Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The tiercel is missing

When the third egg hatched last Monday, and the eyasses' first week rolled along happily with regular feedings and attentive care from both parents, who could have predicted that the tiercel would just vanish a few days later?

He was last seen on the nest, looking perfectly healthy, on Friday evening, April 27, at around 6 PM.  Since then, he has completely disappeared, and sadly, we have to start accepting that a serious mishap has befallen him - most likely some kind of injury or poison.  As we well know, this nest is surrounded by highly trafficked city streets, but though several of us have prowled around for the past three days looking in all the areas where the hawks hang out, we have found no sign of him.

What does this mean for the three eyasses?  They now only have one parent to keep them warm and protected on the nest, as well as to provide the ever-increasing amounts of food needed to fuel their prodigious growth rate.

Fortunately, the weather here in Philadelphia is warm, and now that the eyasses are a week or more old, their thermo-regulatory systems are starting to kick in and they will be able to generate body warmth when the formel is off the nest hunting for food.

So far, she is doing a magnificent job of providing food for them, even though she is somewhat out of hunting shape after her weeks of sitting incubating the eggs.  All three eyasses are active, alert, and eating well.  Kay Meng took these pictures on Monday afternoon, April 30.

#3 in the middle here, at two days younger than the other two, is still noticeably smaller but always seems to get to the front of the line eventually for its share of food.

Sometimes, the other two flatten him out a bit....

... but he soon gets back in the game.

 The formel is doing a fine job of keeping the pantry full of small, furry mammals - mostly rats, mice  and voles.

The eyasses eat at full throttle.  As fast as she can rip off the meat, they reach up and grab it from her beak.

Occasionally, the reach exceeds the grasp, and the piece is simply too large to go down.

When this happens, the formel will reach down, and gently pull the large chunk back out...

... re-size it, and start over.

 They eat until their crops are just about bursting.

It is achingly sad to think that the tiercel is maybe gone.  He was invincible as a hunter, and a superb provider for his family.  If he is indeed gone, the formel will look for a new mate for next year.  The male hawk chooses the nest site, and initiates nest-building, and it is highly unlikely that he would choose to go the Franklin Institute nest.

Meanwhile, though the formel faces enormous challenges to raise these eyasses on her own, she seems to be doing really well so far.

The Franklin Institute staff is working on plans to support her if, in the coming days or weeks, she is unable to keep up with providing sufficient food.  Food drops of rats or mice on nearby ledges could be an option.

 This picture of the tiercel was taken on April 20, the day before the first eggs hatched this year. 


  1. It may be time to look into supplying supplemental food for mom to "find" and carry up to the eyasses. It worked out well in NYC when Riverside Dad was poisoned leaving Intrepid (Riverside Mom) with eyasses on the nest. As you might know frozen rats and quail were left where the formel could see them. She took to it with no issues whatever. Donegal Browne,

  2. Thanks, Donegal. I will share this info with the FI staff. You all did a wonderful job helping the Riverside formel cope with her loss.

  3. Beautifully written. I knew before I read this post that it would put a lump in my throat. I wasn't wrong. Our tiercel was the fiercest of warriors with the tenderest heart.

  4. Great writing sunny! As one of many who have watched this nest since the beginning it's very sad to see this happen. Dad was great, and he'll be missed. I know everyone who watches wishes the best for mom and the 3 eyasses.

  5. beautiful pictures!

  6. As one of those who has been watching the hawks since day 1 of the first year they came around, visiting the site very many times and even experiencing my own hawk-related tragedy last year when I ferried an injured hawk 40 miles to Rick and he couldn't be saved - this breaks my heart into the tiniest of pieces :(

  7. I know these are wild animals but it just breaks the heart to hear about this as it will be so much harder for the formel to do this job on her own. Prayers for her and her eyeasses. May the tiercel rest in peace; he was a great dad. Thanks for the sad update.

  8. What heartbreaking news! I am surprised (but grateful) that food drops will be considered to ease the formel's burden.

  9. I know you had to write this, and your writing is beautiful. Kay's photos are excellent and adorable. Still, it is a sad story.
    Now we know that FI has intervened to help feed the hawks, so that is good news.
    Thanks, Della, for your efforts and devotion.

  10. I heard this news on the radio this morning and just started crying. So sad to think of an untimely end to such a magnificent creature. And, selfishly, I'm sad for all the FI Hawkaholics, who probably won't have a nest to watch next year. What a wonderful four years, though. Thank you for all your inspired reporting and hard work.

  11. Sunny, thank you and Kay for the beautiful post. May be silly, but I'm still holding out hope for Dad. I am so happy the FI has started the supplemental feedings! I just made a donation to FI. If the Schuyler rehab is participating, I would be happy to donate to them, too!
    — Yours in the sisterhood of hawks

  12. It breaks my heart that Dad may have succumbed to an untimely death, but it has warmed my heart immensely to watch nature take its course high above city streets. What a wonder to witness the superb parenting of two beautiful specimens. Thank you FI and others who have worked on this to share the story and these images with the world.

  13. Its always the chance you take....watching closely....opening your heart to these animals. He was a fine hunter and a good mate.

    I feel really sad.


  14. byw we've had documented cases at Penn of local hawk poisonings. Anyone ever see a live pigeon on the campus ? Hmmm ..must be a coincidence. Why is it okay for any local establishments to freely spray toxins into our environment in the name of "pest control ?"

    E in Fairmount

  15. I can't believe it. He seemed invincible. John and I are very sad. Thank you all for looking for him. Maybe he was injured, rescued, taken to a rehab place much like SCEE, and will live to fly again.

  16. He was a hawk among hawks...beautiful. I'm glad there is a way to save the eyasses. Thank you for all your efforts on behalf of this RT family.

  17. So sad - has anyone looked by the Girard Point bridge? There was a hawk hunting there 3 days in a row last week. Haven't seen it yet this week.

  18. Breaks my heart. That this wonderful creature could not be found or buried. That a trash truck was johnny on the spot.

    1. Not quite that bad - someone called the PA Game Commission and an officer came out and picked up the tiercel in the middle of the day on the Saturday he was killed. It's possible his flight and tail feathers were saved for "imping" - when rehabbers "glue in" replacement feathers on birds that have had feather damage.