The red-tails are now 40 days old. This afternoon they were practicing their hunting skills on a long strip of rubber (perhaps the remnants of the bicycle inner tube from last year). They repeatedly pounced on it, lifted it up with their talons and grabbed it back and forth from one another. Snakes are among the many things that red-tails will eat so the long strip of black rubber is good practice. They also spent some time attacking the greens on the right side of the nest as well as the infamous plastic bag.
The longevity record for a red-tailed hawk in the wild is 29 years and 9 months. We know this from records at the Federal Banding Laboratory in Maryland. Many wild birds are banded by biologists. Each band has a unique number on it. The Federal Banding Laboratory keeps track of all the bands. If a banded wild bird is captured for some reason or found dead or injured, it can be reported to the banding laboratory. The band reports provide us with information about how wild birds move about and how long they live.
To date we have not banded the Raptor Cam red-tail nestlings in the nest. However we might consider doing so in the future. As long as the banding is carefully timed so that the young are old enough that they can withstand a short disturbance and still young enough that they will not leap out of the nest, there is minimal risk to the birds. In past years there have been mixed feelings among raptor cam viewers about banding the young. Some people valued the scientific information that banding might provide as well as the potential that we we might learn something about what happens to our raptor cam nestlings down the road. Others objected to disturbing the birds even if it could be done safely. A few people had philosophical objections to putting human-made bands on these wild birds.
I have banded raptor cam fledglings that were injured flying into windows and cars after they left the nest. As long as we had them in hand, I figured we might as well band them.
This year it is already too late to band them in the nest and hopefully they won't have any significant problems after they leave the nest that would give us an opportunity to band them later on.
2009 Raptor Cam fledgling with band on left leg
And finally this shot was taken at 8:20 pm on Sunday night. One of the nestlings made a valiant leap for the railing. She pumped her wings a few times and then launched....and missed by a few inches. After handing by her chin for several second, she jumped back to the ground and rejoined her sibling.