Monday, February 07, 2005

WHY SO MANY REDTAILS IN NYC?

WHY SO MANY REDTAILS IN NYC?
AN EXCHANGE OF INFORMATION BETWEEN MW AND JOHN BLAKEMAN


Yesterday I sent John Blakeman the map of Central Park with the redtail nesting sites marked that I also posted on this website. It was annotated [baed on my info] and sent to me by Karen Anne Kolling. I added a few observations of my own and some questions. Below is what I wrote to him and his amazing answer:

FROM MW:
John: Below, a map that might be useful to your understanding of the Central park redtail situation.

In summary: we have solid evidence for three breeding pairs: 1. Pale Male, 2. The North Meadow pair [both these pairs had young that fledged], and 3. The failed nesting attempt of the Hecksher Ballfield [formerly CPS] Hawks. The male of that pair is very light-colored and is often called Pale Male Jr. There is another possible nesting pair at the park's north end.

PS Someone has sent me a note reminding me to mention to you that the Central Park hawks do not feed exclusively IN the park. [There are pigeons and rats everywhere in the city, after all.] Pale Male and Lola, for instance, have been sighted on various occasions perching considerably further east than Fifth Avenue-- on Lexington Ave, or even 2nd Ave -- almost to the East River. This would considerably extend the actual size of their territories, perhaps making them conform more closely with the square mile you noted was the usual territorial size.

I might mention one more observation: I live on Riverside Drive, the western-most part of Manhattan. Our apartment overlooks Riverside Park, a narrow strip between Riverside Drive and the river,. We look out on New Jersey. What I'm about to say is VERY impressionistic, but I don't think I started regularly seeing Red-tailed Hawks out our windows facing the river until about ten years ago. Now I and many others see redtails in and around Riverside Park very, very frequently. I am almost certain there is a breeding pair somewhere near my building, though I've never succeeded in finding a nest. Put that together with the fact that before Pale Male arrived in Central Park in November, 1991 [probably on or around Nov. 10th] a redtail sighting in Central Park was a very rare event, something to write in BIG LETTERS in the Bird Register, while today they are as common as robins, practically, and you'll begin to see what an odd situation this is. It looks like a sudden redtail population explosion occurred during quite a short time period.

Cheers
Marie

RESPONSE FROM JOHN BLAKEMAN:

Marie,

Once again, I'm knocked over with your important, new information. You have broached a question that I've pondered but didn't dare raise. Are any of the CP red-tails hunting beyond Central Park proper? Might there even be nesting red-tails elsewhere on Manhattan. If so, and from what you described it sure seems likely, then everything -- I mean everything -- is changed. Could the wild, rural red-tail adapt to a hard-surfaced urban environment that lacks any significant vegetated landscape? The little falcon, the American kestrel did this in the 19th century. But I know of no studies describing this for the red-tail.

Once again, it doesn't make sense. The RT is a big, muscular raptor that so much prefers meadow voles. This prey species may be only marginally present in Central Park, if at all. But it is absolutely absent in the streets and alleys of the rest of constructed Manhattan Island. The incidental perching of red-tails on the edges of back street rooftops in search of rats, mice, and pigeons is moderately reasonable. But how does this giant bird then swoop down and take a rat or pigeon as it darts between pedestrians, taxis, trucks, overhead wires, and all of the other airspace impediments of any modern big city. Red-tails have great difficulty successfully hunting in forests, for this same reason. They can't easily maneuver around tree branches, shrubs, and other vegetational obstructions. That's why red-tails are seldom seen in densely forested areas. When they are, the birds are always perched on the edge of the great forests looking out on to an open forest clearing.

The phenomenon of the Manhattan red-tails is now far more complicated and developed than just Pale Male and Lola. They might actually be the odd couple out, because unlike the others, they don't nest in trees. The other, less-observed pairs may be actually more representative of the red-tail expansion into city centers. The reasons why this is happening needs study and explanation.

Conservationists have lamented the multiple pressures modern industrial society brought against raptors. For decades, in the 19th and first half of the 20th century, raptors where almost universally regarded as vermin. How could a species that rapaciously kills and eats "good" species such as squirrels and cardinals be worthy of respect and protection. Depending on one's view, either God or evolution had made egregious mistakes in allowing the proliferation of these flying criminals. A shotgun could reverse some of that.

