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.

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

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

Name the New Washington Square Park Gal Hawk; Voting Ends Today After Voter “Fraud” at New York Times Site

Updated(at end)

Squirrel and New Gal Hawk Play?

Updated – So the New York Times is running a poll to choose the name for the new Washington Square Park hawk. I was never quite able to ID Violet over Bobby – never really seeing them too close either – but the “new gal in town” has a very distinctive RED tail. Yes, they are red-tailed hawks but this is veryred and, when she flies, it really shows.

Some people started calling her Noelle when she appeared Christmas Eve Day but, then, I think perhaps Roger_Paw started calling her Rosie based on her distinctive red markings. That name resonated with me. She’s very much a Rosie, strong and spunky. Whereas Noelle; it’s a beautiful name, but, for this hawk, it sounds a bit … I don’t know… meek.

Anyway, you can take part in the poll over here at the New York Times.

Note: there was voter fraud (!) so they are redoing the poll – it ends at 1:43 p.m. today!

I learned a lot from the hawk watchers at the park on Sunday. I was quite worried about the squirrel in the above photo (so priceless the look between the hawk and the squirrel – maybe I’ll try editing it a bit later edited) but one woman told me that the squirrels taunt the hawks to see how far they “can go.”

And it did indeed seem this way. “Rosie” would make a slight move with her wings as if to go for the squirrel and the squirrel would immediately dart away. The squirrel even going as far as up to the branch she was on.

The hawk watcher told me that the squirrels also can wrap themselves around trees so they are not quite so easy to catch. (Although, she noted, “Rosie” did catch one on the ground the other day.) New Gal Hawk knew this squirrel was not a viable option as she stopped paying attention, preening and cleaning herself although every once in awhile she’d do a little jab in the squirrel’s direction. She didn’t seem too fixated whereas I was sitting there on pins and needles.

Oh! Also, she was bringing twigs to the former nest outside NYU President John Sexton’s office on the 12th floor of the Bobst Library that day. (Note — it is not confirmed that they are officially a couple.)

Update! Rosie won.

Sunday at the Square — Trees Recycled; Kites Fly; Hawks Swoop In; Squirrels and Pigeons Hold Their Ground; Park Remains Under Construction

The Arch Amidst Tree Recycling Event

A Tree Arrives for the Chipper

Girl Gathers Mulch Amidst Mulch Hilltop

First Sighting of One Hawk On NYU Library

Woman flies Kite around the Fountain

Gaining Speed ...

Bobby and New Gal in WSP Tree

Pigeons and Friends Pre-Hawks Arrival

Pigeons Take Flight; People Actually Duck

Wondrous Pigeons in Flight

Sparrows Camouflaged in Tree

I first noticed this squirrel chattering... (to left of sign)

Moments before running up the tree female hawk was now in

Gal Hawk and Black Squirrel Taunt Each Other (look closely in brown box)

Note: this was quite nerve wracking; it occurred on the southern end of the park behind fencing. It took awhile but, at last, the hawk – the new female who has a very distinctive red tail – flew to another branch and the squirrel was safe!

New Gal (Alternately called Noelle or Rosie)

SW Quadrant Remains Under Construction

Trees were Dropped off -- after Event had Ended

The Tree at the Arch Remains Lit


Photos: Cathryn

So sad to hear WSP Resident Mama Hawk Violet has died

Updated!

Violet at the Horvath's

It happened yesterday afternoon — The Horvath’s announcement via their Facebook page:

We are extremely heart sick to have to announce to everyone that Violet has passed away . She came through the surgery very well. She woke up and was sitting up fluffing her feathers. All of a sudden she had a heart attack. The Vet did CPR on her for 20 minutes to no avail. xrays showed that at some point after her right foot had deteriorated, her left femur was broken. We don’t know how she ever survived for as long as she did. We are somewhat relieved that at least Violet wasn’t suffering alone somewhere. She was warm, peaceful and had a full belly and pain medication.We just couldn’t get her in time.

I felt like in the last week many of the hawk bloggers commenters – and I so appreciate all their amazing coverage! – were so anxious that Bobby have a new mate that Violet was quickly becoming forgotten. I know it may not be always popular to say that it would have been better than she never had a leg band and that she was attended to sooner but both are true.  At the same time, I know when you do any kind of animal or wildlife rescue, it’s so easy to doubt yourself and look back over every decision wondering if it was the right one.

I just hope in the future the powers that be – whether it’s NYU or a governmental agency – can work with others who may have supplemental and additional knowledge that can help the situation. Sometimes it’s so easy, in any field, for people to believe they are such “experts” that they end up ignoring those who are ‘in the trenches.’ We all need to work together.

The New York Daily News reports: [Cathy Horvath] “said they are considering burying Violet in Washington Square Park, where she and her mate often sat in trees, hunting for rats.”

