Sunday, May 29, 2011

For the Red-tailed Hawks of NYC, Any Meal Could Be Their Last (Part 2 now incorporated into the original post.)

Photo courtesy of
All it takes is one bad rat. And seven years of hope will have come to nothing.

Photo courtesy of

(It may be a bit of a slog through details for some but do persevere to the end where you'll find important ways to help our urban hawks and ourselves.)

For the non-urban among you, this is a "bait box". A euphemistic term referring to a receptacle which contains rather nasty poison. It doesn't just poison rats you know. The contents are a deadly poison to just about any creature with blood.

In fact I've seen "professional exterminators" just throw it around on the ground. Little bright blue shaped pieces which look like they might just taste of blue popsicles.

40,000 children a year end up eating rat poison (They aren't counting the pets, birds, wildlife that are poisoned and die.), so the EPA figures the second generation poisons should be kept away from children unless placed by a pro. No residential use.

A place like a New York City Park, probably has more children and pets per square foot, than any normal place of residence. But these poisons are placed it in our parks.

First there is the poison in bait boxes. All poison should be removed from the hawk's territories well before the hormonal surge in male hawks which urges them to give gifts to their mates which often include rats.

The more hormonal the males are the more their judgement is impaired. We've seen it season after season. (Sorry guys.)

Not only should the poison be removed from bait boxes but the boxes themselves should be taken away so they are not inadvertently refilled due to a miscommunication between those who work for the money raising Central Park Conservancy and the NYC Parks department which attempts a balance between the needs of wildlife in the parks and what others see as a "need" of people who won't use proper sanitation and look for a quick fix.

Second the placing of poison in burrows should be outlawed. It poisons the ground. It poisons ground water. It looks tasty and tempts children and dogs to poison themselves and hawks to be poisoned by needlessly toxic rats.

Burrow stuffing is dangerous overkill for rats that causes the death of other wildlife without any question. A rat in a burrow can eat away on poison for days before it dies making it a very toxic rat which could kill a hawk taking a single bite.

Whereas the rat had it's death sentence from the first bite, it just takes days for it to die either way.

But even less toxic rats aren't OKAY.

Though small amounts of poison in a rat that a raptor eats may not kill a hawk outright, it can cause it to become infertile (Lola?) and suffer neurological damage which can cause a hawk to make "mistakes" which lead to death.

All urban hawks found dead should be tested for poisoning no matter what we believe the overt cause of death was. Even if we've just seen her hit by a car. That flight judgement mistake may have been made due to neurological damage caused by low toxicity rats.

Time after time it has been proven, poison doesn't really control rats at all? Rats have developed reproductive stratifies that defy extermination measures like poisons. So why is it we keep trying to find more and more toxic substances in which to kill Brown Rats?

Photo courtesy of
Because of slovenly humans that's why!

(See previous posts that include information about the drastic reproductive step up that occurs in rats when a sizable portion of a colony is exterminated. The only thing that controls rats is a lack of food. When food is very limited they eat each other. Now isn't that handy, natural, and causes no reproductive step up until food increases again. Speaking of food?)

Riverside Park--Dumpsters for lawn waste, filled instead with food garbage to overflowing, uncovered, and with sprung rat friendly seams. A reproductive bonanza for the Brown Rat. Just one of the many many issues that have made Riverside Park such a productive habitat for Rattus norvegicus.

According to research studies, despite what the extermination companies would lead people to believe, the only real way to control rats is sanitation, sanitation, sanitation.

And the above photo is not an example of it.

And because poison is cheap and being clean obviously too much trouble for some concessionaires....guess what happens to our lasting shame as humans?

Photo courtesy of
May, 2008--Two of the three Riverside Park eyasses who within days would disappear with their sibling below the edge of the nest never to be seen alive again. They were inadvertently fed a tainted rat by their parents. All three, dead of rat poison.

Photo by Donegal Browne
May, 2008--Riverside Dad an extremely skilled rat hunter, tireless collector of nesting materials, prodigious provider, attentive father, and affectionate mate brings a rat to Riverside Mom who is sitting eggs on the nest.

April, 2011--Just last month, Riverside Dad's body was found in the park. He died of rat poison, leaving Riverside Mom with two freshly hatched eyasses, only days old and still in need of her constant presence to warm them, during this exceedingly cold wet Spring.

And poison rat bait was still extant in the area very near the nest.

