Apr 17 2011


Published by at 8:19 am under Birds of Prey

At the end of last week the pair of red-tailed hawks who live near WQED started to build a new nest.

Most red-tails nest in trees but the female who lives near my office always chooses to nest on a building, usually in a gutter.  She nested in the gutter of Central Catholic High School's roof in 2008 and in the gutter of CMU's Fine Arts Building in 2009 and 2010.   I recognize her because her face is unusually pale.

She chose neither of those places for her first nest this spring but I'm sure she had one because I saw her mating in early March.  By now she should have eggs to incubate.  Instead she was carrying nesting material. 

Why is she building a nest now? 

Because the first one probably failed.  I can guess why.

Last Tuesday it rained and rained.  The rain caused flooding of streams and rivers and even flooded WQED's Studio A, so I'm sure it flooded the gutter where this female hawk had placed her nest.

Hawk eggshells are not waterproof so when the eggs get too wet they "drown."   By Wednesday the old nest was a failure.  By Thursday mother hawk had picked a new nest site and was starting to build.

You'll be happy to know that she didn't pick a gutter this time.  Her new site is certainly well drained, perhaps a little too steep and well-drained.  She chose the very highest possible spot on one of St. Paul's Cathedral steeples.

I don't hold out much hope that this will work but she's making the attempt anyway.

(photo of a red-tailed hawk by Chuck Tague)

p.s.  Update on Monday 4/18:  Last weekend's heavy wind blew all the sticks away so the hawks have had to pick another place.  See the comments below.

p.s. Update on Tuesday 4/19:  Peter Bell took photos of the pair's new nesting attempt.  His photo links are in the comments.

21 responses so far

21 Responses to “Re-nesting”

  1. Peteron 17 Apr 2011 at 8:38 am

    I saw this pair on Friday! Walking home Friday evening I saw a flash of some large bird as I waited to cross by the School for the Blind (Bellefield & Bayard). So I went looking of course…over to Dithridge and down Dithridge to fifth. No such luck. Down fifth to Craig…still no one in sight. Though from the bus stop at Fifth & Craig by St Paul’s I saw Dorothy and E2 flying. They even seemed to fly to each other. Do they continue prey exchange during nesting? May have just been an illusion that they were next to each other since I was so far away.

    So I head up Craig, and as I’m across the street from the school there a red-tail comes sailing up the middle of the road and lands in the tree 20 feet ahead of me. Found it! So I hang out a while and see what’s up when a second hawk comes by and lands about two feet over facing the first. Wish I’d had my better camera with me…phooey. So I watch these two. The second one to arrive picks at branches, sometimes discarding them quickly (“Ehh, too small.”) and other times taking a while longer (“What about this one, dear?”) Eventually the second one found a suitable branch and went off towards St. Paul’s. I’d never have figured THAT was where they were building.

    Keep up posted on their progress! This could be interesting in a couple months when there are young peregrines all about Oakland.

  2. Kate St. Johnon 17 Apr 2011 at 8:45 am

    Good for you, Peter.
    Regarding two peregrines flying: That was probably an intrusion. 🙁 More about that tomorrow.

  3. Anne Marieon 17 Apr 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Kate! You can’t say “intrusion”, draw a 🙁 and then say… More about that tomorrow! How will I be able to wait? And should I be worried all night?!?!

  4. Kate St. Johnon 17 Apr 2011 at 7:04 pm

    All any of us can do is wait. Best not to worry. Nighttime is safer than day. (These are diurnal birds.)

  5. Renéeon 18 Apr 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Coming into the Carnegie Library on Saturday morning, I saw two red-tailed hawks perched high in a tree near the entrance to the Museum parking lot. They appeared to be mating, then flew around above the lot, building and adjacent train tracks for awhile (quite a lovely show!). I have noticed more hawk activity than usual around here, and they seem especially interested in perching on a walkway that encircles the Cloud Factory smokestack. Just today, another one landed there, and appeared to be carrying something. From below, a pile of sticks are visible on the walkway platform. Do you think they might be building a nest there?

  6. NDPeteron 18 Apr 2011 at 1:42 pm

    So I spent a while yesterday looking around St. Paul’s and the rest of Oakland (had to go check on the peregrines of course 🙂 ) Didn’t see anything by rock doves (yea, pigeons, just trying to make it sound a little more exciting. Was this hawk trying to build at the tippy-top of a steeple? Maybe everything blew down in the wind Saturday. Or maybe they had to suspend construction. I’ll keep my eyes open, but seems to me the female may already have wised up and decided to move on. I hope I’m wrong.

  7. Kate St. Johnon 18 Apr 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Peter, you’re right. Last weekend’s wind blew down all the sticks. They’ve had to pick another place. Maybe Renee (above) has found the new site.

  8. Monikaon 18 Apr 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Good eye Renee! I’ll be sure to check this out; I have to admit that the CMU red tails have a special place in my heart. For the past two years a pair of red-tails have hung around the CMU football field during the summer afternoons. I play summer intramural softball there and I’ve missed more than a few plays in the outfield distracted by their magnificent soaring displays. 🙂 I’ve always been curious to find where they make their home!

  9. Peteron 18 Apr 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Renée…you nailed it! Great work! Thanks for the tip.