And the Horvaths wrote on Facebook today:

We are going to have a plaque made in honor and memory of Violet. We would like to bring her back to her park and place her at the tree where we were able to finally get her. We will let everyone know once we get all the details settled. We want to thank everyone with all our hearts for the amazing support and kind words. It has been very helpful to us. We are so heartbroken from all of this and it is comforting to know you all cared so much for Violet and for us. thank you again, Cathy and Bobby

I hope they do bury her at WSP.

I liked Violet’s spirit. I liked how the hawk bloggers and watchers would be able to spot Bobby often but Violet’s whereabouts were sometimes a mystery. Yet she’d always return. Bobby and Violet discovered that ledge (as I’ve said before, what are the chances…? outside NYU President John Sexton’s office) and made their nest together there. They defied the odds when everyone said the window for a baby hawk had passed. She looked after Pip beautifully; they both did. And the two hawks added a new vibrancy to the park. In the last few weeks, Bobby had been providing Violet with food to compensate for her injured and worsening leg. I realize a new gal will move in (and may have already) but I really appreciated Bobby and Violet as a pair and, of course, individually. Peace to Violet.

All WSP Blog coverage on Violet, Bobby and Pip here.

(Took a break from my break to post this. New posts resume Tuesday, January 3rd.)

Red-Tailed Mama Hawk Violet Rescued Christmas Eve at Washington Square – Recap of the Story Thus Far

Updated!

Violet and Bobby on nearby Fifth Ave terrace early afternoon 12/24

Violet on WSP tree pre-capture (yes, that's a rat)

Bobby on Park light (I love this shot)

The saga of Red-tailed hawk Mama Violet and the leg band that was causing her troubles began last spring prior to the birth of Pip. The leg band had been placed by the DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) some time ago. Recent reports were sounding pessimistic as to how Violet would ultimately fare. So surprised I was to learn that Christmas Eve (right before the caroling began at 5 p.m. by the Arch), Violet was rescued by Long Island wildlife rehabilitators Bobby and Cathy Horvath with the help of Pondove (the online chat room moderator) who alerted them to how serious Violet’s condition was getting and helped scope out the park and Heather who writes the Roger_Paw Blog who and posted an excellent account. Photos above were taken by her (many more at her site) on 12/24 before the rescue.

They first tried last Tuesday with no luck and Bobby Horvath said “I’ll be back” and they returned Saturday. They were about to leave when Violet came near enough to capture. This occurred near the Holley statue (Western end of the park).

I wrote back in May about the concerns with NYU’s decision (Violet & Bobby chose the window outside NYU President John Sexton’s office as the site of their nest) to call in the DEC after initially receiving advice from the Horvaths. The DEC then overruled that advice which was to capture Violet from the ledge outside John Sexton’s office and remove the band immediately before it could cause trouble (which it then did). I remember all too well the story of Hal, the Central Park Coyote (who unfortunately died at the hands of the DEC, link below).

Previously at WSP Blog: NYS DEC, Mama Hawk Violet’s Rescue, and Remembering Hal the Central Park Coyote May 12th, 2011

The Horvath’s recount the DEC intervention in today’s Daily News story. An NYU spokesperson quoted takes umbrage with this being brought up.

The couple, which runs the nonprofit rescue group Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation, believes Violet’s injuries would not be as severe if she had been captured and treated months ago.

The Horvaths question the wisdom of officials from New York University and the state Department of Environmental Conservation who decided not to intervene last spring. At the time, Violet was caring for her hatchling, Pip, in a nest perched on the window ledge of an NYU building.

A real-time Web feed broadcast images of the hawk family around the world, turning Violet into a global sensation.

But in recent months, her condition has worsened, Cathy Horvath said.“She was getting skinny,” she said. “This whole situation may have been prevented if we could have intervened earlier.”

“Given how concerned everyone was about the hawk’s well-being, it would be a pity to hear people start indulging in recriminations now,” said NYU spokesman John Beckman.

Bobby Horvath, Cathy Horvath & Violet

Violet Captured

You always hope that institutions and governmental agencies will learn from these experiences but somehow their comments and attitudes don’t leave one with much hope that this will be the case.

The New York Times story, Violet the Injured Red-tailed Hawk Captured for Treatment in N.Y.C. Park:

Violet, the red-tailed hawk who has been suffering from a crippling leg injury, was captured for treatment on Saturday in Washington Square Park.

According to the blogger Roger_Paw, who posted a detailed account of it, the Long Island-based raptor rehabilitators Robert and Cathy Horvath of the nonprofit Wildlife in Need of Rescue and Rehabilitation, netted her on the ground after she had flown down from a tree branch to retrieve her prey.

