Seven or Eight New York City Red-Tailed Hawks Dead Thus Far in 2012 from Secondary Rodenticide Poisoning; Is Rodenticide Returning to Washington Square Park?

Detex Block Monitors Rodent Activity

In late July, the number of New York City Red-Tailed Hawks dead of secondary rodenticide poisoning numbered six or seven and was receiving red flags of alarm in some quarters. Then, two of Pale Male’s latest children both got sick, were subsequently rescued, and are believed to be on the road to recovery.* In late August, Zena, Pale Male’s most recent mate, disappeared and is believed to be dead. Ginger Lima, his previous mate, died early this year of secondary rodenticide poisoning. A new female hawk has moved in according to the Pale Male Blog (they will not move into the territory unless the other mate is gone).

It’s getting hard to keep track but I think we are at seven or eight (maybe more) deaths – as of early September this year – of Red-tailed Hawks dead due to secondary rodenticide poisoning (eating a mouse or rat poisoned by a rodenticide).

SE corner of WSP

In May of 2011, the Parks Department agreed to remove the rodenticide at Washington Square and NYU made a big thing about how they were advocating for that (and how “sustainable” they are) although nearby University buildings were still displaying rodenticide bait stations. The hawk watchers believe that the rodenticide is coming back to Washington Square and I’d say the monitoring of the “rodents” with Detex (sign above near construction) indicates that is possible.  The hawk advocates are genuinely concerned and with good reason. They seem to want to push for a different, “kinder” (my word, not theirs) rodenticide but is that even the answer?

I will reiterate that I think it’s time to rethink poisons in our city. Author Robert Sullivan, who studied rats in the city and wrote about his discoveries in his book, “Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants,” states that removing garbage and the rats’ food source is the key,  even tho’ no one considers that was the “sexier” solution – it IS the solution. He consulted with David E. Davis, the “founding father of modern rat studies” who determined that “when rats are killed off, the pregnancy rates of the surviving rats double and the survivors rapidly gain weight. The rats that survive become stronger. ‘Actually, the removal merely made room for more rats,’ Davis wrote.”

The sign at top is for Detex and is located on the southern end of the park near the Phase III construction. It is allegedly “non toxic” and tracks the “rodent activity.” This bait station (above) is currently in the southeastern section of Washington Square and I don’t know if it’s newly placed or old. An email query to the Parks Department as to its position currently on rodenticides and specifically to Washington Square Park did not receive a response.

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* In a sad turn of events, Jeff Johnson, the person who killed a former co-worker outside the near the Empire State Building a couple of weeks ago, had provided that latest update on Pale Male’s children; he was an avid hawk watcher. The Pale Male Blog has an interesting take on the last time hawk watchers saw him at Central Park in “The Man We Called ‘SUIT.” The New York Times interviewed his mother who spoke of his love of his cat in addition to the hawks. Comments at many of the city’s papers mentioned how hard it is for people right now and how certain things push some people over the edge. The Bloomberg Administration’s coddling of developers and uber-gentrifying of neighborhoods makes it harder for people outside of the Mayor’s billionaire friends to make a living and doesn’t help. Obviously this was a complex situation and sad for everyone involved.

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Two of Central Park’s Fledgling Red-Tailed Hawks’ Lives in Jeopardy — Rat Poison Likely The Culprit

sick young hawk in tree near Museum

Near Central Park, two fledglings hawks, children to famed Red-tailed Hawk Pale Male and mate  Zena, are in precarious health, believed to be poisoned by secondary poisoning after their parents fed them a rat poisoned by rodenticide. The Pale Male Irregulars Blog has been updating regularly since Monday (July 23rd) first via an alert from Central Park hawkwatcher Jeff Johnson:

Very bad news–one fledgling was found sick in an enclosed space on the American Museum of Natural History grounds yesterday and is now in the care of the Horvath Rehabilitators. This second fledgling is displaying symptoms of rat poisoning also…it has not left the tree it has been perched in for almost two days now and refused to eat a meal left in plain view.

Pale Male’s previous mate, Ginger Lima, died from secondary rodenticide poisoning earlier this year.

At Washington Square Park, in May of last year, the Parks Department agreed to remove all the rat poison at the park.

Rehabilitators Bobby and Cathy Horvath, who were involved in the rescue of Washington Square’s Violet (who died last year), wrote on their Facebook page Monday:

The Fifth Avenue fledgling had blood work done today and we should have results tomorrow. He looked a little better than yesterday , is perching well and bright eyed and alert this morning and is keeping food down. We are treating it even before results for poisoning and frounce too but don’t know how much pigeon is eaten compared to definite rats being consumed regularly.

The other young hawk, pictured above, is not faring well; he has not been rescued yet (he is in a difficult position to intercept) and he is not eating although he has moved (himself) between at least two trees.

