Friday, February 04, 2005

aerial territorial conflict


The posting this morning about an aerial territorial conflict is exactly what I anticipated from the other CP pair.

This is going to be interesting. More of these territorial interactions are likely to be seen in the next few weeks. The mutually-to-be-agreed upon border between the two pairs is now in decision.

It would be helpful for the Regulars (and others) to start mapping each of these encounters. Actually, both the perched and flying locations (and times) of every sighting should be mapped. From such a map, the territories become clear. It would be interesting to see how the borders might change or fluctuate during the pre-nesting period, on through fledging.

As I mentioned in yesterday's note, the appearance of another competitive Central Park pair could reduce the 927 pair's brood size. Given the small size of CP, I think this is very likely -- and not a bad thing, either. I'd very much prefer to have two pairs using CP. From this, the loss of either nest, or of a member of either pair, would not be so catastrophic. The alternate pair would continue a CP nesting legacy.

Red-tailed hawks haven't reached any Central Park ecological equilibrium yet. This is exciting.

Central Park is now a major red-tailed hawk natural history laboratory. There ought to be some college biology students at some NYC university who could undertake a proper field study of these birds. Significant things are happening. They need to be seriously studied. There are several master's theses awaiting. Wish I could be there.


John A. Blakeman


Dear John,

Thanks for your great letter.

When you assume that this territorial conflict between the 927 Fifth Ave hawks and another redtail involved "the other pair" -- presumably the successful nesters at 97th and the North Meadow-- [Let's call them the North Meadow pair], you may not be aware of two other redtail pairs that have been around for several years.

One pair made a prolonged but unsuccessful nesing attempt last spring in a tree a little north of the Great Lawn. They may have already begun to incubate eggs before the nest was somehow destroyed.[Let's call them the Great Lawn pair]. The male of that pair was exceptionally light in color and was popularly called Pale Male Jr.

Another pair hangs out at the southern-most border of the park,[59th St.] and is often seen perching on buildings on Central Park South: the Trump building, and the one with the green roof next to it especially. They have been seen bringing nesting materials to a building ledge last year and the year before that-- another prolonged nesting attempt.[Let's call these the CPS hawks] A birder named Ben Cacace who works in that neighborhood had very detailed observations of their activities.

Since the three birds yesterday were seen coming from the south, my own hunch would be that the intruder was either one of the Great Lawn hawks or one of the CPS hawks.

All these territories seem to me to be much smaller than what one reads about the size of redtail territories. Especially close are the Great Lawn pair and Pale Male and Lola. The Great Lawn nest was a bit west of Fifth Avenue, but less than 10 blocks south -- I'd say it was around 65th St. That's less than 1/2 a mile from 927 Fifth. Meanwhile, the North Meadow pair [the successful ones] nested a bit more than a mile to the north.

What do you make of this overabundance of redtails around here? There have been other territorial encounters in years past similar to the one Donna describes,[although it's never clear who the intruders are] but basically all these pairs seem to be co-existing fairly peacefully.

I know you wrote, in a previous letter, that there would be no "family feeling" between the Fifth Avenue pair and their offspring of past years. Nevertheless many of us have a vague sense that the other birds are being tolerated more than usual because they are offspring. Any even small possibility of that?