Thursday, June 02, 2005

They did it again: Blakeman comments

Marie,

Donna Browne emailed her comments and notes on the recent copulations. She posed an astute question -- one that all CP hawk watchers are invited to answer. Donna wondered if the recent post-nesting copulations have been preceded with food offerings. The provision of such pre-copulatory enticements by the male is common in February and March, and indicates a depth (at least hormonally) of commitment and proper motivation.

If Pale Male is bringing food to Lola now, before copulation, I'm further flummoxed. There just shouldn't be copulation this late in the season, and now a second "fling on a perch thing" has been seen.

Donna also astutely raised the question of whether or not these post-nesting copulations are actually common in red-tails, but have gone essentially unseen. I responded that this is quite possible, as in typical rural RT territories, the birds range over one or two square miles, and when perched they are in leafy foliage where incidental copulations would be hard to see. These events are (to be indelicate -- nevertheless descriptive) always "quickies," so they could easily have gone unnoticed by field biologists. As I told Donna, I've not spent any time in May panning my binoculars against a distant tree line looking for the sex activities of local red-tails. Red-tailed hawk voyeurism has its rewards in March, when the sexuality of the birds is undisguised, as they copulate on open, easily-seen tree limbs. In my area, none of these are visible in May. Now, it's all green leaves out there.

I'm also quite certain that rural red-tails raising young don't have the time or impulses to be copulating right now. Every effort must be made to feed the rapidly growing eyasses. But for mature, empty nesters, where a breeding attempt failed, copulation my be a previously un-described element of red-tailed hawk natural history. If so, it's being seen and described in Central Park for what I believe is the first time. I encourage all NYC hawk watchers to continue your diligence. This is but another new, albeit short chapter in red-tailed hawk natural history. Keep up the good work. I'm learning much.

Sincerely,
John A. Blakeman