Franklin hawk plot thickens: Female accepts a new male

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The new male hawk, followed by the female, brings what looks like a small vole to the nest. (Franklin Institute photo)

The new and surprising news about the red-tailed hawk nest on a window ledge at the Franklin Institute keeps mounting.

Today, there's the extraordinary development that the female has accepted a new male, who has begun to help her feed the three hatchlings.

The drama began more than a week ago, when the original male didn't show up at the nest one night. As the days passed, avid hawk-watchers -- both people on the street below the ledge who watch the nest and those who tune in via an online web cam -- began to fear the worst. He wasn't coming back.

Eventually, they learned from a guy who posted on the hawks' Facebook page that he saw a red-tailed hawk get hit by a truck on the Schuylkill Expressway.  Could it be the missing hawk?

Later still, they learned from a state game commission wildlife conservation officer, Jerry Czech, that he had picked up the dead hawk later that day. Case pretty much closed.

The Institute staff began collecting food -- dead mice and such -- for the young birds and leaving it on a nearby ledge. It was a long shot, but it turned out that the mother hawk went for it. She brought the food back and began feeding it to her young.

Still, watchers worried: Could she handle this single-parent role? Could she get enough food to her young and still protect them from the cold and the rain and who knows what else might threaten them.

Even if she did, the events seemed to spell the end for the webcam, which has attracted a worldwide following. If she got a new mate next year, they likely would nest someplace else.

Then, just today, another amazing development: A new male was seen by the nest, and the female was letting him approach.

Here's the report from the Franklin:

Astonishingly, our female has found a new mate and has welcomed him to the nest! This is a truly remarkable development. This morning, she allowed him to come to the nest and he has begun to help her hunt, bringing food offerings! Needless to say, the mood in the hawkaholic community has changed dramatically today as we see her moving on and welcoming support to help raise these three hatchlings. It’s a joyous outcome. The male’s willingness to join her also suggests that the future for our nest may indeed be bright!

Plymouth Meeting resident and hawk afficionado Della Micah has been recording even more details on her wonderful blog, which is here.  She includes superb photos by Kay Meng of Glenolden.

The hawks also have a Facebook page.

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