Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Asking After Hawkeye of Fordham and the NYBG

Hawkeye the Ever Vigilant, Fordham Fledge Day- June 14, 2007

I just got this off the NYBG blog. I'm heartbroken. This is the first time I've shed tears for a bird. Maybe because I've only been photographing birds for the last two years, this is the first time that one I've watched regularly has passed on. How awful. : (

Pat Gonzalez

Sadly, Hawkeye, the adult male red-tailed hawk that
nested on the Library building and raised three young this past spring, died July 31. He seems to have ingested poison by eating a rodent that had eaten poison bait, teaching us, once again, that all of nature is connected and reminding us of the impact we have on the food chain. To see photos and read the complete story of eyewitnesses, see the Fordham University blog and The City Birder blog.

Yes Pat, terrible but true. Dear, smart, experienced, clever, beautiful Hawkeye is dead. Likely killed by secondary poisoning from consuming a poisoned rat as were the three 2008 Riverside nest eyasses.

He died while I was at the Pennsic War and by the time I got back and heard about it, not only did I think I was the last to know, but also, his death was so hard for me I could barely think of it without repeatedly bursting into tears. His death has made me terribly afraid for not only the younger inexperienced hawks but also for the mature and wily hawks of name, we have watched season after season.

Long ago I came to the realization that the older hawks, Pale Male, Lola, Pale Male Jr., Charlotte, Mama, Papa, Tristan, Isolde, Big Mama, Rose, and the others weren't just extremely lucky in the game of Rat Russian Roulette. They must have discovered a clue, a "something" that warned them that a rat was poisoned beyond just behavior. Because a poisoned rat initially doesn't act any differently though it is still capable of poisoning the hawk that eats it. So this clue, whether smell, taste, a small bite that induced illness but wasn't virulent enough to kill but taught the clue or something else which cued these hawks not to eat those rats doesn't seem to be present with the new second generation rat poisons.

If Hawkeye, a very successful urban Red-tail who lived, ate, fed his mate Rose and his family, season after season without anyone being poisoned was fooled, then every hawk in the city could be poisoned on any given day. That thought is nearly more than I can bear.

Despair can destroy will but it can also out of desperation catapult one into action. Take action. Investigate. Educate. Do what you can at the very least to get these poisons out of your hawks territories and eventually outlawed all together.

A question occurred to me. If we know that these poisons kill hawks through secondary poisoning, how can this be seen as an accidental poisoning. We know it will kill them if exposed to it by rat eating and these hawks are protected by the 1918 Migratory Treaty Act, why cannot those who put out these poisons be prosecuted under that law?

Donegal Browne


sally said...

agreed. very very sad. there has to be a way to eliminate the use of these poisons. raptors are a sentinel species. if for no other reason, secondary poisoning has been shown to occur despite the labeling on these "safe" poisons and are also a danger to pets, children and possibly our watershed. ddt wasn't removed until it threatened people; perhaps that is what it will take with these rodent poisons, too. does blakeman have any suggestion of action we could possibly coordinate? was hawkeye tested by a lab to confirm the poisoning-that would be valuable evidence.

Donegal Browne said...

As I was out of town, I most likely don't have all the information and I'll check with others but as far as I know Hawkeye, after being picked up, was taken to the Zoo for treatment. Whether they did a necropsy after his death or whether Hawkeye was sent upstate to the NY State wildlife pathologist I don't yet know. From the phrasing I suspect that his symptoms looked looked to be rat poison related and or if there was a necropsy the internal damage was was also a positive for poisoning.

I also have been told that testing for poison and particularly for specific poisons is expensive and also that at times the poison has already passed out of the animal and all you really have left is the damage that was done to make a conclusion about cause of death.

Sally as you volunteer at a rehabilitation facility might you be able to ask them for some specifics about the testing for poisons?

In my personal experience with hawk deaths that looked like secondary poisoning, we have never had a definitive answer.

I really would like one and perhaps we can investigate as to why we don't get them. Is it truly cost? Is it impossible to ascertain? I've heard both. But in fact... What is the deal?