Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Pale Male Jr and the Trump Parc nest

Marie,

A few quick observations on the new Trump Parc nest success:

First, I'm as excited as anyone in NYC that this pair has successfully bred, for two reasons. The first is the same as everyone's. Who doesn't get excited with new baby hawks?

The second, much more significant, is that this confirms the continuing presence of breeding red-tailed hawks in Central Park. Some may recall my somewhat skeptical views back in December about whether or not Pale Male is a lone story, or if he is the vanguard of a continuing breeding population. From what I knew (much less than the CP locals), I tended to think that Pale Male's breeding successes were curious but anomalous happenstance. From my experiences with rural red-tails, too much of the Pale Male story seemed aberrant, even weird. I didn't doubt in any way the fine account of Pale Male's successes told in Marie's wonderful book. Pale Male's story, by itself, is remarkable and engaging. But could, or would, any other red-tailed hawk step in and replicate these breeding successes in such an adverse hawk breeding environment as Central Park seemed (to me) to be?

The Trump Parc nest settles the question. Red-tails are here to stay, a continuing, magnificent, visible element of the Central Park avifauna. One quick additional note. In the letter you forwarded, Mai Stewart asked if I had ever seen anything like this with rural red-tails, whether any had eggs roll out and then re-nested. Personally, I've never seen this. But breeders of red-tailed hawks (mostly now in Europe, where the species is used for falconry) commonly "double-clutch" the breeding pair by removing the two or three eggs after a few days of incubation. These removed eggs can be incubated artificially, or placed under receptive unmated birds where incubation is eagerly taken on. The original female that had the eggs removed will then re-cycle and lay another fertile set. That's apparently what happened here. But it can only happen when the female has a surfeit of food. There seems to be an abundance of prey in Central Park, although none of it is normal or typical red-tail table fare.

It's been a great pleasure being able to provide some unique perspectives on all of this. I'm so glad it can continue, that we no longer need fear that the eventual demise of Pale Male might close the entire book on Central Park red-tails. Pale Male's own chapter should continue next season, and the developing Trump Parc family chapter will be fun to watch this summer. The red-tails of Central Park shall endure! That's the real story now. Sincerely,

John A. Blakeman