Posted tagged ‘Riverside Park red-tailed hawk dies’

Good-bye, Riverside Park Red-tail

March 12, 2012

I learned yesterday from a visit to the Morningside Hawks blog that the female of Riverside Park’s paired red-tailed hawks was found dead on Friday. This is such sad news, just as nesting season is underway.

Today, the dog and I walked to the nest site.

Just above the 79th street boat basin, the nest overlooks the Hudson River.

There we found a makeshift memorial to the hawk.

According to hawk watchers, the hawk seemed ill on Friday, perching for hours without moving. The Riverside nest has a particularly fraught history, as rehabilitator Bobby Horvath told the NY Daily News, “Every year there is a tragedy with this poor bird. One year there was a storm, the nest blew out of a tree and three babies died and last year her mate was found dead by a Dumpster.”

The death of the Riverside female brings the recent death toll of Manhattan’s Red-tails to four, three in the last two weeks alone. The bodies are being tested to determine the cause of death, a process that may take over a month. Many birdwatchers suspect rat poison, an on-going hazard for urban raptors.

Rat poison caused the death last year of the Riverside Park male red-tail, and has also killed baby hawks that were inadvertently fed poisoned rats by the their parents. After last year’s death, the Parks department stopped using poison near the nest, but NYC hawks hunt in the streets as well as in the parks. And I can attest from daily experience that rats, and boxes of rat poison, are easily visible all over Morningside Heights and the Upper West Side.

Whatever the cause of the recent deaths, red-tails move on to new mates with astonishing rapidity. There seems to be no shortage of “floaters,” unattached, usually younger hawks in search of mates. The Riverside female had found a new mate earlier in the season. And on Saturday, Roger_Paw reported, the male had already been observed copulating with a new  female.

When I got home this afternoon, I spotted a red-tail perched on a water tower on 109th Street. It might have been a Riverside red-tail, but it could just as easily be from Saint John’s, Central Park, or elsewhere.

As I fumbled with my camera, the bird took flight, heading south.

Here’s hoping we have another successful nest in Riverside Park this year.

And here’s a last look at “Mom,” showing unequivocally why we call them red-tails.


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