Wonder Board Brainstorm: Your Questions, Summarized

By Miyoko Chu and Rachael Mady, June 19, 2018

From May 29 to June 5, participants posted and commented on more than 50 questions on the Wonder Board! We also received a suggestion to organize the questions by topic to make them easier to digest. To do this, the Bird Cams staff first compiled a list of all the questions, then sorted them into topics according to the time in the nesting season. We found that most questions fell into one of these topics:

  • Courtship
  • Nest-Building
  • Incubation
  • Nestling Behavior
    • Activities of Various Kinds
    • Sibling Aggression
    • Eating
  • Parental Behavior
    • Feeding of Chicks
    • Paternal Care (e.g., Differences between Arthur and Ezra)
    • Maternal Care
  • Vocalizations
  • Fledging

To help shed light on what’s already been documented in the scientific literature about some of your questions for Red-tailed Hawks, our graduate student, Rachael Mady, did some preliminary literature searches before our live Q&A session on June 15.

Here’s what she found:

“In a quick search of the existing literature on Red-Tailed Hawks, it is clear that there is still so much more to learn about these birds. Much of what we know about their breeding biology is based on studies of captive birds or populations studied in the early- to mid-1900s. The dynamic nature of the world and disconnect sometimes seen in behavior and biology between captive and wild individuals warrants further investigation into the biology of the Red-Tailed Hawk. Many of the questions posed and discussed on the Wonder Board as well as the live webinar touch on many of these areas that warrant further investigation, and I’ll quickly touch on these here.

Previous work has documented nestling behavior across the breeding season, noting when certain behaviors appear and disappear with age, but with no information regarding daily variation of behaviors. Feeding patterns and incubation by either the female or male are documented, but by few studies and with few specific details. So far it appears that there is little to nothing known about patterns to which chicks are fed, and how incubation by either adult relates to temperature or other factors. Nestling aggression is thought to disappear after two-weeks of age and be absent if food availability is high, but the evidence is far from conclusive. Different vocalizations have been associated with different situations, with chicks known to give soft peeps in response to parents and parents giving a loud scream when irritated or responding to a threat. These associations are general, however, and there is potential to document the finer details of calls as they relate to behaviors before and after they are given.

Overall, my impression is that previous work on Red-Tailed Hawks has not been able to document the biology of these wild birds at the nest in great detail. While we only have a window into of a single Red-Tailed Hawk nest, this window gives us the opportunity to document their biology to incredible detail not previously possible.”

So it looks like many of your questions have not been well documented in the scientific literature already, leaving plenty of room for exploration! As a next step, we created representative questions about 12 topics and asked you to help us sort them into whether they could be tested with the cams or not. For the results, please see our next blog post: “Seven Cam-Testable Questions You Identified in Sorting Activity.

Thanks to all for generating a great set of questions on the Wonder Board! If you have any other thoughts, please share them in the forum below.