    I went over to check things out and ended up watching for way too long. E2 (I’m guessing) came by, the peregrines chased someone off…I think it was just one of the red-tails though – silhouette wasn’t very falconlike.

    And it turns out the red-tails didn’t even build out of sight of the peregrine nest. I haven’t checked the line of sight exactly, but it seems they can keep an eye on each other.

    During the time I was there, plenty of sticks were hauled in…and I even saw some “familiarities on the branch(?)” too.

    The folks at the museum have been watching this pair too. Most say they’ve seen a lot of them in the last week, though one said it’s been a month they’ve been hanging around. You’ve got to think these are the ones who lost the nest last week though. Perhaps this has simply been a favorite perch for the male.

    Anyway, if you’d like to see some highlights:

    Thumbnails – http://www.flickr.com/photos/87087391@N00/sets/72157626528501538/with/5632663601/

    Slideshow – http://www.flickr.com/photos/87087391@N00/5632663601/in/set-72157626528501538/lightbox/

  10. Kate St. Johnon 18 Apr 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Excellent photos, Peter! Yes this is the pair who usually nests in a gutter. The female’s face is paler than on most red-tails — I can see it in your pictures. She sure is in a hurry now!

  11. Anne Marieon 19 Apr 2011 at 5:36 am

    Awesome! Thanks Peter!

  12. Monikaon 19 Apr 2011 at 8:59 am

    Great photos Peter!! What lens did you use?

  13. NDPeteron 19 Apr 2011 at 10:40 am

    Monika, all the ones in that set I took with the Canon 100-400.

    If you want to see more, I try not to scrub the EXIF data from my photos. So when they are uploaded, you can click on the right hand side of the page where it says “This photo was taken on this day with this camera.” The “this camera” link brings up all the info for the photo and it’ll have the actual focal length along with all kinds of other stuff (including Lens Type and Lens Model – yes, it’s listed twice…don’t ask me why). Example – http://www.flickr.com/photos/87087391@N00/5633279670/meta/

  14. Renéeon 19 Apr 2011 at 11:19 am

    Peter those shots are gorgeous! Thank you for showing us what’s going on up on that little platform (poking around below and squinting wasn’t working so well for me). I hope the new nest will be okay in today’s rain.

  15. Donnaon 19 Apr 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing your great photos, Peter!

  16. Monikaon 19 Apr 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Excellent, thanks for the heads up Peter!

  17. Kate St. Johnon 19 Apr 2011 at 1:59 pm

    I took a walk at lunchtime over to the Cloud Factory (home of the smokestack where the new nest is). Found the nest but no hawks. The east wind was blowing the steam cloud onto the nest. Hmmmm. Perhaps this nest isn’t in a good place either.

  18. Anne Curtison 20 Apr 2011 at 11:19 pm

    They were (or she was) there on Mon, about 5 pm. I volunteer at the Library on Mon-Tue, and saw 2 raptors just above the tree line opposite Panther Hollow as I was leaving. By the time I got to my car, one was on the catwalk and the other was still flying. The one at the nest was walking around; another woman going to her car joined me, and said she had seen them closely at lunch and they were red-tails. Darn! I was hoping to post this as a discovery, but your eagle-eyed (pun intended!) correspondents beat me to it!

    BTW, why is this possibly a bad site? The “steam cloud” should be no more than water vapor? Birds nest in the fog of San Francisco and elsewhere?

    As always, excellent info, and thanks for answering my somewhat uninformed questions!


  19. Peteron 21 Apr 2011 at 12:25 pm

    Good news! Walked by around 11 this morning to see if there were signs of the hawks and there were lots…6 men in hard hats! Seems some hooligans broke into the area on Monday evening and couldn’t help but vandalize the side of the smokestack. So, a large white patch was being rolled on by one guy, while another stood next to him on the platform. Another four lookouts on the ground kept an eye out for the red-tails. And it wasn’t just for sure. Both hawks were circling over the area, across the valley(?) and over towards Phipps. Now and then one would come over, but not directly as they did Monday afternoon when I watched them last. It would slowly make circles coming closer and closer until it decided to go check in on the nest with a stick in it’s beak.

    “Hey Tony, here he comes again!” The paint roller would drop. The guys would all focus on the nest builders. Eventually the nesting material would have to wait to find it’s place. I’d imagine they’re done by now, and I bet they’re glad to be done.

    I asked the guy who seemed in charge if they were removing the nest. He then explained about the graffiti, and how they wanted to leave the nest alone, and just wanted to coverup things. He even noted several bits of security they’ve improved so the hawks won’t be bothered again (and I suppose it’ll save them having to clean up after the hooligans too.) Is that too bird-centric a view?

    So, maybe the red-tails were just upset about the intruders the night before? Maybe it was the steam? Maybe it just wasn’t a good day…but they’re not done with the site!

  20. Monikaon 22 Apr 2011 at 9:19 am

    Wow Peter that’s quite the story! I’m glad that they didn’t have any intentions of removing the nest, especially since it’s against the law for them to do so. Hopefully the hooligans will stay away…

  21. Kate St. Johnon 22 Apr 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Well, the workmen may have hexed the smokestack site for this pair. The red-tails are back over at Central Catholic right now, thinking about whether they like the roof gutter.

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