Neighborhood Red-Tailed Hawk Bobby and His Favorite Haunts around Washington Square

This map tracks Red-tailed hawk Bobby’s (of Bobby and Violet and now newest addition, Pip) favorite spots to perch around Washington Square and was put together by the Urban Hawks Blog.

They are:

1) Nest location on Bobst Library
2) Cross on Judson Memorial Church
3) Favorite Flag Pole
4) Failed 2010 One Fifth Avenue Nest
5) Various other perches

One recent afternoon, I searched for our new neighborhood addition thinking I might catch sight of him atop one of these pictured spots. Judson Church, “favorite” Flag Pole and the NYU Bobst Library are all visible from the center of the park (where the fountain used to be) on the Fountain Plaza.

Then I just looked straight up and there he was (I’m assuming it was Bobby but it could have been Violet), high up in the sky flying so free and beautifully. I am not a species-ist; I like all forms of animals and wildlife and believe we should respect their right to co-exist on this earth with us. However, I can see why some city people focus in on the hawks and are enchanted and perhaps become a bit obsessed with them. Just the size of a postage stamp in the sky, this red-tailed hawk appeared peaceful and majestic.

No Intervention Right Now for Mama Hawk Violet; Rodenticide Seems to All Be Removed at Washington Square Park

(Updated; photos) Update from the New York Times City Room site which features a sweet video of people in Washington Square Park yesterday patiently watching the 12th floor window at Bobst Library and discussing what the next steps might be for Mama Hawk, Violet. Red-tailed hawk Violet’s foot has swelled due to a metal band on her leg placed at some point by presumably a researcher which is now constricting the leg.

After their evaluation of Violet yesterday, the NY State DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) has decided to let Violet be, for now. I’m not sure that this is the right decision. It’s a hard call, no matter what. I didn’t like their plan to remove her, not to be returned, so I’m glad that’s not happening.

The Urban Hawks blog cautioned that this is a “lost opportunity” and that wildlife rehabilitators Bobby and Cathy Horvath’s plan (to attempt to capture Violet from the adjacent window, remove the band, treat with antibiotics and put her back in the nest immediately) should have been put into place.

Angela commented here on yesterday’s post agreeing with my thoughts on banding (against it) but believes leaving Violet alone is the right thing to do: “There is too much risk to birds and humans to attempt the rescue. I disagree with you about the Horvaths. Their plot to trap her with a net 11 flights up in a challenging urban environment was ridiculous and extremely dangerous, and I question their expertise for promoting such a scheme.”

Link to Times’ story and video (they interviewed two concerned people at Washington Square; I very much appreciated their thoughtful comments).

On the Rodenticide Issue —

Good news: as far as I could see, all of the rodenticide at Washington Square Park has been removed! Let’s hope they will keep it out and work on improved sanitation methods.

However, I did see a bait station half a block away from the Park at the NYU Building La Maison Francaise on University Place.

Yesterday’s WSP Blog post: NYS DEC, Mama Hawk Violet’s Rescue and Remembering Hal the Central Park Coyote

NYS DEC, Mama Hawk Violet’s Rescue and Remembering Hal the Central Park Coyote

Does anyone remember Hal the coyote who was living freely for awhile in Central Park, evading capture, before finally being caught, and dying at the hands of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation when they handled his “tagging” vs. leaving this task in the hands of experienced wildlife rehabilitators? Instead, politics and ego got in the way. This feisty, healthy creature was dead at 1 year old while “being tagged for release.” What I heard, the back story, was that the person who insisted on handling this, handled Hal incorrectly and this amazing coyote died. The tag is the coyote equivalent of a band which is what is causing Mama hawk Violet’s leg to swell. The tagging and the banding go on.

There is great concern about the decision by NYU to have the DEC handle beautiful mama red-tailed hawk, Violet vs. the Horvaths, certified wildlife rehabilitators. Yes, their plan to capture Violet sounded risky but no less risky than now deciding that Violet may not return to her nest at all? According to the New York Times City Room Blog, the DEC is working on this today, perhaps as I write this.

