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Four Dead Hawks

Within the last few weeks there have been four dead Red-tailed Hawks found on the Upper West Side: three in Central Park, and one in Riverside Park.  The hawks were:

  • A juvenile that was in the North Woods of Central Park
  • Lima, Pale Male's mate of a year
  • An older hawk in the SE corner of Central Park
  • The female of the Boat Basin nest in Riverside Park

While necropsy results are still pending, the likelihood that rodenticides were the cause of death is an urban reality.

As hawks have made a comeback in New York City over the last twenty years, we're seeing the issues hawks face living in the Big Apple.

I know from personal experience that we have lots of allies in this effort, including the Parks Department, the Central Park Conservancy, the Department of Health, NYC Audubon, and others.  While we figure out how to turn our anger over these deaths into action, we need to be careful not to attack our allies. 

This is an incredibly complex issue.  A few hundreds raptors in New York City aren't going to limit the rat populations.  Controlling rat infestations utilizing methods that have the least potential for negative impact on wildlife is going to take years of incremental change.  We'll need the help of all our allies as we tackle long term issues, such as improving sanitation and reducing poison usage.

It isn't publicized enough, but behind the scenes, there are many people working to protect raptors in the city.  So, rather than attacking our friends over these deaths, we should approach the Riverside and Central Park staff, not with the question "Why did you kill our hawks?", but with the questions "How can I help you protect our hawks?  And what support do you need from me?"


My First Exchange of 2012

Tonight, I got to see my first exchange (pair swapping egg sitting duties) of the 2012 season at Washington Square.  It was great to see Bobby sitting on the eggs.

During Rosie's break, she few around the park, looked to be hunting and found what looked like leftovers.


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New Beginnings

NYU confirmed with a press release that there was an egg seen in the Washington Square nest on Tuesday.  Usually hawk watchers can only guess that the eggs were laid based on behavioral changes, so it was nice to have confirmation.

The hawks were together on the nest when I arrived, before I could get my gear set up, so no pictures.

Bobby disappeared after it got dark, but I found him at 6:30 p.m. on the nest making a brief visit.  He then flew off to his regular "hotel" roost at 6:35.  It was pitch black when he went to roost.

While I've been keeping track of the nest this week, the Roger Paw blog has been following Bobby in the park this week, generally at the same time I have.  I would recommend following both our blogs to get both perspectives on the Washington Square nest.  


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Washington Square

Rosie seemed glued to the nest this evening, much more than last night.  It's hard to know if egg laying has begun but there's a good chance it may have started.  We'll know more over the next few days.


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Still Looking Good

Rosie was on the nest from 5:00 to 6:00 tonight, and looked to be staying there all night.  Bobby made a few visits after 5:30 before going to roost.  I don't think eggs have been laid yet, but we should expect them shortly.


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Washington Square At Sunset

I walked down from my office to find a hawk on the west of the park and one on the nest.  Fairly quickly the hawk on the west joined the hawk on the nest.  After about a minute, a hawk left the nest.  I couldn't tell if it was exchange of hawks, or just a visit by Bobby before nightfall.


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All Systems Go

There is a moment when watching a nest early in the year when you feel everything is in order.  Copulation, Check, Overnighting on the Nest, Check, Staying on the Nest, Check.  Then, you just relax and just know eggs will be coming soon.

Today, I had that feeling in Washington Square.


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Rosie Overnights On Nest

I got to Washington Square very late, as I has spent most of the afternoon on Fifth Avenue.  Bobby and Rosie were on the cross and then while Rosie did some hunting, Bobby visited the nest.  After dusk, Rosie caught a rat and eat it while a crowd of about fifty watched.

As night fell, Rosie went to the nest to roost. Female hawks start roosting on the nest for awhile, then spend a few days on the nest during the day, and then lay eggs.  The overnight roost on the nest is a very good sign that eggs will be arriving soon.


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As Though Nothing Happened

Today, Pale Male and his new mate acted as though they had know each other for weeks rather less than a week.   After seeing how quickly she adjusted to the new surroundings, one wonders how many other nests have new partners without any one noticing.

There were nest visits, copulation and the kind of activity you would expect as spring approaches.

One doesn't have to have the necropsy results for Lima, to realize that we have a problem with jurisdiction over construction companies and vendors within city parks.  While most park managers have limited or eliminated rodenticides around hawk nests, there seems to be no oversight over construction companies and vendors in New York City parks.  Over the last few years we've seen issues with prophylactic placement of rodenticides at construction sites at both the Met and the Police Station, and with restaurants putting out poisons within city parks. There has got to be some way to require outside companies working on park property to get approval whenever they plan to put out rodenticides.


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