I've been suspecting for weeks that the female Red-tailed Hawk that's been perching, soaring, and mating at Central Park's Grand Army Plaza and The Plaza Hotel/apartment building is Pale Male's current mate Octavia.
It was her general coloring, markings, but especially the black tip on one of her tail feathers that was too close to Octavia's to convince me they had to be the same bird. My suspicions plagued me though because I did not yet have a photo that proved them to be the same bird.. until the 20th when I took the photo below:
Click on the photo to enlarge it. I compared this photo to Pale Male dot com's photos of Octavia from February 10th (among other days' photos). There is no doubt in my mind anymore that they are the same bird. The smoking gun for me was not only the black coloring on the tip of her tail feather but also the smaller black dot on the tail feather three main tail feathers to the left.
The question though is if the male she's been mating with at The Plaza is Pale Male. I'm leaning towards 'no' because of the disparity in the males' coloring, patterning, and body shapes but I'd have to do more comparisons. I am the kind of person who needs to be definitive; especially when it comes to this kind of important research.
In my gut I say Octavia's Plaza Hotel mate is not Pale Male. To even wonder if the Plaza male and Pale Male is the same bird is laughable (to me) because it's so obvious they are not the same bird. But it is not definite so the kernel of doubt remains in the back of my mind. The male Plaza Hawk is rather light in coloring but surely not as light as Pale Male. When Pale Male is relaxed and fluffy he does look like the Plaza male so the kernel stays in my mind for now.
The prevalent belief is that Red-tails are monogamous and mate for life. But ever since this question of the female's identity came up for me, I did some research on Hawk monogamy and saw a few references that assert that Red-tails are generally considered monogamous.
It would make sense for Octavia to mate with another male in addition to Pale Male. She is driven by the biological need to have a successful pregnancy this Spring.
Pale Male is still virile and has had healthy offspring as recently as last spring but perhaps, 'if' the Plaza male is not Pale Male, she is mating with him because she perceives him to be a stronger, younger, more virile male for her upcoming brood. And it was Octavia mating on the Plaza (as evidenced by the black dot on the underside of one of her tail feathers). She has also been mating regularly with Pale Male so whatever babies she has this spring could be either males' offspring.
Pale Male is providing a great nest and regular food for her so if the Hawk she's been with at The Plaza is not him, she is choosing Pale Male as her companion and food provider but not necessarily as her sole offspring provider.
Remember, Octavia is new on the scene as it were. She appeared only after Zena, Pale Male's previous mate, went missing last summer (after Zena and he had their successful brood). Octavia appeared and began to settle in with Pale Male in August. So there's no telling what kind of mate she will be for Pale Male or what kind of mother she will be this spring.
The Plaza Hotel nest.
For the last couple of weeks there has been little to no nest fortification at The Plaza. Only a twig or two (if that) pokes up into view. If the Plaza male is truly building a nest, he is not seriously building it on the Plaza site I first mentioned on January 9th.
Nor is he putting much effort into refortifying it at the window sill a few doors west of The Plaza. Either the latest blizzard or workmen cleaning the westerly building removed the scant twigs that were on that window sill. But I did see the male perched at the westerly window after the blizzard passed (and with new twigs at the sill behind him) but nothing substantial has been developing at that site recently.
If the Plaza male is seriously building a nest, it is somewhere else. And there's no telling yet if Octavia will have her babies at his or Pale Male's nest. But my money is on Pale Male's nest. In 2012 the Plaza male was working on a poorly-constructed and poorly-located nest on the nearby Crown Building. So he hasn't really proven himself to be a great nest-builder. And Octavia probably recognizes that and may, smartly, lay her eggs in Pale Male's nest.
This is all speculation (which I normally hate). But it's fun to do this on-the-ground research and to wait and see how things develop.
Update, February 23rd: A person more familiar with Pale Male's markings confirmed that the Plaza male is indeed not Pale Male.