Riverside Dad's family initially survived on the many cached prey animals he stockpiled before his death. When these were exhausted, a food delivery system was worked out through talented wildlife rehabilitator, Bobby Horvath, concerned local hawk watchers and the NYC Parks Department, in which freshly thawed frozen quail and rats were left on the ground near the nest for easy access by Riverside Mom to feed the orphaned eyasses.

An employee of the fundraising non-profit of Riverside Park, attempted to remove the food provided for the family, saying that Red-tailed Hawks didn't "belong here". It is believed he was corrected by Adrian Benepe, the Commissioner of NYC Parks.

Photo by Donna Browne
Big, beautiful, and experienced Athena of the Astoria Park Triborough Bridge Nest, mate of Atlas, mother and willing foster mother to many, left behind a clutch of eggs on which her mate Atlas sat for many long hours watching for her return. She could not come back. She suffered, too ill to fly, and bled from the mouth.

Famished, Atlas finally left the nest to hunt, the clutch was retrieved by humans and artificial incubation attempted. There was no hatch. Many died not just one.

Athena, dead of rat poison.

Photo by Donna Browne

Multi-skilled hunter, fast, human friendly, ever vigilant and clever Hawkeye of Fordham, mate of Rose for many years, benevolent father and hefty provider for a nest full of healthy eyasses year after year after year. Found gravely ill and grounded on the Fordham Campus with Rose desperately attempting to protect him.

Hawkeye, dead of rat poison.

These are the hawks of name we know for certain were sickened and killed by rat poison. Poison that was deemed "necessary" due to indifference and lack of proper sanitation in humans.

Among the missing, and possibly poisoned, who's fates we do not know other than one day they were with us and the next, never seen again, are Pale Male's former mate Lola, and the southern Central Park pair, of Charlotte and Pale Male Jr.

These hawks were loved, and are deeply missed.

Human sloth and disrespect caused their suffering and untimely deaths.

It's time we humans who are not indifferent, to make our concerns known, in a civilized manner to Adrian Benepe, Commissioner of NYC Parks. He has always been sympathetic to the hawks of our city.

In fact last season he had the poison removed from all Manhattan Hawk territories during breeding season. He may have received a backlash from that so we need to give him some leverage with the number of our communications and the strength of our real concerns for the hawks in order to get the ban reinstated ASAP.

And from hawk watcher Katherine Herzog. who has been on the poison problem--

The concessions/Central Park Conservancy sometimes act on their own....Mr. Benepe should be made aware that there are rat bait stations - at least 12 around the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe and the parking lot where the trash dumpsters are parked - and more right under Pale Male's nest near the small concession adjacent to the model boat building.

You can fill out the on-line form, which limits you to 150-words:

Better yet if you're up to it, snail mail is much more effective..... so get out your stationary and a stamp and start writing. It is more of an effort and therefore is taken more seriously by those who receive it.

Honorable Adrian Benepe
Commissioner or Parks and Recreation
The Arsenal
Central Park
830 Fifth Avenue
NY, NY 10065

And for those of you who may have visited NYC and seen Pale Male's nest or plan to do so bringing tourist dollars into the city. Or those whose children follow the lives of the Fifth Avenue Hawks and have now become concerned as you now you know there are at least a dozen bait boxes in the immediate vicinity of the Fifth Avenue nest, if that is such a good idea as the animals could die a dreadful death from poisoning at any time.


Poison out, sanitation in!!!

Alert liked minded friends and relatives.

Put it on your facebook page. Twitter it. Post on other blogs!

After the first day on this blog the generic address won't bring this blog up directly first so be sure to get the precise blog address once another post goes up when you send it to people.

Ask for support in the comments sections of Hawk and Eagle Cams and leave the specific blog address. Or write your own plea and post Mr. Benepe's address. Don't forget the comments sections and the chat rooms of the New York Times City Room Blog and others like it.

Currently Washington Square Park is the only park in hawk territory without poison, and as that park is small even those hawks are still in danger as Bobby will have to hunt the streets in which there will have been poison set in the buildings and alleys.

Have another idea that will help? Share it! Hit the "contact me" button or post in the comments section.


Donegal Browne


Sallhy said...

Excellent! I am sharing everywhere I can.

Diane said...

This is a fabulous piece.
Was Tristan a casualty too? Can't remember there have been so MANY.
XOXOXOX from all the Hawks.