But things have changed dramatically, so much so that common raptors have now probably reached territorial saturation, which provides for me the only explanation of the recent incursion of red-tails into NYC. Remember, no one was shooting New York City red-tails in previous decades. Whatever has caused the birds to invade the city, it must certainly have something to do with changed conditions in their normal rural areas. Central Park has always had rats and pigeons and squirrels. It has had mature nest trees for a century. Nothing in either Central Park, nor on greater Manhattan Island has changed as quickly has the red-tail population there. Whatever is causing this new phenomenon, it's something out in the countryside, not in the city. The city has been the same for decades.

What, then, has changed in rural areas? What out there could possibly have prompted red-tails to so dramatically change their natural history? Here's the way I see it And of course, good population studies are needed to authenticate this with hard data -- these are merely my own personal prognostications. (Some of my professional colleagues might object to the public appearance of these here, as they are only private thoughts. But it's good for everyone to form their own thoughts on observed natural history phenomena. I hope these conjectures might prompt others to engage in good, evidence-based thinking.)

First, you are correct in surmising that the many hawks you have been seeing on Manhattan are a very recent occurrence. If any had taken residence years ago, people would have recorded it, with the same excitement you have presented in your wonderful book. A nesting red-tail pair simply can't go unnoticed. Resident NYC red-tails are new. Why?

As a retired high school biology teacher, I recall fond memories of my career, especially the wonderful kids I was privileged to teach. I taught in a school district composed of both rural farm families and conventional suburban housing developments. In the early years of my career, in the 1970s and '80s, virtually all the farm boys had 12-gauge shotguns and .22-caliber rifles. These boys engaged in a great deal of legal hunting and trapping in the Lake Erie marshes. They were as close to the wild as most anyone in the 19th century. These kids would often share hunting and trapping stories with me, asking intelligent biological questions.

Whatever could that have to do with modern NYC red-tails? Everything, I think. Today, virtually no farm kids (what few are left) or other students have the slightest idea on how to hunt or shoot a firearm. In twenty years there has been a major turn of life styles. Formerly, kids spent a great deal of time out in the local woodlots and marshes. From time to time, a few of these boys could not resist the temptation of taking an illegal pot-shot at a passing red-tail. They never killed enough to reduce the population in any detectable number. But they did reduce the average age of the mature breeding pairs of red-tailed hawks. The number of red-tails today in Ohio (and New York and New Jersey) is probably close to what it was after WWII. Before the War, all raptors were shot without restraint. Their populations were decidedly reduced by human predation. With raptor protection laws and enforcement after the War, those pressures were reduced. So the red-tail pretty much saturated all available habitats.

The infrequent killing of red-tails didn't reduce the population, as there was always a large "floater" population of young, unmated birds awaiting a new pair-bonding and breeding opportunity. Every time a red-tail was shot, a new floater quickly filled the ecological void. Remember, all successful species must produce more offspring than can possibly survive. That was a major element of Darwin's explanation ("theory") of evolution. That's exactly why about only one fledged red-tail in four or five ever survives to adulthood. Sadly, most of those wonderful new eyasses that come off the Central Park nests will never survive their first year. Most will drift off and starve. They will never find an un-occupied habitat with sufficient prey for their inexperienced, even meager hunting skills. Old adults have learned all the tricks in capturing a hundred grams of living flesh each day. Young birds have everything stacked against them in this vital quest. Most of the hawks fail.

So, what might occur if very few wild hawks are now being shot, or killed by leg-hold traps? My personal experiences with rural school boys, farm organizations, and others (where I commonly give my hawk protection slide shows) show that this is really the case. Very few hawks are now being killed by humans, and that changes everything.

Formerly, a young red-tail that had learned how to make it through its first winter could merely float around the countryside after its first molt (when it got the red tail and was sexually mature) and try to find an adult that had somehow lost its mate. Because a moderate number of red-tails were being killed by humans, there were a good number of potential new mates for both the rising young adults and the older breeding birds who had lost mates. Raptor biologists are always amazed at the speed with which a new replacement mate appears. How many mates has Pale Male had? How many seasons did he go without a mate? There has always been a new mate waiting for him.

Presently, there are many fewer new-mate openings. Few hawks are being shot. Mated pairs can now grow old gracefully, at age. Red-tails can easily breed successfully for a decade, and some approach 15 years or more. That then (as I see it) is the explanation of the new NYC red-tails. Lots of young red-tails are coming off wild nests every spring. In my state of Ohio, there is likely to be as many as 5000 active, productive nests each spring. With an average of 1.5 fledged eyasses for each nest, that's over 7000 new birds each year. Yes, most of these are going to starve before their first hard winter sets in. But what an abundance of surviving, unmated "floaters" must still populate the wilds of Ohio each year. Where are these birds going to spend their adult years? It can't be out in the countryside, as all available good territories with ample prey are already occupied by experienced adults.