In response to this, and the death of six other hawks this year in our city parks (!), there’s a petition to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to stop the murder of our Red Tailed Hawks in NYC:

Stop the MET, Museum of Natural History and Central Park Precinct from indirectly killing wildlife. … We are privileged to be able to watch them [Red Tailed Hawks] build their nests, raise and lovingly care for their young all while enriching our lives in this urban jungle. … We, are the fortunate ones being able to witness this incredible sight. Unfortunately, we also get to see them die. Their death is a slow, painful and torturous one. The type of poison that these institutes use for rodent control is deadly, not only to our majestic birds, but to all wildlife, our families and our own pets. We are all interconnected, what happens to one, happens to all of us. This year alone, there were 6 deaths of our magnificent Red Tail Hawks in the NYC area, (that we know of), from this type of poison. At present, we are watching two of the legendary Pale Male babies dying, because of this poison.

I wrote last year at the time the Parks Department agreed to remove the poison about rethinking rat poison in our city:

Meanwhile, it might be time to rethink rat poison in our city parks in general.

In Robert Sullivan’s book, “Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants,” he interviews David E. Davis, “the founding father of modern rat studies.”

Sullivan writes: [Davis] consulted with cities on their rats, preaching his most important discovery throughout the country – that poisoning rats was not in itself an effective way of controlling them. In fact, when rats are killed off, the pregnancy rates of the surviving rats double and the survivors rapidly gain weight. The rats that survive become stronger. “Actually, the removal merely made room for more rats,” Davis wrote.

The only way to get rid of rats was to get rid of the rat food, or garbage, but no one wanted to hear this: as it was the dawn of the age of ecology so also it was the dawn of the age of the chemical, of poisons and pesticides, and people seemed to want a sexier, chemical-based fix.

Seems they still do.

Hawk and Squirrel Benefit from Fenced-off Construction Area — Taking a Break from the Heat (Photos)

One benefit of the construction at the park is, that, with the fenced-off areas, it gives the wildlife some breathing room (when there’s work not being done, of course). Here, not far from one another, are pictures of one of the fledgling red-tailed hawks and a black squirrel … This was end of last week when it was extremely hot. The hawk had his (or her) mouth open and was almost panting; he had his wings slightly spread out — a few people who stopped by noted that this was because of the heat. I kept wanting to ask … how do you know that? They didn’t seem like the regular hawk-watchers and I’d never heard that tho’ it made sense. These two (squirrel and young hawk) were far enough away from one another tho’ some other squirrels got a bit close for comfort. Rosie (mom hawk) was in a tree not far away within the open Southeastern section of the park. She didn’t stay long – she took off and flew along Washington Square South and it was an amazing sight to witness. No photos of that – it was too awe-inspiring and quick to get a shot but here are some of the others:

Hawk within Phase III construction area

Black squirrel taking a break…

Young hawk closer up…

Notice the way the left leg is jutting out (very Angelina Jolie at the Oscars!)

On ground attempting to hunt and catch…



Photos: Cathryn

Squirrel at Garibaldi Plaza

Three (or Four) Red-Tailed Hawks Have Turned Up Dead in NYC Parks This Year

Via WPIX11Hawks Turning Up Dead in Manhattan Parks:

Several red-tailed hawks have been found dead in and around parks in Manhattan over the past two months. Two hawks were discovered in different sections of Central Park, and one in Riverside Park, according to Parks Department officials. All three were sent to the Department of Environmental Conservation’s pathology lab to determine the cause of their deaths.

“That to me is absolutely overwhelming,” said bird lover Virginia Arrea, who goes to Washington Square Park twice a day to look for a hawk she’s spotted there on a number of occasions.

I love to see the majesty of the bird in the middle of New York City,” Arrea said.

Other recent deaths include Lima, the mate of celebrity hawk Pale Male. Two more dead hawks were found, one near Columbus Circle, and another near Peter Cooper Village on the Lower East Side.

Experts suspect the hawks may have consumed poison indirectly by eating sick rodents or pigeons which they might find outside the parks.

We value our wildlife and work diligently to create the necessary balance between public health and safety, and wildlife health and safety,” said Parks’ First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh. “Out of concern for the resident red-tailed hawks in Central and Riverside Park, poisoned bait is not currently used.

Here is the story from the NY Times when Pale Male’s (latest) mate, Lima, was found dead in late February.

Then there was this dramatic aspect to it when Lincoln Karim from the Pale Male Blog was arrested for possession of Lima’s body.

He was concerned that the body would not be tested accurately by governmental agencies to reveal the true source of her death.