The Horvaths will take Violet, the mother of Pip, to a veterinarian to determine the best course of action for her necrotic right leg, which for more than a year has been swollen around metal wildlife band and which may require amputation. Her good leg — the left one — appears to have been infected with what is known as bumblefoot, a bacterial infection that can be treated with antibiotics.

The capture brings one aspect of the hawk drama full circle: the Horvaths had offered to rescue Violet in May, when her injured leg seemed to be worsening, and they went to observe her from the president’s office at New York University, which looks out onto her nest.

N.Y.U. opted to turn the matter over to the state, and the state Department of Environmental Conservation brought in its own medical rescue team, which concluded that she was coping with her injury well enough that the risks entailed in trying to capture Violet and week-old Pip outweighed the benefits.

The Times coverage has been great with the HawkCam and it’s clear their reporters and readers really bonded with this story. However, they definitely glossed over the details about what happened (in relation to decision not to intervene by DEC/NYU against Horvaths’ advice) in pretty much all accounts of what happened until this article.

There have been a number of inaccurate statements put forth by “experts” (I’m not referring to the Horvaths) along the way. For example, stating that the window for the egg to hatch had passed (egg then hatched), Bobby and Violet will only leave food for Pip for a few weeks and then he’s on his own and may not make it (it ended up being much longer than that), the band has not caused Violet’s leg trouble, etc. etc.

Nonetheless, in light of where we are now, this was the best outcome. I definitely had tears in my eyes reading and seeing the photos from Roger_Paw’s account of what transpired and I’m sure many people did who felt so close to this story. I missed the Christmas Eve caroling and am wondering if I would have encountered the rescue which Heather from Roger_Paw said happened around 4:47 p.m. (Caroling began at 5!)

Wishing the best for Violet and thank you to all who assisted in her rescue!

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p.s. There is a new female who has swooped in at the park (amazing how that works – they sense the vacuum?) and Urban_Hawks Blog has a great recounting and excellent photos here with “New Girl in Town.

Previous coverage at WSP Blog:

Update on Mama Hawk Violet November 29, 2911

Pip, Young Red-tailed hawk, getting ready to leave the nest above Washington Square June 21, 2011

NYS DEC, Mama Hawk Violet’s Rescue, and Remembering Hal the Central Park Coyote May 12th, 2011

Baby Hawk Spotted! On Heels of “Riverside Dad” Hawk Death, Can We Rid Washington Square of Hazardous Rodenticide? May 6, 2011

— note: Parks Dept did rid WSP of rodenticide which has been great!

Violet and Bobby HawkCam Watch April 8, 2011

All Violet, Bobby & Pip coverage here.

Violet and Bobby on the Nest April 2011

Violet and Pip (June 2011)

Photos 1-3: Roger_Paw Blog
Photo 4: Pondove
Photo 6: Christopher James/NYU
Photo 7: D. Bruce Yolton/Urban Hawks Blog

New Hawk on The Scene Over the Weekend – That is, Until Violet Found Out

Visiting juvenile hawk in the park

Over the weekend, there was a new hawk in town! A juvenile, according to Heather at Roger_Paw blog who has been photographing and reporting back non-stop on the three Washington Square Red-tailed hawks, Violet, Bobby & Pip. Young Pip seems to have flown the coop – as was expected. Apparently, the juveniles typically move on from their birth site, fly south around Fall Migration, and then may return but likely to another location ? I hope I have that right.
This brown & white speckled hawk was here over the weekend September 10th and 11th. On the 11th, Mama Hawk Violet returned and told the visitor to move on.

Violet!

There’s some great photos of the interaction between Violet & the visitor at Roger_Paw blog from Sunday the 11th. On the 10th, mystery hawk had the Park to himself.

Washington Square Squirrel Keeps an eye on Visiting Hawk


It’s unlikely this hawk will return after Violet, in no uncertain terms, expressed her displeasure but … we’ll see.

All Photos: Heather at Roger_Paw Blog

Last Night at Washington Square

Red-tailed Hawk Bobby Perched Atop the Judson Church Cross While…


This is neighborhood Red-tailed hawk Bobby, I presume, atop the Judson Church cross. Previously noted as one of his favorite haunts around the park, he lingered there for a long time.

Baby Soda Band Played on the Garibaldi Stage


Baby Soda (above) last night at the Park. They were quite good!

From their web site:

Baby Soda is on the forefront of a new movement loosely known as street jazz; with an eclectic set of influences ranging from 30’s era swing, New Orleans jazz, and southern gospel. The ensemble doesn’t desire to recreate the past, rather they bring the concept and joy of the music to the present.

Baby Soda is an adaptable and ever changing group made up of New York’s finest musicians; featuring trumpet, trombone, clarinet, banjo and the unique one string box bass.