I believe that the red-tails that have recently taken up residence in NYC have come from this saturated floater population. These birds are famous for "floating," drifting around the landscape, looking for something promising. Surely, some of these birds could drift over from New Jersey or down the Hudson and pass over Manhattan. At a nice soaring height of 2000 ft, the trees and "meadows" of Central Park would be easily seen. The abundant prey in the park would also be easily detected.

Why, then, didn't this happen before? Red-tails have always been seen drifting through the park, especially in migration seasons. The major change has been this. Formerly, most self-respecting red-tails simply would not compromise their innate fear of inordinate numbers of 150 lb bipeds strutting about below. Red-tails have enough innate good sense to stay away from the proximity of humans. A transient Central Park hawk visitor soon decided to head back up the Hudson, hoping to find some territorial opening in the landscape. Until recently, these birds could eventually do this. They had no ultimate imperative to try to make it in The City.

But today, they do. Frankly, it's tough out there in countryside. If you thought getting a nice, inexpensive, well-located Manhattan apartment was nearly impossible, the finding of an unoccupied nesting territory may be equally difficult for young adult red-tails. And as so many women know, most of the good men are already married. All the good hawks are already mated out there in the countryside. For a newly-graduated red-tail (meaning that it survived the first winter), there simply aren't many potential mates nor open territories. Therefore, in instinct-denying desperation, a few red-tails have elected to come into the city and see if a life could be made there. And a few of these birds have learned to adapt, to truly make it in The City. Pale Male may have been the vanguard of this new dimension of red-tail life history.

Just as I mentioned in one of my very early essays here, Pale Male has come to New York City and made a success in exactly the manner of hundreds of thousands of human immigrants -- learn the way of the new country, work hard, adapt, and make a new life. Pale Male did it. And now a few other red-tailed hawks are doing it. What a better characterization of one of the great features of New York City?

Please continue to keep me posted on the greater red-tailed hawk population of Manhattan. If this is happening in New York City, it's likely to be happening elsewhere. Most large American cities have central open greenspaces that adaptive red-tails could colonize just as they have done in Manhattan. The text and reference books on American raptors must be re-written again. The first revision was the urban success of the peregrine falcon. Next was the continuing expansion of the bald eagle. Now, it's the urban red-tail. I'm so glad it's happening in New York City -- and that there are so many wonderful people to watch and monitor it. Without your book, this entire matter might have passed unnoticed. Again, thanks so much.

Sincerely,

John A. Blakeman

BLAKEMAN VS. MW ON BIRD BRAINS

BLAKEMAN VS. MW ON BIRD BRAINS

When I received John Blakeman's latest essay, responding to Donna Browne's observation of a puzzling aspect of Pale Male's nest-building technique, [see below - 2/5/05] I was taken aback. "Merely feathered flying dinosaurs" ? "Meager mind"?? Our hawks???

I remembered last week's article in the NY Times Science section about the avian brain, the one with the headline "Minds of Their Own: Birds Gain Respect." I wondered if John Blakeman reads our local daily in Huron Ohio. So I e-mailed him the article [with a respectful though challenging note.].

Within a few hours I received an answer. Not surprisingly, he HAD read the NY Times article. And he stood by his guns nonetheless.

Re-reading the article in light of John Blakeman's reply, and re-reading his first letter, I decided that indeed, he was right. My bristling at the "meager brain" assessment was certainly anthropomorphism on my part. I had always known that the corvid family were the Einsteins of the avian class. I just didn't want OUR BELOVED HAWKS to be relegated to the dunces' corner.

But really, Blakeman wasn't doing that. He was separating emotions from facts. I felt a bit sheepish, Then I began to think about Blakeman's various descriptions of his relationship with his trained redtail, Savanna. Don't I detect quite a bit of emotion in those passages? This made me feel a bit better about my quite unscientific reaction, though in truth his emotion doesn't ever seem to temper his scientific conclusions.

I hope this note makes a difference for those of you who find you have the same first reaction that I did.

You'll find below, Blakeman's first letter, and then his second letter, written after I sent him the NY Times article.