NY Daily News reports on three but also mentions there’s a fourth: Three (Perhaps Four) Hawks Dead from NYC Parks March 9, 2012

Related at this blog:

* Parks Department says Rodenticide Removed at Washington Square; On Rethinking Use of Poison in Our Parks, May 7, 2011

Squirrel Meet Nut


Before the rain… More on that Monday. I’m a bit backlogged on posts but they’re coming!

Seen at the Park — Friendships


There are friendships, alliances and an appreciation of all wildlife in Washington Square Park.

Photo: Cathryn

Squirrel Meet Hawk

Violet or Bobby? Probably Not Pip

Bird's Eye View?

That’s a squirrel box in the Park (erected by the Parks Department) and, yes, there’s a squirrel in there! Who, apparently, survived — at least, that day.

Last week, I posted commenter Drew’s thoughts as to how to help the Washington Square Park squirrels. He wrote:

I entered WSP again today shortly after 2pm and immediately came upon one of the hawks, just west of the arch. The hawk was sitting directly on top of one of the squirrel houses. Just inside the squirrel house was one terrified occupant. The hawk sat there for quite some time, at least 20 minutes, before finally flying off.

It seems like the squirrels are easy pickings for the hawks. Perhaps the Parks Department might consider a modification of the squirrel houses (to make the tops less like attractive as a perch) and/or a relocation of some of the houses.

The hawks are a sight to behold – but it would be a shame to lose the playful squirrels that have been a fixture of the park for, well, ever.

The hawks are going to eat squirrels or rats or pigeons but we don’t have to make it quite so easy! It seems like modifying the top of the boxes would be the easier thing to do and contemplating better locations.

Roger_Paw Blog has been documenting newest Red-tailed Hawk Pip’s exploration of Washington Square Park with some amazing footage. Pip is still being assisted with food from parents Bobby and Violet and Bobby is still looking out for her around the Park.

One of the hawk blogs said, within a few days of fledging (leaving the nest), Pip would be on her own and she might not make it if she didn’t figure how to survive quickly. But, like a lot I’ve read about the hawks that seems to be stated as fact and then seems to be a bit off, she is still acting like a young bird who needs her parents.

Pip isn’t quite in killing mode yet it seems. Here is footage of Pip taunting and being taunted by the squirrels. If this was Bobby or Violet tho’, this would not be the case!

More on Violet, Bobby and Pip on WSP Blog.

Previous WSP Blog Post: With 3 Hawks in the hood, Can we give the Washington Square Park squirrels a little assistance?

Photo: Drew O.

A reader’s query: With 3 Hawks in the Hood, Can We give the Washington Square Park Squirrels a Little Assistance?


hawk, squirrel & tree-Wash Sq Pk

Commenter Drewo wrote in the other day with concern about the beloved Washington Square Park squirrels and their fate with the arrival of red-tailed hawks Violet, Bobby, and now Pip.

From Drewo:

I found your WSP blog on the internet. As a long-time visitor to the park, I am concerned the squirrel population will be annihilated by the hawks that now reside around the park. Much attention has been paid by the media (particularly the NY Times) to the nesting hawks – I guess the fate of the squirrels does not require as much attention.

I was in the park on Wednesday (7/6) and found a hawk perched directly atop a squirrel house – with one terrorized squirrel crouching inside the house. The hawk was just waiting for it’s food. No hunting required – easy pickings in a squirrel house.

I took pictures and posted this note to the latest NY Times City Room article about the NYU hawks:

I may have partially answered my own question (#6). I entered WSP again today shortly after 2pm and immediately came upon one of the hawks, just west of the arch. The hawk was sitting directly on top of one of the squirrel houses. Just inside the squirrel house was one terrified occupant. The hawk sat there for quite some time, at least 20 minutes, before finally flying off.

It seems like the squirrels are easy pickings for the hawks. Perhaps the Parks Department might consider a modification of the squirrel houses (to make the tops less like attractive as a perch) and/or a relocation of some of the houses.

The hawks are a sight to behold – but it would be a shame to lose the playful squirrels that have been a fixture of the park for, well, ever.

I responded:

I did see your comment (at the Times) and I thought it was really on target. It’s a really good idea. Love the squirrels at Washington Square and I know they have many fans. I’ll definitely run a post with your comment in it on Monday Tuesday.

Maybe we could start a campaign? Ask the Parks Department? Perhaps the NY Times would run something. The hawks have to eat something so it’s going to be a squirrel or a pigeon or a rat but I suppose we don’t have to make it so easy for them. Poor little squirrel you witnessed!

I don’t know how easy it is to move a squirrel box or modify or get them to use another one… That would be interesting to know.

Cathryn.
WSP Blog

What do you think?

Note: this photo an encounter of a hawk and squirrel at the Park was from a few years ago (pre-Violet, Bobby and Pip).

Fourth of July at Washington Square

Black Squirrel Strikes a Pose

More coming…