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

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Pale Male, White-crowned Sparrow vs Chipping Sparrow, the Mystery Bird with Mysterious Nesting Materials

Photo courtesy of
Pale Male takes off with focus. And so the days pass, food hunted, caught, eaten, turns taken on the nest, eyes alert for possible intruders- and days waiting on eggs.

Though both are sparrows there is a definite disparity between the sizes of White-crowned Sparrow and Chipping Sparrow. Of late White-crowned has been posturing at just about anything that moves. He exudes a physical challenge to all who walk by him. Often the song birds only challenge their own species but White-crown appears to feel the need to challenge everyone.

Chipping Sparrow avoids his challenges by just ignoring him. And if White-crowned makes a jump at him he takes off at speed. Chippy is far faster off the ground after all and then he just sets down in an area behind White-throats back and goes back to his business. It's obvious he feels his business if far more important than posturing.

A mystery bird with mystery nesting material.

Like a magic trick, it unfurls and the bird is gone.

Donegal Browne

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Latest Update on Riverside Park Rat Poison!

Contributor Karen Anne Kolling got hot on the job and emailed the possible purveyors of rat poison at Riverside Park. Here's what she said--

Hi Donna,

Below is an email I got from the Boat Basin Cafe guy, Mike O'Neal, and also the one I sent to him, Kavanagh and Herrold which this is in response to.


To: Liam Kavanagh
Subject: poisoning hawks in Riverside Park
Sent: May 3, 2011 09:44

Dear Mr. Kavanagh, Mr. O'neal and Mr. Herrold:

I see that this year again a Riverside Park red tailed hawk has died
from ingesting poison.

It is just beyond my comprehension why the city does not insist on
proper handling of garbage and instead allows overflowing trash to pile
up, attracting rats, and then sets out poison which kills not only the
rats but hawks.

If someone in my neighborhood like the city and the Boat Basin Cafe left
out overflowing garbage bins and easily ripped garbage bags, they would
be cited for creating a health hazard. I am glad to see that at least a
boycott of the Cafe is being called for until they clean up their practices.

Karen Anne Kolling

And Mr. O'neals response--

Dear Karen,

We have never used poison,ever, we're as concerned about the hawks

as you are. The garbage got out of control one weekend,

we share that container with the Parks Department.

We need more containers, we will get them.

Please call me if you see any problems..

Thank you for your concern,

Mike O'Neal

"Curiouser and curiouser", as Alice said.
Keep scrolling down for today's main post.

Isolde Has a Hatch! Unenlightened at Riverside Park, Fostering Red-shouldered Hawks, Whooping Crane Shooters Found

Photo courtesy of
Riverside Mom and one of the eyasses

Urban Hawks reports that the grotesque folly hasn't ended at Riverside Park even yet. The hubristic and intentionally unenlightened continue to make fools of themselves and place the hawks in further jeopardy . This time a Riverside Park's employee who insists he'll remove the food that has been left for Riverside Mom to feed her half orphaned eyasses.

"John Herrold isn't the only Park's employee at Riverside who's shooting himself in the foot, by the way.

Paul Evans, Parks and Recreation Manager got into an argument with a park's patron on Sunday when Evans told the patron he would be removing the rats that had been placed around the nest. (I find it odd that Evans didn't know about a program approved by the Parks Commissioner. More mismanagement by Herrold?) Pamela Langford, a long time hawk watcher explained the feeding program and the sadness many felt over the father's death. Instead of being understanding, Evans told her something to the effect of "What do expect, these hawks shouldn't be in New York City."

For more on this bizarre scenerio plus plans for a possible protest on June 20th if things continue to go to hell in a hand-basket go to

Photo courtesy of Rob Schmunk at
Isolde and Norman look at their eyasses. I'm so excited for them! This is a nest I've watched for many hours and hawks dear to my heart. (Okay, I know, they are all dear to me.)

Actually just how many young are up there is unknown but Isolde has been observed tearing prey and feeding it to someone or someones in the nest so there has been a hatch.
For more great photos and Rob's observations, click the link above.

Photo courtesy of the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey
In from Tulsa Hawk Watcher Jackie Dover, I'd seen documentation about Red-tailed Hawks in Alaska raising five or six eyasses in a nest but I've never seen it done before by buteos. This is a crack pair!