FIRST LETTER BY JOHN BLAKEMAN, RECEIVED AROUND 3 P.M ON 2/7/05

Marie,

A quick comment on Donna Browne's delightful nest activity observations.

She noted, “By 3:10 Lola was sitting on the center light of the Carlyle and Pale Male made trip after trip bringing twigs. Upon bringing one multi branched twig to the nest and working to adjust it for six minutes, Pale Male took it in his beak once again, left the nest circled, came back with the same twig and then placed it. (?)

Her question mark is reasonable. Why would the bird spend six minutes trying to get it placed or adjusted “just right,” and then fly off and return with the same twig and casually place it in the nest again? This didn't look sensible to Donna, and she questioned it, as she should have.

This kind of unreasonableness will be commonly seen when watching red-tails at length. The bird was deeply involved in trying to get the stick right where he wanted it for six minutes. Then, for no apparent reason he flew off with it, returned, and just put the stick in the nest with no concern. What gives?

It’s this. The cerebrum of red-tailed hawks isn't too large. Their brains are rather small, and a great deal of neural capacity must be devoted to the processing of visual images and remembering successful hunting experiences. If you can't see nor capture your daily food, you are a soon-dead hawk. Other things can happen somewhat crudely. Hunting and flying can't.

Consequently, a number of hawk neuromuscular behaviors are rather ritualized, roughly programmatic, not thought out nor reasoned. Nest building, especially the insertion and placement of sticks is one of these behaviors. As intent as the bird might have appeared in its stick-placing deliberations, its meager mind was really not paying much attention at all. The bird was merely going through the motions (seemingly like a number of students I once taught, and much like myself when I'm assigned undesirable and menial tasks). The bird got bored, so it decided to fly off with the stick and come back with it from, perhaps, another angle.

Don't read much into this. The bird thinks hard about hunting. It thinks very little about putting sticks together to make a nest. The bird really has no understanding or comprehension of what it’s doing. It just goes through the genetically programmed motions. If it looks indeliberate and unconsidered to us, it is. Don't presume that these birds have mammalian minds. The don't. They have bird brains, and those small collections of neurons work in only limited ways.

Don't make the mistake of presuming or assigning normal human thought patterns to red-tailed hawks. You can do that to your dog, who you know thinks so much like a human. Their brains are very similar to ours, in general arrangement and organization. Dogs, like us, are very social, so we can easily identify with them, even assign them very human personalities. But don't do that with the hawks. Remember, birds are in some respects merely feathered, flying modern dinosaurs. They can't and don't act or think like mammals. Don't try to make them do any of that.

I still smile in moderate frustration when I see such ritualized neuromuscular behaviors when Savanna, my adult falconry red-tail eats a provided meal on my gloved fist. She particularly likes turkey poults (young hatchlings). I have a freezer full of these and other similar hawk food delights. Savanna will step onto the poult and pull off a wing, the head, or just some general body part. Anyone who’s watched Pale Male or Lola eat up close knows the scenario. In watching the feast, the bird often grabs the food inefficiently, even missing some very obvious (to us) exposed tidbit of food.

For a bird that can so adroitly grab fleeing prey with its feet, to watch it so clumsily use its feet and beak in the rather random tearing apart of its food causes one to wonder if the bird is in good health. There is little that is delicate when a red-tail steps on to a dead prey animal and starts to rip it apart. It’s not unlike watching a two-year old try to feed himself.

So expect to see such going-through-the-motions behaviors. That’s all they are. In the end, they always work out, as crude and random as they so often appear.

Contrast those behaviors with what the bird does so expertly; that is, to fly and hunt. Nothing random or clumsy there. It’s expertise that surpasses any ballerina or professional athlete. No question marks needed.

JOHN BLAKEMAN'S SECOND LETTER, RECEIVED AROUND 7:30 ON 2/7/05, AFTER I SENT HIM THE NY TIMES ARTICLE ABOUT AVIAN BRAINS.

Marie,

You are astute. I read this information a week or so ago, and rather dismissed it for my raptors, and still do. The need for a major reconsideration of the unique organization of the avian brain, distinctly separating it from the mammalian one, is long overdue. I have no issue with that. I recall from basic ornithology class many years ago reading about how different bird brains are. The authors of the new study are correct. The old perspectives must be thrown out.

But in the larger picture, those relate primarily to tissues and structures, not to a universal, elevated bird mentality. Note that the birds used to illustrate this contention were all corvids: crows, jays, and ravens. The intellect of these birds has been noted for centuries, and the newer understandings of avian brain tissues helps to elucidate the brilliance of these birds.

