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No Need to Worry

by Bob Sallinger


Posted on May 8, 2009 at 11:14 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 4 at 2:39 PM

Greetings from Point Reyes National Seashore. I just spent three days out of cell phone and internet range in the redwoods and got into Point Reyes too late to check out the raptor cam, but I did read a number of the recent entries expressing concern over the safety of the nestlings, so I will address those here:

I would encourage folks to simply enjoy watching the youngsters develop and not spend so much time worrying about them. Raptor Cam offers a window into their world, but the process that they are going through is one that is currently being experienced by thousands of birds all over our city. A couple of things to bear in mind:

1) The camera only provides a limited view of what is happening in the nest area. I see a number of comments noting the absence of the parents. In fact they may well be only a few feet from the nest but outside the limited range of the camera. Same goes for the nestlings---they are mobile now and will frequently wander outside the range of the camera as well. Frank the webmaster tried to keep the camera trained on them, but he doesn't monitor the camera continuously.

2) The nest ledge is actually huge--far bigger than a typical red-tailed hawk nest. Also because there are stairs and ladders, the young hawks may eventually wander up and down to other floors or the rooftop. They have tons of room to explore and build-up their strength.

3) By this time in their development, they are supposed to be hanging out at the edge of the nest. This is a normal part of their development and their instincts will keep them from intentionally jumping.

4) Birds of all species do occasionally fledge (leave the nest) prematurely. Usually it is a result of a misstep or a sudden gust of wind that carries them over the side. However they are actually built to withstand fairly huge drops and by this age the red-tails would already be able to coast a bit. If this were to happen, they might well wind-up on a lower level of the fire escape rather then coming all the way to the ground. This is not unlike what happens at a natural nest site---birds will often wind-up working their way to lower ledges or lower branches as they start to explore their immediate universe.

5) Last year the young hawks did spend the better part of a day on or near the ground. One fledgling spent part of a day jumping from the ground to the top of a bicycle rack before flying to a nearby tree. His sibling spent the day watching him from a small ornamental tree that was located close by. By their second day out of the nest they were both able to fly much more strongly. We kept an eye on them because they were drawing some attention....but really if you keep a lookout you will notice a lot of birds on the ground learning to fly in all kinds of hazardous situations as we get towards the beginning of June. It is just part of being a bird and their are hazards on both natural and man-made landscapes.

6) We are looking into why the windows near the nest are uncovered again. There are still no tenants on the floor adjacent to the nest. Work crews may have uncovered the windows and caused the disturbance that folks noticed recently.

Finally thanks to all the folks who pledged my Birdathon Trip! Much appreciated! We have seen about 100 species on our journey southward.