Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Busy, busy days at the nest

The Franklin Institute haggards have been extremely active in the past couple of weeks with their nest building activities. The sticks and twigs rise higher by the day, and the bowl of the nest where the eggs will be laid is now very apparent.  The hawks are starting to line that bowl with softer materials such as pine needles and newspaper.

Most of the heavy lifting is being done by the tiercel (dad) who tirelessly flies in and out of the nest bringing a seemingly endless supply of materials.  Here he is this morning, gazing out over his cityscape, having just delivered another large stick which he artfully poked into the nest structure.

The big news today was a new camera placement by the Franklin Institute.  This camera is mounted outside the window and gives a marvelous view of the ledge as well as the nest.  This will give a much better view of the eyasses when they start exploring the area outside the nest.  We will also see the haggards coming in for landings, especially exciting when they are bringing prey.

Yesterday on a springlike Sunday morning, Kay Meng visited the nest, and found both haggards sunning themselves in their favorite tree across from the nest.

The tiercel soon busied himself bringing sticks to the nest.  What a beautiful reflection Kay caught in the window.

The tiercel rarely lingers on the nest, but eagerly heads off to find more nesting materials.

He soon returns, this time carrying some paper!

Meanwhile, his mate remains in the tree watching all this activity.  He takes a break to perch beside her in the sun.  His white chin is very visible here.

And gradually, they both seem to settle into a Sunday morning doze!

This peaceful scene is in contrast to the wild, stormy weather we had in Philadelphia last week.  The high winds created a real challenge for the tiercel as he attempted to anchor some of his favorite nesting materials - plastic grocery bags.

No sooner would he get it under control, and then leave to find more stuff, when the wind would either quickly blow it away, or inflate it...

... and turn it into a whirling plastic dervish

One solution was to simply fly in and sit on it!

Each day brings different decor decisions for the hawks...

 ... paper...

... plastic...

... oak leaves...

... more paper...

... more plastic...

Gradually, these materials started to integrate and form a lining for the nest bowl...

... all the while helped by the hawks' assiduous attention to the arrangement of their nest

Last spring, John Blakeman, our hawk expert from Ohio, told us that this trash gathering is a significant stage in their nest building, so let me share his knowledge again:

"Well, to us, it's street trash. Not to the hawks. It's all soft and easily carried to the nest, where it will be re-worked and tucked into the bottom of the nest to help seal the bowl. 
Actually, here in Ohio in the more normal rural nests we seldom see this. Out here, the birds are picking up corn leaves and some tree leaves from the ground, which serve the same function. These larger, more bulking lining materials are brought to the nest in January and February. In March (generally) more fine-grained lining materials will be brought in. 
Linings vary from pair to pair and geographically. The birds use whatever is available and works. Strays sheets of The Inquirer, paper bags, and even some wafting plastic bags are likely to turn up at the Institute nest in these months. It will be interesting to see what will be used as the more final, softer lining materials in March. Fist-fulls of grass are often brought in.
Don't be surprised if some of these larger lining materials just disappear. The birds will carry them off or dump them over the edge if they don't seem to work well into the nest bottom.
Now, the birds are getting near the end of big-sticks stage. They have a profound urge to bring things to the nest. Not all that they bring in really works, so a few things are hauled off or allowed to tumble away."
 -- John Blakeman

These hawks are thriving magnificently in their urban territory as winter releases its hold on Philadelphia and spring finally seems imminent.


  1. As always, many thanks for the updates and information.
    Its touching and fascinating that the Hawks make use of materials at hand.

  2. As usual, wonderfully documented ...
    Thank you ever so much.

  3. Lordee, it's wonderful to have this miracle to watch again. Thank you, thank you Kay and Della! You make my day. Again and again. Love these hawks!

  4. Love the hawks and the hawkblog!!! Thank you!

  5. Is the Franklin only streaming the new side camera view now? I was trying to see if it was possible to flip between the two camera views but am not finding that option on the website.