Hawks however, have never been known for their intellects. And neither have most bird groups. I believe the study's authors used corvid intellect only to substantiate their more general claim that bird brains are decidedly different from mammals. If a crow is so smart, it therefore has to have a brain different from a lab mouse or rat.

I stand by the contentions of my note. In fact, I clearly stated that red-tails don't think like either humans or dogs. They think like raptors, not mammals. So, is the question a matter of degrees of intellect (as with the corvids), or is it with the very different arrangements of brain tissues? I think the greater story is the latter. And that helps explain the "un-thoughtful" behaviors people will see red-tails engage in, such as messing with a stick for six minutes, only to fly off with it and then return and leave it.

Yours is a very good question, one that I didn't address except here. Others, too, wondered, I'm sure.

Whatever the perspective, the more important understanding is that hawk watchers need to refrain from anthropomorphizing the hawks. However their brains work or are arranged, they are real bird brains, not mammal brains. That can help account for some otherwise strange hawk behaviors.

Sincerely,

John A. Blakeman

Sunday, February 06, 2005

BLAKEMAN ON THE PROLIFERATION OF CP REDTAILS

BLAKEMAN ON THE PROLIFERATION OF CP REDTAILS
and
BLAKEMAN ON PROGENY -- i.e. Are all those CP redtails Pale Male's kids?

followed by CORRECTION OF MY MISTAKE

Marie,

The plot thickens. In December, when I came upon the Central Park red-tails, I learned only of the famous 927 Park Ave pair. Then a bit later, I saw tangential references to another pair that attempted a nest in the Park proper. Now I learn that there have been a total of three pairs residing or hunting in the park recently. When will the surprises end? Back in the ‘90's I thought that any nesting RTs anywhere in NYC would be unlikely, and surely un-persisting. Red-tailed hawks just don't nest in major urban centers – period. At every turn, I've been wrong on virtually every initial understanding of things red-tail at Central Park. I'm pleased to admit my errors, especially when they are corrected by the observations of so many local hawk watchers. What they see is more significant that what I say. I'm merely prognosticating at a great distance based upon my rather different rural red-tail experiences. Hard field data can't be argued with.

I will have to pull up the map of Central Park and try to orient the locations of all three pairs now. Initially, I thought the presence of a single pair in such a small place to be unlikely. But three pairs live there. Utterly remarkable. This is likely to be the highest population density of the species anywhere in the East. In areas of the West with high ground squirrel populations, red-tails frequently occupy territories of about 0.5 sq. mi. Central Park is 800 and some acres, as I recall, and a square mile is 640 acres. Three pairs in approx. 800 acres yields a territory size of approx. 0.40 sq. mi. In the wild grasslands of the West virtually all of the open ground space is occupied by ground squirrels. But so much of Central Park has no hunting habitat. The actual prey habitat of the park is only a fraction of the total size. (There’s another master’s thesis, describing habitat and prey utilization by red-tails in central Park.) Any way it gets sliced, there must be a lot of continually available rats and pigeons. I'd still love to learn what all of these hawks are eating, and how they capture their prey. It’s not anything like rural birds. (Suet?)

What do I make of the territorial encounters? They are very important. They cause all the birds to understand where each is “allowed” to be. Keeps the peace. These events, as aggressive and disruptive as they might appear to be, are not at all. This is part of the fabric of red-tail social interactions, ever bit as much as any human choosing to open or close an apartment door after someone knocks. I liked the characterization of “being herded.” Although it appeared that physical contact almost occurred, this seldom happens. The entire business is wonderfully ritualized with the wheeling around, the screaming, the dives, and occasionally some real physical contact. But even that is usually ritualized, as both birds usually grasp opposing legs and talons for an instant before letting go.

Occasionally there will be a powerful attack on an intruder that blows off some feathers, causing the unresponsive bird to retreat in obvious distress. Such intruders are inevitably birds of the year that haven't yet learned the protocols of red-tail property rights. Just one or two of these incidents sets the youngster aright, and she then behaves herself appropriately. One of my falconry red-tails saw a new immature sitting in a field overlooking my bird’s frequent hunting area. Savanna wasted no time and flew over and knocked the youngster off her limb. She retreated quickly. The next day the same bird was sitting in the same tree. But just as soon as Savanna and I stepped into the field a quarter mile away, the youngster immediately flew off. She learned a lesson from my grand matriarch hunting companion. When required, the same lessons are taught to inattentive intruders by wild birds such as Pale Male and Lola. From the description of this territorial conflict, all parties behaved with appropriate deportment, as proper New Yorkers would, of course.