When Bobby and Violet set up their nest outside NYU President John Sexton’s office (what are the chances?), I worried about the University and Sexton’s involvement but it seemed fine – up until this point. I am concerned they were not able to think through this particular situation clearly; calling in the DEC indicates this. (I did, after all, witness John Sexton’s up-is-down speech in support of Mayor Bloomberg and abolishing voted-in term limits.)

Violet and Bobby, the new neighborhood red-tailed hawks and their baby, have taken the place of the Washington Square Arch on NYU’s home page – temporarily, of course.

I don’t believe animals and wildlife should be banded unless a true argument was made on an individual basis. It was a band placed on Violet’s leg that constricted it, causing it to swell and why she may now need attention and intervention. Humans decide that these bands placed by “researchers” are not bothering the animal. How do they know? At Prospect Park, some of the Canada Geese, before all of them were killed at the hands of the city, had big yellow bands placed around their necks with numbers on them, I presume, by the DEC. How do we know this is not bothersome, does not affect them in some way as they go about their lives?

Can we at least learn from Hal and not cause other suffering and death and let nature be?

Bobby, Neighborhood Red-Tailed Hawk, at Judson Church

More on red-tailed hawk couple Bobby and Violet, the latest additions to the neighborhood, along with their new hatchling, to come later! Some great info at Urban Hawks Blog. Meanwhile, rat poison still within Washington Square Park along Wash Square South as I reported on Saturday.

Photo: D. Bruce Yolton

Parks Department says Rodenticide Removed at Washington Square. (And yet…) On Rethinking Use of Poison in Our Parks

Rat Poison Sign Washington Sq Park

The City’s Parks Department told the New York Times yesterday (May 6th) that they were removing the rodenticide “bait stations” at Washington Square that day to accommodate red-tailed hawk couple Violet and Bobby and their newborn hatchlings now residing above the park. This is good news!

However, at 7 p.m. yesterday, bait stations were still visible along Washington Square South and Washington Square East behind Phase II construction fences and close to the Bobst Library; the building’s 12th floor ledge accommodates Violet and Bobby’s nest.

From New York Times City Room Blog, “The Dangers of Rat Poison”:

bait station at base of tree washington sq south

The main threat Bobby and Violet’s brood face, and it is a serious one, is from Bobby bringing home a poisoned rat for dinner. Rat poisoning is believed to have caused the death last month of an adult male red-tail in Riverside Park, state officials say.

The city parks department regularly sets poison in rat burrows in Washington Square Park, which the hawks’ nest looks out on. But in anticipation of a possible hawk hatch, the department has refrained from doing so since April 22.

bait station, washington square east

“We will not be placing additional rat poison in the park while the hawks are fledging,” Phil Abramson, a parks spokesman, said in an e-mail Friday.

“Parks staff is searching the park today to make sure there are no bait boxes or any other signs of poison remaining.”

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Hopefully, those remaining bait stations, pictured above left, were located and removed today.

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.

Photos: Cathryn

Yesterday’s WSP Blog Post: Violet and Bobby Nest-Watch: Baby Hawk Spotted! On Heels of Riverside Park Hawk’s Death, Can We Rid Washington Square of Hazardous Rodenticide?

Update: In a tense turn of events, not poison-related, Violet’s foot is entwined in plastic netting leg is being constricted by a wildlife identification band placed there by a researcher. Wildlife rehabilitators and hawk experts Bobby and Cathy Horvath are coming today to see if they can help and somehow spring her from it! [5/9: They will be attempting a rescue mission from the window ledge to remove the band in the next few days. The bands don’t usually cause this to happen but it does make you wonder in general about placing bands on birds and other animals. ]

Violet & Bobby Nest-Watch: Baby Hawk Spotted! On Heels of “Riverside Dad” Hawk Death, Can We Rid Washington Square of Hazardous Rodenticide?

Defying the “experts” who stated last week that it was not going to happen for hawk couple Violet and Bobby, according to the New York Times, a baby hawk has hatched from one of the three eggs in their nest above Washington Square!

This news comes on the heels of the death of “Riverside Dad” hawk at Riverside Park in late April who likely ate a poisoned rat, despite pleas to the Parks Department to stop placing rodenticide there. This new birth brings up a pertinent issue that has been addressed before on this blog and elsewhere: what about that rodenticide in our city parks?

