There have certainly been a number of nest hijacks this season as well as a number of unwelcome intruders. The threats by the Great Horned Owls continue across the United States on well established Bald Eagle nests. Ravens have been attacking the Bald Eagle at the Channel Islands nest and, of course, we are more than aware of the danger the GHOW in Fort Myers is posing to the nest of M15 and Harriet. At the Pittsburg Hays Bald Eagle nest, on the night of 23-24 February, a GHOW launched an attack on the nest. It was the first ever recorded in that nest’s history. Daisy the Duck was not a threat to the White-Bellied Sea Eagles when she borrowed their nest to lay her eggs but the GHOW sure was to the Bald Eagles near Newton, Kansas who backed off and surrendered the nest to the GHOW. It is, of course, not just the ‘top of the food chain’ raptors that are being bothered, injured, or killed, it is also the smaller raptors such as the Red-Tailed Hawks.
For the past few days, Big Red and Arthur, the resident Red-tail Hawks who ‘own’ the territory within the Cornell Campus at Ithaca, have been renovating their nest on the light stand at the Cornell stadium. The pair have been together since the death of Big Red’s long term mate, Ezra, in 2017. Ezra was killed defending Big Red. It was shortly after Ezra’s death in March, that a very young Red Tail Hawk arrived on the nest. He didn’t even have his red tail! By the fall, when Arthur had shed his juvenile plumage, Big Red had decided that he was the one. She had put several potential mates through what could only be called an exercise to see if they were worthy of her and her territory and also to see if they would be good defenders and providers for her and the eyases. Arthur won the contest. The pair successfully raised eyases in 2018 (when Arthur was two), 2019, and in 2020, the Js. This year will be the Ks.
It is now less than a month til the first egg will be laid and the two are working hard to get what is left of the nest after the fledging of the Js. They began when there was still snow on the nest a few days ago.
‘Look at the mess those kids made when they kept trying to fledge from between the light boxes! Arthurrrrrrrr. There is a lot of work to do. You had better get busy.’
These two hawks are the funniest birds I have ever seen. Big Red is VERY loud and gives Arthur distinct instructions about everything. It is quite clear who wears the pantaloons in this nest. Year after year, they have sent observers into hysterical states of laughter, this eighteen year old RTH and her five year old mate.
The pair made several visits calculating the amount of nesting material that they are going to need to get the platform readied. Arthur brings in massive amounts of twigs building up the front and the sides of the nest over the following days as the snow melts.
And then, on the morning of 25 February at 6:56 a group of European Starlings come to check out the nest! Are they thinking that this might be a really good place for them to raise their young? Oh, I don’t think so.
Twenty-three minutes later, Arthur arrives at the nest with a piece of greenery. While raptors will use evergreen to keep away insects, laying a piece of pine in the nest bowl is a signal to all other birds that this nest is occupied.
After placing the pine needles in the nest bowl, Arthur looks around. ‘Where are they!? I hope they are watching!’.
Arthur decides to work on the nest bowl rubbing his chest against the twigs and nesting material to make an indent for Big Red’s eggs.
And before he leaves he takes a very good look around. Arthur knows that Big Red might like a nice squirrel for dinner but she would also love to eat any European Starling that tries to mess with HER nest.
I want to leave you with a smile on your face. It’s the end of February and we can all use one.
Big Red and Arthur do many things to teach their eyases. Sometimes it is about nest building and at other times it is imprinting the different prey items in their mind so they know what they should and should not eat in the future. And, sometimes, Arthur plays tricks. Have a laugh. The video is three minutes long:
Aren’t those little eyases just the cutest?!
Thanks for checking in with me and the birds. Updates tomorrow on the progress of the new mom at the KNF nest and some recent happenings in the Bald Eagle nest – first eggs happening everywhere including Canada. It is going to be busy in a month!
Thank you to the Cornell Ornithology Lab for its streaming cam on the nest of Big Red and Arthur.