Again, a record of when and where and which birds are involved in these aerial displays would be invaluable in discerning habitat utilizations.

Now to the question everyone romantically ponders. Have any of the interlopers been sired by Pale Mare? Do the parents recognize their offspring and therefore accommodate their adjacent presence. It sure would make a better story if any of this were so. But it makes little biological sense. I'm guessing that few, if any, of the other RTs seen in Central Park are 927 offspring. Here’s why.

In virtually every case in rural areas, adult red-tails deliberately drive off the season’s young in July or August. When things start to get hot and there is no longer any hint of spring (meaning that prey animals also are getting harder to find and capture), parents stop feeding the fledged eyasses and actually drive them away, if required. Most of these youngsters have the same feelings toward mom and dad as we did when we were 18 or 19 and they are glad to fly off to new horizons, un-pestered by weird parents.

I am absolutely certain that neither parent is able to recognize its progeny in subsequent years. That happens in social mammals, of course. But none of this is in the limited behavioral abilities of these birds. Their brains aren't set up for such recognition. Sorry.

The summer’s “leave-the-house" behaviors persist throughout the year. The birds just don't have any genetic or behavioral compulsion to return to their natal territory. Why go back home? Mom and pop will come right out and give them “that look”. Red-tail populations that faithfully returned to natal territories to attempt to breed drastically limited their choices of mates. After a few years of this, the only potential mates were siblings and cousins. Biologically that makes everybody similar, and that becomes a genetic defeat. Biologically, it’s best to mate with someone reasonably unrelated, to minimize genetic deficiencies and maximize genetic variabilities and the consequent behavioral opportunities. Who wants to date his sister? Who wants to have mom and pop riding herd, or flying over them? Again, the compulsions to return to a red-tail’s growing-up neighborhood are pretty weak.

But of course, I admit to being initially wrong on so much of the Central Park red-tails. The fact remains that any of the other birds, could indeed, be Pale Male’s progeny. I can't deny that. Could be. Probably not, however.

For now, we have to guess. This is why it would be nice to get many of these birds banded. Because this is a special population worthy of special study, colored marker bands should be used, allowing easy identification with spotting scopes. The fact that Pale Male is so easy to identify has been crucial in understanding the entire population. How helpful it would be to have all six or so of the CP red-tails color-banded. And the progeny question would be answered immediately if all the eyasses were banded on the nest or soon after fledging. If the birds were banded, we'd really have a handle on so many questions.

I don't recommend that the 927 eyasses be banded on the nest. Getting to the nest would require the re-installation of the dangling structure (What was it, the swing platform, or something?). But in the wild, in open rural areas, the young could be easily trapped and banded when they start to hunt in June and July. (See my description elsewhere on how that is done, causing no harm whatsoever to the hawks.) I'm not sure this could be done in Central Park, however. The complications are multiple and I won't delineate them here.

As a biology major I tried (how mistakenly) to stay away from literature classes where I would have to figure out the ever-convoluting plots of the great novels. But that’s exactly what we have here. Our real-life novel now has some other personalities. I thought the story was to be only Pale Male, Lola, and their annually departing (I think) offspring.

But some more chapters are being written by our hawks. This is going to be a good tale.

Sincerely,

John A. Blakeman

Correction of facts in my reply to John Blakeman

Here's what I wrote:

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.

Well, I didn't mean The Great Lawn. It was actually a tree a little North of the Heckscher Ballfield, and just a little south of the 66th Street Transverse. So let's call that pair the Heckscher Ballfield pair.

Now it appears that last year, the pair I referred to as the CPS pair was regularly pursued by a pair of peregrine falcons that hangs out near the top of a building at 5th and 59th St. It seems more than likely that the CPS pair simply moved into the park to get out of peregrine territory and made a nesting attempt near the Hecksher Ballfield. SO...scratch the CPS pair. They and the Hecksher Ballfield pair are one and the same.


Oh yes, another thing: There is probably yet another redtail pair at the northern-most part of the park, somewhere around 110th St. and the Harlem Meer.

GOOD NEWS: A hawkwatcher named Karen Anne Kolling is working on an e-mailable map of Central Park with all hawk territories marked on it. As soon as she sends it I'll post it on this site.