"Riverside Dad" (standing) when last seen alive

At the New York Times City Room blog, a commenter, an NYU professor, addressed rodenticide in Washington Square Park with the goal of avoiding the same fate for the new parents there:

mp, ny, May 2nd, 2011, 10:46 am

I am writing to you about NYU’s redtailed Hawks, Bobby and Violet, and the danger to them posed by the rat poison currently stashed all around Washington Square Park. I am an assistant professor at NYU, but I write you now as one of the many city birders.

Rat poisons, even “the second generation” poisons currently in use by the city, are fatal to Red Tails and their nestlings. There have been many instances of Red Tails killed by these poisons.

In 2008 it was documented that the entire hatch of 3 nestlings died because they were fed just such poisoned flesh by their by unknowing parents.

Just this week the NYC birding community witnessed the death of the male of the beloved pair at Riverside park; he died because he ate a poisoned rat, leaving behind a mate and at least two nestlings, who are now in eminent peril, as she cannot feed the fledglings and herself for the months it will take them to reach adulthood. You can read about it here at the noted website, http://www.palemale.com.

I am asking if we– the NYU community, the Parks Department, the NYTimes Cityblogs– can come together to take steps to protect Bobby and Violet from a similar tragedy. The territory in which they hunt and feed is so small that it is only a matter of time before one of them ingests the flesh of a poisoned rat and is killed or inadvertently kills their offspring.

For the hawks’ sake we should take measures to protect them. We should be unequivocally diligent in our stewardship of our local, wild neighbors and our shared environment.

With the hawks now visible on a broader stage through the webcam, this concern is magnified many times, as the hawk watchers who have grown to love them will be brokenhearted to lose them, let alone find that they were lost even though their deaths were preventable.

There are many things that can be done to protect the adult hawks and the nestlings from rat poisoning. The first is removal of the poison from the area during nesting season. The Parks department has done this before for Central Park Hawks, so the possibility is there. Better sanitation practices around the park is an important longterm solution. This would mean that the businesses and buildings in the area use rat proof garbage containers with lids.

I understand that last night a nestling was finally sighted in the nest bowl, and that it looks like we are going to be able to watch our first hawk family grow in Washington Square Park over the summer. Right now we have a real chance to avert tragedy by rallying in support of this wondrous, wild happening unfolding before our eyes.

Sincerely,
Myisha Priest

On April 26th, at the Pale Male Blog, hawk expert Bobby Horvath confirmed Riverside Dad’s death and the problems that awaited mom on her own:

It [he] is confirmed dead since Sunday. [He] has been sent for testing already. It will be difficult for the mother to do everything, keeping babies warm and dry and getting enough food but we will see. I will assist if asked to.

At the Urban Hawks Blog, they are furious at the city’s Parks Department for negligence which led to the killing of “Riverside Dad:”

On April 11th, I had warned John Herrold that his staff was negligent by putting out poisons at the Boat Basin Dumpsters in late March. He took no action until he was contacted by Commissioner Benepe days later. His failure to acknowledge that he ignored my email and then his stating “We in Riverside Park are especially proud to have these beautiful creatures living in the park, and take great care to protect them.” infuriated me.

Absolute B.S., when you’ve most likely just killed one of them.

Let’s get the rodenticide removed in Washington Square, now.

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WSP Blog post from May 13th, 2008: Riverside Park’s 3 Baby Hawks Believed Dead; Pesticides in Parks the Cause?

Hawks’ Nest Across from the Park: Violet & Bobby Update

Bobby in the nest with Washington Square Park beneath

4/26 – people are keeping watch. eggs are about to hatch!

The New York Times is updating regularly (almost incredibly so) about the two hawks – named “Bobby and Violet” – and their nest across from Washington Square Park as the hatching of the 3 eggs is awaited.

The hawks set up their nest right outside NYU President John Sexton’s office (what are the chances?) at the Bobst Library on Washington Square South who certainly turned it into a publicity opportunity – video, Twitter account @NYUredtailhawks, and all.

The Latest On Violet & Bobby at the New York Times.

Previous WSP Blog Post: Hawks Set Up Nest Around the Park — “Violet & Bobby” VideoCam Watch

Photo: Christopher James/NYU