By Molly Daly
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The red-tailed hawk nest at the Franklin Institute is empty once again; the last of this year’s brood of three fledged Sunday.
The littlest (and last to hatch) was the first to take flight on Thursday.
“He took a long nap one afternoon — he never moved for 2½ hours,” says Della Micah, who writes the Hawkwatch at the Franklin Institute blog. Then, she says, he “stood up, shook his wings a couple of times, and took off — boom.”
Micah says the young female went next, on Friday, while the other male hung out at the nest until Sunday morning, likely enjoying the newly competition-free mealtimes.
Before fledging, the eyasses, or baby hawks, were “ledging” — venturing from the nest to the window ledge. But now, says Micah, they need to learn how to branch out.
“The trees are a little bit of a challenge for them. Often they land and miss a little bit, and hang upside down,” she tells KYW Newsradio.
“So far these guys are surpassing all expectations,” she adds, explaining that it is a dangerous time for the fledglings. “They don’t know about traffic and cars, and they don’t realize they’ve got six lanes of the Vine Street Expressway right beneath them, and then the eight or ten lanes of the Ben Franklin Parkway.”
And while the fledglings learn to negotiate their urban world, their parents are still hard at work.
“Young hawks aren’t able to hunt yet, so right now they’re practicing their flying and perching and landing. And the parents know exactly where they are, and they will make sure they get fed,” Micah says.
Although it’s the fifth brood the female has raised, this is only the second year for the male who, miraculously, stepped in to fill the void left by his predecessor, who was killed while hunting on the Schuylkill Expressway.
“He won his way into our hearts, because he just clearly was figuring out how to be a hawk father. And sometimes he messed up, and he would bring a tiny mouse, when what was needed was a big fat rat. But he’s done an amazing job,” says Micah, and so has Mom.
“She lays three eggs every year, raises three eyasses, they fledge successfully. So there are 15 hawks, young hawks, off of this nest.”
Come this fall, the young hawks will likely head south during the autumn hawk migration.
“But increasingly, researchers with urban hawks — because the food supply is never-ending, there are always rats and squirrels and birds — are beginning to wonder if in fact these hawks stay around. The parents are always here throughout the winter. But we see a lot of juveniles in this area — there’s a youngster down on Rittenhouse Square that we think might be one of the former Franklin hawks, simply because the parents don’t seem to mind it too much,” says Micah.
She says the most remarkable thing is that people are able to go to 21st and Winter Streets and visit with the hawks. It helps that they have such understanding and welcoming landlords.
“The Franklin Institute has done such a great job of stewarding this nest, and this resource. And it’s right here in the city, and it’s free,” says Micah.