When I started hawk watching a few years ago, I was disappointed by the poor quality of the information about hawks in the city. While almost everyone was focused on the famous pair of Red-tailed Hawks on 5th Avenue, it was apparent that there was a wide selection of raptor species and nest locations in the city.
It became clear to me that the highly anthropomorphized reporting on blogs and in the media was not bringing to light the true picture of the state of raptors in the city. Pale Male's incredible consistency, producing young year after year, had created a distorted view of the reality of New York City's raptor population.
Because of this, I started blogging. Along with many other individuals, I feel that we have begun to help turn the tide and are starting to have people look at the science of urban hawks rather than just follow them like creatures in the zoo or treat them as if they were pets.
The phenomena of urban hawks is fairly new. It is not conforming to established patterns and is making us think about new issues. There are lots of gray areas with regard to conservation and a need for the urban hawk watching community to identify and then recommend areas for change. There are many unanswered questions:
- How to support rehabilitators in the city who depend on contributions from the public to support birds in need of care?
- How to support birds who nest in awkward locations and areas? When is a nest location too urban, and intervention is needed to protect the fledglings?
- How to revise Animal Control policies, so fledglings are given a chance to establish themselves before being removed from urban locations?
- How to educate the public, so that hawks are not harassed, stolen, injured or killed?
- How to prevent secondary deaths from poisons?
This year, we've had an unusually large number of Red-tailed Hawk nesting problems in New York City. A few pairs did not have successful hatchings, we've had at least seven eyasses die, and at least one fledgling die. We've also had the largest number of nesting pairs in the city's recent history. As, we have more pairs, the accidents will only continue to rise.
Let's be careful to take our disappointment about these nest failures, and not turn to anger, but let this disappointment motivate us to work harder with, and for, local organizations to promote urban hawk safety and to provide support for vets and rehabilitators who volunteer their time to assist these wonderful birds.