Jesse Green wrote a nice article about the Riverside Hawk pair in this week's New York Magazine. Lincoln Karmin had the majority of photographs, but the magazine used three of my photographs to fill in the story. So, it's been a good year for me, with a book jacket, an audio appearance on N.P.R., pictures in The New York Times and New York Magazine and an over subscribed lecture for the Parks Department. I may just have to give up calling myself a "beginner birder".
Jesse Green's article entitled The Hudsons: They’re the hawks who stole Riverside Park’s heart. And then broke it does a good job of explaining the events that occurred this year.
Like any magazine story, there are some minor errors and omissions.
- The female of the pair was also young. She was most likely three years old, while the male looked to be two years old. While this is just a guess the statement "After all, she was older, by a few years; he still had the bright eyes and playful habits of the adoring younger male." most likely isn't accurate. They are most likely a year apart in age.
- The story continues the "Pale Male dynasty myth" that all new hawks in the city must somehow be related to Pale Male. Lincoln Karim called the adult female the daughter of Pale Male, which was next to impossible, since she was young and Pale Male hasn't had offspring for four years. I would suspect that any scientist would tell you that chances that either hawk was an offspring of Pale Male is under 5%. But without the myth, how could a writer name drop, Paula Zahn and Mary Tyler Moore? So the myth is conveniently included in the story even if it isn't true.
- The poisonings may have occurred due to the pest control at the Boat Basin Café, which was in the process of re-opening for the season when the eyasses died. A number of feral cats, which hung around the café died around the same time. I don't think this aspect of the story has ever been fully explored.
The story ends with a quote, "Perhaps they’ll find a better spot, where they will be made more welcome." I think this pair was welcomed by everyone in the neighborhood, so that isn't the issue.
The issue is that we need to change our perspective. New York City isn't just a man-made world, where we can forget about our impact on nature. It has always been, and continues to be part of the natural world. Although it might be missing a few mammals, New York City, including Manhattan contains a full range of animal and plant species which need to be protected.
For city birds this includes:
- Changing building designs and zoning laws to ensure bird safe buildings. NYC Audubon has published a great document entitled, Bird-Safe Building Guidelines, which explores this problem and its solution in detail.
- Limiting the types of poisons and the amounts used in outdoor locations. In many cases, poisons are used in place of proper sanitation and garbage collection. This is a complicated issue that doesn't have easy answers. In an urban environment, rats and mice must be controlled. "How can we do it without impacting raptors?" is the tough question.
- Educating the public about wide variety of species in the city to help raise awareness and create a political constituency. San Francisco's Commission for the Environment recently banned specific type of poisons from being used outdoors after hawks died in public parks. We need the same political support for our environment here in New York City.
- Understanding the importance of supporting veterinarians and rehabbers, who help injured and infected birds. This year, a record number of raptors needed care, especially from the disease Frounce, which is passed on to hawks from pigeons. These unsung heroes depend on the public's financial support. These important caregivers are having their resources stretched thin by the expanding populations of raptors in the city. If you love hawks in the city, find a veterinarians and rehabbers who needs support and donate time or money to them.