent for dinner.
When dinner arrived one of the fledglings, who I assume was the precocious first fledgling, went directly to the Cathedral to be fed. The other fledgling, who I assume is the second to fledge, still seems to be having troubles gaining altitude and took a sensible route. It went downhill (south) to cross the street and then worked its way up north.
As I was leaving, Fledgling I was eating the rodent, which looked to be a rat. It was then joined by its sibling, Fledgling II, who looked to have gotten a bite or two before Fledgling I mantled over the prey. Robert Schmunk reports that Fledgling II got second pickings later in the evening.
The white area seen on the back of a Red-tailed Hawks had has a great name, the Cryptic Occipital Spot. There is an excellent paper written about the spot, The Cryptic Occipital Spot in Accipitridae (Falconiformes), published in 1977 by John C. Hafner and Mark S. Hafner.
Up at the Cathedral this evening, we got to see both of the parents and at least one of the fledglings.
...and after a few minutes flies to the Cathedral School building. When it moves to the Cathedral building it appears to land perfectly. Another hawk follows, and it misses the roof and glides down a step slate roof to a gutter and stays out of sight. We think we've seen two fledglings but can't be sure. The mother had left the cross on the St. Savior chapel and one of the hawks could have been her.
The two fledglings relaxed on a hot, 90 degree day. I was at the Cathedral in the early afternoon on Sunday. Fledgling I was sitting on a fifth floor windowsill of a St. Luke's building half way between 113th and 114th Street on Morningside Drive.
Fledgling II was heard begging periodically, but took over an hour to find. It was in a tree on the south side of 113th about 20 feet in from Morningside Drive.
Both hawks looked to be doing nothing more than just trying to stay cool.
I hope you have enjoyed this series of posts about the St. John the Divine nest. It has been fun bringing a near daily report of the activities in Morningside Heights. Work commitments and vacations in June and July will prevent me from keeping up this daily pace. Expect to see posts only around the weekends for the next two months.
After taking a break in the early afternoon, and a detour to Riverside Church, I returned to the Cathedral.
The hawk watchers up at the Cathedral compared their estimates for fledge dates today. The question of the day was, Did we have a precocious fledgling followed by a normal fledgling?, Or a regular fledgling followed by a reluctant one? The general consensus was that we had a precocious, first fledgling.
Seven blocks north and a few blocks west of the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine is Riverside Church. A pair of Peregrine Falcons have two fledglings there, who on late Saturday afternoon made the worst racket imaginable begging for food.
At around 10:20 a.m, the second fledge occurred leaving the nest empty for the first time in over two and a half months.
I missed the fledge by about 15 minutes, but Barrie Raik was there to photograph the event. She has graciously provided these three photographs of the fledge. The feldgling left the nest and landed in a tree on Morningside Drive. I was soon mobbed by some catbirds and the adult female with the help of some prey, moved the feldgling to the Cathedral.
The second eyas continues to stay on the nest, although it's finally looking like it wants to fledge.
The eyas on who is still on the nest seemed to be in no hurry to leave on Thursday evening.
The second eyas refuses to fledge. Its sibling left on Sunday, but it still remains on the nest.
We had lots of discussions up at the nest tonight, about dates (I had originally estimated the fledge date would be June 15th), if the first had fledged too early, and if there had been three chicks with one dying prematurely could these two hawks be four days apart in age, etc.
The delayed fledging of the second eyas and the return of the fledgling to the nest the first night make this a very unusual fledge.
I arrived around 6:20 p.m. to learn that there had been a very noisy encounter with a pair of Peregrine Falcons. The action was over, however, and everything seemed peaceful when I arrived.
After work I made my way up to the Cathedral, and I was delighted to see so many friends from the 5th Avenue and Central Park South nests mingling with the locals from Morningside Heights.
Almost as soon as I arrived the fledgling left a tree and moved onto an angel statue at the top of the St. Savior Chapel roof.
Ellen Rockmuller reports seeing two eyasses in the nest early Monday morning (90% certainty), so it's likely the fledgling returned to the nest to sleep last night.
When I left after 8 p.m. the fledgling was in a tree close to the nest, the eyas was still on the nest, the adult male was in the same tree and the adult female was on the St. Savior chapel cross.
The afternoon started out with a Great Egret flying high over Morningside Park. It concerned the parents enough that both of them returned to the Cathedral.
Then without warning at 12:20 p.m. on Sunday, one of the birds fledged (left the nest for the first time). I was changing shooting locations at the time, and unfortunately missed capturing the moment.
James O'Brien, who blogs at yojimbot.blogspot.com, was shooting video of the nest, so the moment was recorded. James was kind enough to share these stills of the fledge. (The fledgling is on St. Andrew's head and the adult female is on the right.)
Like parents who've lost their child in a department store, we looked high and low for the fledgling. I love fledge days. The hawk watchers who've been standing around for days looking at the nest, all seem to come magically together and work as a team to find and keep track of the location of the new fledgling.
