Monday, January 4, 2010

John Blakeman on Love in the Sky!

John Blakeman, our Ohio expert on all things hawk, sent me his thoughts on how our hawks are looking in the photos from last week (see previous blog post), and exciting details of upcoming red-tail romance!

"Great photos, capturing the regal elegance and essence of winter red-tails. And you were correct on every point, especially about the birds' contentedness in the cold weather. Unless it's way below zero (F) for an extended time, several days or longer, these big hawks are entirely comfortable in winter weather. The fluffed-up feathers act like a thick down coat, keeping the hawks' body cores nice and toasty. They are masters of all they survey at this time of the year. Few other wild animals can live so comfortably in winter. Experienced haggard red-tails need worry for nothing.

Now this pair has surely stayed in the area for the winter. They did not migrate to the South. They were content to hang around, albeit not as closely to the nest site as in the breeding season. But now, they've detected that the
day length, the photoperiod, is no longer declining. For them, the seasons are changing, prompting closer attention to the nest area.

Toward the end of January, the birds will start courtship flights, with the male ascending high over Philadelphia, then plunging with wings folded right toward his mate circling just a few hundred feet above the street. Start looking for these flights, some of the most impressive maneuvers of any raptor, fully matching the prey-killing stoop of a peregrine falcon.

Most people watching hawks in the city tend to look for perched red-tails. Soon, it will be time to be looking high in the sky, watching for soaring red-tails with dangling feet, a profoundly sexual signal between the pair, with the female saying to the tiercel, "Take off, get way up there, and show me what kind of a love dive you have."

No eggs will be laid until sometime in March. This is only the second year for the pair (at least at this site), so they aren't likely to be early. I wouldn't expect any eggs until mid-March, perhaps not even until the third or fourth week.

Yes, another reproductive season is on its way. Keep us posted, if you will."

--John Blakeman


  1. WOW I know you and Kay are back to work. Wouldn't it be cool if there
    was a google earth red tail hawk mating cam site up in the air?

  2. Kay, keep your camera at the ready- this should be fun!!!


  3. I had been following the Franklin Institute hawks last winter when I was living in Philly, but since I've moved to San Diego, I especially appreciate your postings and pictures. Thanks and keep up the good work!!

  4. Hi Mr. Blakeman,

    I was a student of yours in junior high science. I was looking for somebody to speak to my small group of Cadette Girl Scouts (grade 7&8) about global warming, greenhouse effect, etc. part of a series we are going this year in Girl Scouts. Contact me at
    Thanks, Nancy (Keller)David

  5. good morning mr. blakeman - we have a pair of hawks that have nested right in our front yard - we live right near perkins high school - we are both new to all of this but how facinating!!! i have photos and am trying to identify, learn everything we can. if you could email me at to help us figure out exactly what type of hawks we have that would be great! thank you.

  6. Mr. Blakeman,
    We had the privilege of observing hawks nesting and raising their nestlings in our backyard last year and they came back this year. However, tragedy has struck this weekend. Both hawks are now gone--one was found on Friday face down, no trauma--I suspect he/she ate a rat who had been poisoned. Then on Sunday I witnessed the mate in serious jeopardy--trying to fly and didn't seem to be able to...couldn't watch anymore--broke my heart. I haven't seen him/her at the nest since Sunday morning, but can't find the body. I have some questions to ease my mind. Can you please email me at
    Thank you very much.