Friday, May 06, 2011

Will NYU's Red-tails, Bobby and Violet Also Become Victims of Rat Poison?

Photograph courtesy of New York University

Bobby, Violet, and the nest with their three likely unfertilized eggs.

They're both young hawks and a year of practice without eyasses isn't a rare event. In fact it is very good practice for next year.

But will there be a next year?

Washington Square Park is the only green hunting space they have, and it is full of rat poison stations. Looking at the history of Red-tail poisonings, due to secondary poisoning by eating poisoned rats in the last few years Bobby and Violet have been a couple of very very lucky birds.

In 2008, all three Riverside Park eyasses died on the nest due to rat poison. Then as a new generation of particularly lethal rat poisons arrived on the scene, an number of named hawks of long standing, who had lived decades in the city without dying of secondary poison, were fooled into eating lethal doses of bad rat and died: Athena in Queens, Hawkeye at Fordham, possibly Pale Male's former mate Lola and the latest- Riverside Dad in Riverside Park.

Riverside Dad left Riverside Mom and two very young eyasses without a provider.

It is extremely difficult for a single parent Red-tail to both protect the young on the nest and hunt enough to keep them fed. Hawk watchers banded together and a solution was found. Rats and quail are being left for Riverside Mom near the nest. She flies down, picks them up and thus feeds herself and her offspring.

But none of this need have happened if there had been no poison and no poisoned rats in Riverside Park.

Well you say, Bobby and Violet's eggs didn't hatch so they'll be leaving the area. Not so fast!

Just because the eggs haven't hatched doesn't mean that the pair will immediately take off for Honolulu. Lola, Pale Male's previous mate often sat the nest for an extra month when eggs didn't hatch. And even when the pair began to give up the nest it took awhile for them to branch out of the area for hunting.

Lola and Pale Male had a great chunk of Central Park to hunt in besides.

Bobby and Violet don't.

All Bobby and Violet have is Washington Square Park. It isn't all that large and it has rat poison and poisoned rats in it.

Plus even when the failed nest is far behind them, they'll likely be around protecting their turf and eating what is available in Washington Square.

According to all the research the real way to control rat population is sanitation. Plain and simple. Humans need to pick up after themselves. But too many humans see poison as ever so much easier.

It is up to the rest of us to do what we can to help our Urban Hawks live through the human arrogance, ignorance, and lack of empathy when it comes to poison.

What can you do to help them?

More to come in regards to trying to get the poison out of the park and protect young Bobby and Violet from, well, us.

What was it the Schmoos used to say, "We have met the enemy and his is us."

Donegal Browne


Anonymous said...

How about spraying the rat stations with something that will cause the rats to avoid the bait?

Julia G said...

Department of good news and bad news. First, the good news - one of the NYU eggs has hatched, and there is an eyeass flopping around in the nest! Saw the little fella moving around with my own eyes.

Bad news - I'm worried to death about the rat poison in Washington Square Park. Also, Bruce Yolton on the UrbanHawks blog has asked for a letter-writing campaign and is organizing a June 20 demonstration/candlelight vigil to redress the tragic death of the Riverside dad (plus last year's eyeasses) by rat poison, and I plan to participate in both.

I will also write NYU President John Sexton praising his decision to install the HawkCam (when a less enlightened person might have removed the nest), but also pleading for the removal of the rat poison in the park.

It's a small thing, but I chat with the guy at the pizza parlor in my corner strip mall in suburban Connecticut about the red-tailed hawk that likes to perch on the telephone pole across the street from his shop. I told him the story of the Riverside dad and encouraged him to educate his fellow strip-mall restaurateurs about proper sanitation and not using anticoagulant rat poison. One dumpster at a time....

Anonymous said...

According to the the latest news, Violet now has some plastic or twine wrapped very tightly around her leg. She has tried without luck to remove it. The leg has become very swollen and the situation is not looking good for her. Unfortunately the window looking out at the nest does not open, but an attempt will be made to capture Violet from the roof to treat her inflamed leg.

Donegal Browne said...

Thanks for the update Anon. Violet now seems to have extricated herself from the fishing line and is able to leave the nest when she wants to. Whew! Not out of the woods yet as that leg isn't looking good.