Around 3:40 p.m. Jacquie Connors and James O'Brien, with the help of a squirrel, found the fledgling in a small Ginkgo tree, just across Morningside drive from the nest. We had hunted all around Morningside park, and the fledgling turned out to be within 100 yards of the nest.
But for some reason moved back to a thin branch. After a few minutes a squirrel moved past, and the alarmed Red-tail gave out a cry. This happened a few times as the squirrel moved up and down the tree.
I think all of the Cathedral hawk watchers felt like proud parents today. Let's toast with some Champagne the success of these amazing parents and their new offspring!
I had arrived early on Sunday morning hoping to get some good light after all of the rain.
It was an enjoyable day up at the Cathedral on Saturday. We got to see both parents, around the nest and in Morningside Park frequently. We also had great views of the eyasses who will be fledglings any day now.
We've had a wet week and it finally stopped raining, although it continues to be cloudy and gray.
I'm sorry to say that it has become clear that we have only two eyasses in the nest now. They're too big for a third one to be hiding. Either my photographs deceived me and we never had three eyasses, or we had a death of an eyas about a week ago.
An A.P. wire-story about Pale Male and Lola, picked up nationwide, stated that the Red-tail pair have abandoned their Fifth Avenue nest and have switched to the Beresford building at 81st and Central Park West. I'm sure a naive reporter after seeing reports of the nest/egg abandonment at 5th Avenue, pictures of Pale Male carrying twigs on Lincoln Karim's website and reports of the hawks spending their time on the Beresford, jumped to an improper conclusion in order to have an excuse to write a story about the rich and famous.
It's important not to mix these three concepts, perches, roosts and nest, when discussing Red-tailed Hawks. The dictionary defines them as:
perch, noun, a thing on which a bird alights or roosts, typically a branch or a horizontal rod or bar in a birdcage.
roost, noun, a place where birds regularly settle or congregate to rest at night, or where bats congregate to rest in the day.
nest, noun, a structure or place made or chosen by a bird for laying eggs and sheltering its young.
For Red-tailed Hawks, these are three very distinct things.
Pale Male and Lola have a number of perches, including two favorite places on the towers of the Beresford. For years, they've spent many an afternoon at the Beresford, especially during the winter months.
Pale Male and Lola usually roost overnight in trees. The exception is during nesting season, when Lola will sleep on the nest from about a week before she lays her eggs until a day or two after her children fledge.
For Red-tails a nest is a place to raise their young. Outside of nesting season, they will check up on it daily, but it is not a place they will usually perch or sleep in.
Pale Male and Lola's increased use of the Beresford is just business as usual. We'll only know if they're going to switch nest sites in February. Until then, don't write off 5th Avenue.
Monday evening was a great deal of fun as there was lots of interesting activity by both the parents and the eyasses.
Besides their age, another mystery is how many eyasses do we have? Although I have pictures of three from 7-10 days ago, in the last week, I've only been able to see two.
Sunday was a relaxed day at the Cathedral. It was cloudy and cool.
From the left side of the statue, you can see St. Andrew's diagonal cross.
Christopher Lyons was kind enough to send me information about the section of the Cathedral where the nest is located.
From the guidebook, The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, originally compiled by Edward Hagaman Hall, 17th edition, 1965, originally published in 1920.
"Exterior of Choir Clerestory
This rises above the roofs of the chapels. In the canopied niches near the tops of the turrets and buttresses are ten stone figures nine and a half feet high by Borglum, as follow (south to north): St. James the Less with fuller's club (indicating manner of his martyrdom), and St. Philip with Latin cross (symbol of his crucifixion), together on turret; St. Bartholomew, St. Thomas with square (spiritual architect); St. James the Great with pilgrim staff; St. Peter with key; St. Andrew with diagonal cross; St. Matthew with drapery over head; St. Simon with saw, and St. Jude with spear (indicating manner of their death), together on turret. On the roof of the Choir facing eastward is a nine and a half foot bronze statue of St. Gabriel of the Resurrection, blowing a trumpet. This is also by Gutzon Borglum."
(Borglum was also the sculptor of Mt. Rushmore.)
So, as we look at the birds, we'll need to remember that the sculptures are almost double life size!
The exterior of Choir Clerestory as seen from 113th Street. From left to right, St. Andrew (nest site), St. Matthew, St. Simon, and St. Jude. The bronze statue of St. Gabriel of the Resurrection, blowing a trumpet is above with a Red-tailed hawk perched on top of it.
Last week, I saw a Mockingbird in the garden on the south side of the Cathedral, and knew it was only a matter of time before I'd see a confrontation between this Mockingbird and a Red-tailed Hawk near the nest. (This is a different Mockingbird than the one that harassed the Red-tail on 110th Street.)
This morning the female adult was about twenty feet from the nest when a Mockingbird attacked. After acting like the Mockingbird was nothing more than an annoying insect, the Red-tailed moved north to a St. Luke's Hospital perch.