Monday, June 8, 2009

Now, let's get the hawks' names right!

Since I started this blog, I have started to receive some really interesting emails from hawk people all over the country. Tonight, I heard from John Blakeman of Huron, Ohio. John is a licensed Master Falconer, a former federal bander of raptors, and is an advisor to Marie Winn and others in New York regarding Pale Male and his nesting exploits there.

John has been following closely the development of the Franklin Institute hawk family, and has some fascinating information to share with the Philadelphia hawkaholics:

"First, everyone in Philadelphia needs to start using the right names. The "babies" are neither "chicks" nor "babies." Chicks are little chickens, and these birds are NOT chickens. The proper name for a hatchling hawk is an "eyass," pronounced EYE-ess. Wonderfully, there were three eyasses produced at The Franklin Institute nest this year.

Next, the male, the father, is the "tiercel," pronounced "TEAR-cel." He's a bit smaller than his mate, the mother of the eyasses. A female hawk is properly called a "formel."

Properly, the three eyasses will remain eyasses all summer, even though they can now fly. In autumn, they will join the overhead stream of migrating red-tails moving south from New England. When they start to migrate, they will become "passagers," first-year hawks "in passage," or in migration.

One final term - the parents, the tiercel and the formel, as full adults, are properly said to be "haggards." In the case of hawks, a haggard is not a scruffy, raggedy old individual. Quite the opposite. A haggard hawk is a full adult, thereby possessing all the knowledge and experiences needed to survive.

The Franklin Institute haggards are superb. They provided copious amounts of food for their eyasses. Never once did I see the eyasses "crab," to fight or grab each other for food.

You people are right where the NYC folks were back in the 90s when Pale Male began his many years of breeding there at Central Park. But you've got it so much better. Your nest is so much closer to the earth, and it has the nest cam that reveals the most personal parts of incubation, pipping (cracking of the eggs), hatching, feeding, and all the rest of what's required to fledge a nest full of eyasses.

Now I've been studying wild red-tails since 1969, from Alaska and The West, to Hawk Mountain to the north of Philadelphia, and mostly in my native area of northern Ohio. But I learned more about the nuanced details of nesting and eyass-raising with The Franklin Institute nest this year than any of the dozens of ones I've studied in the wild. The nest cam provided views of things that were otherwise impossible to see and record.

This wasn't just a pair of hawks raising some "chicks." Much more than that. Here was a pair of wild red-tails that elected to come into the heart of one of America's great cities and raise a brood of eyasses there.

And weren't these smart haggards. They chose, of all places, a science museum to hold their nest. Doesn't get any better than this --- except for next year!"


  1. John, I appreciate your knowledge of the hawks! Thank you for the education and for sharing your wisdom with us. Watching the eyeasses has been spectacular these past few months; it's sad to see them leave; and I have to say for myself and all the hawkaholics they will always be our "babies". Here's hoping they will grow into fine haggards like their parents.

  2. Della and John,

    Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us. This experience certainly has been a wonderful learning opportunity for us all.

    Mother Nature certainly has something for us to learn at every minute of every day!

  3. have appreciated Della's astute, grounded commentary throughout, and now she gives us the correct terminology. Somehow I think we all need this context to manage the emotional and intellectual aspects of the extraordinary experience of our tech enabled intrusion into nature.

  4. Thank you, Della for the awesome info! We've been hawkwatching for years, and it seems as if the hawks along the 422 corridor near our home are permanent residents. Would be interested in asking John Blakeman if less hawks are migrating and if it is due to changing weather conditions as we see our hawks all year long.

  5. As someone who lives in Fairmount, I see the hawks all year long. Watched one carefully pluck and consume a pigeon in a tree by the gates of the Rodin Museum on a beautiful snowy day a winter ago.

  6. Very interesting, I enjoyed it thank you. Keep in mind that Yellowstone does not interfere with the wildlife in any way. They won't even put out forest fires! Hawks are in Philly because of the abundance of rats and filthy pigeons. Both need low life humans for their support. Should Philly ever become sanitized the hawks will disappear. So wise up. when a hawk falls out of its nest leave it alone, it simply means some humans have learned good hygiene and there will be less food for the predators (hawks).

  7. John,

    As a long time follower of Pale Male, his consorts before and now, Lola,
    I travelled 3 times from Philadelphia to Central Park to watch the nest
    from the regulars' telescopes at the boat pond. Who would ever have
    thought we Philadelphians would ever top NYC!!!!!!!
    Have to say , earlier on in March 09, I went to Marie Winn's website where I read your post about our red tails which was sobering and
    kept my expectations in balance. How cool Scarlet and Rhedd out
    did themselves. Thanks for everything you have contributed to
    hawkaholic Phillie.

  8. june13 hi Della dottyhawk here.soon after every one left .the 3 babies appeared on the roof together just waiting for dinner Isuppose . they have moved to the pent house. hope to see you all soon