This was posted on the Face Book page of the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey (they're the ones who rescued the red-shouldered hawk babies in Sarasota, Florida, plus the osprey chick from Tampa. I don't know whether the two babies in this item and photo are those same two. But interesting. FIVE babies! They said that these parents have done this before. "One of the most amazing and endearing traits of raptors is their excellent parenting. They are such good parents that they will also take in a foster chick or two. We placed eaglets in foster nests this winter, and those youngsters are now flying. Recently we placed two Red-shouldered Hawk chicks into a foster nest. It's pretty crowded, for the wild adults were already caring for three of their own. We knew that this pair could handle the extra mouths to feed, since they have been called upon before to add to their brood. Staff at the Center, along with a volunteer climber, gave them some extra room by installing a nest platform next to the nest."

I guess experienced Whooping Cranes aren't really all that important after all-- once things get to court.
Thanks to Robin of Illinois for the link.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Pale Male, Riverside Park Hawks, and Funny Fur Fox

Photo courtesy of

All seems well on the Fifth Avenue front for Pale Male and Ginger Lima so far. Keep those fingers crossed!

Photo courtesy of
Riverside Mom and one of her eyasses.

Bruce Yolton at urbanhawks reports that Riverside Park Mom is accepting food left near the nest by humans and so far she and the two eyasses are making it without the tiercel who was likely poisoned.

(No permission for a feeding station necessary as she's just picking the human supplied food up from where ever when she sees it.)

We aren't out of the woods yet as it is difficult for a single parent to feed and watch over multiple young particularly when one has fledged and one is still on the nest. Though she is likely experienced enough to know the tricks of tempting them with food to keep them somewhat together once off nest as she and her mate have fledged three eyasses at once in past years.

Read through and then go to the link above for the full story and to find email addresses for the person in charge of placing the rat poison, and his letter which reads in part--

"Please rest assured we have been actively engaged in working to care for the hawks."

Then how come one of them is dead likely due to rat poison that you placed, and kept in place even after being alerted to the probable danger to the hawks?

I think Mr. Herrold could use a few emails making our deep concern about how he has handled this and our feelings about the death of Riverside Dad very clear, don't you?

Somehow I don't think I'll be buying anything from the Boat Basin Cafe either until they get some better garbage control going. The real answer to rat problems according to all the studies is GOOD SANITATION, not poison.

Zonotrichia albicollis stares at Pyewacket the cat.

Every year just about the time the Juncos head north, a couple of White-throated Sparrows appear, feed up for a week or so and then they too head further north. I find them quite beautiful, not to mention plucky.

A fox with what appears to be a possible fur problem trots cheekily towards the threshing shed and I'm assuming a den I've not discovered quite yet. I'm wondering if she could use some nice chicken with an anti-fungal on it similar to what we do for squirrels with a similar look?

Of course the squirrels get peanuts with their anti-fungal not chicken.

Donegal Browne

Monday, May 02, 2011

Great Horned Owls as Crow Magnets And Thoughts on Empathy

Owl Photos by Mark Scarborough
A Great Horned Owl from the Raptor Education Group. Inc.

Reporter Mark Scarborough of the The Edgerton Reporter, (also an old college friend of mine), had me tag along to an event he was covering and maybe take a few pictures. The event was a raptor education talk by some folks from the Raptor Education Group, Inc. from Antigo, WI.(Much more about them in the next post.)

We all met at the boyhood home of Sterling North. Remember Sterling North? He's the one who wrote
Rascal, all about the baby raccoon he raised and eventually released into the wild.

After the talk, while I was jabbering in the front yard of North's house with Molly McKay and Karissa Mohr (visualize three Bird Nerds which they label themselves as and I have to admit I rather lump myself in there too- trading bird stories as fast as we could) who'd done the demonstration with the birds are now holding the Great Horned for a photo op. The light was much better outside.

When cawing, lots of it, started coming from multiple directions.

Including the trees, pretty much over Owl's head. Does he look amused? That would be a no.

The Crows weren't amused either.

They then began grouping behind him--and us.

And then they began flying back and forth and getting more aggressive. I began to know how Owl was feeling. Or any of the other raptors I've watched "get it". We humans because of our obvious "friendship" with Owl were now about to be mobbed by crows.

I've of course always felt bad and quite sorry when watching Isolde and Tristan fending crows away from their nest and being dive bombed. And certainly for Pale Male and First Love when they were run into buildings and injured by Crows but somehow it was never quite as real to me personally as this moment was.

Today's lesson. Empathy may be strong but it is never as vivid as the real thing happening to you.

Much more on R.E.G.I. to come. And of course other raptor news as well.

Donegal Browne