Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Photo by Rik Davis

A story on the front page of today's Metro section of the New York Times:

March 15, 2005


The red-tailed hawks known as Pale Male and Lola, having endured the destruction of their Fifth Avenue nest in December and the ensuing media storm before rebuilding with thousands of twigs from Central Park, appear to have crossed another critical threshold in their unlikely battle for turf in the center of Manhattan.

According to several naturalists and bird watchers who monitor the hawks' behavior closely, there are eggs in the nest.

If so, New York's most celebrated birds have entered a new chapter, fraught with its own peril, in an unlikely saga that has melded raw nature with urban life and captivated bird lovers around the world.

Yesterday, Lola was settled firmly into their nest on a 12th-floor cornice of a Fifth Avenue co-op building at 74th Street, as Pale Male swooped down periodically to provide her with food. The behavior adheres closely to a reproductive pattern that could culminate with the hatching of one to three chicks in mid-April.

"Nature is triumphant," said Adrian Benepe, the commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

To be sure, whether Lola has laid eggs in the hawk's Fifth Avenue aerie, and how many, remained unclear yesterday for reasons that have much to do with the hawks' instincts for nest building and self-protection.

The spot they have adopted, high above Central Park, sits directly beneath a huge and ornately-carved cornice along the roofline. This provides protection from the elements, but also makes the interior of the nest all but impossible to see or photograph.

"We can only draw conclusions from the hawks' behavior, since we can't see in the nest," said Marie Winn, a Manhattan naturalist and author. She has been observing Pale Male and a succession of his mates, who have sired 23 chicks, since Pale Male arrived in 1993.

Ms. Winn said yesterday that the two hawks' behavior in recent days may mean Lola has not yet laid any eggs, but that "eggs are imminent."

There are many signs that nature is taking its course. Although Lola sometimes leaves the nest for short periods, Ms. Winn said, she only does so when Pale Male settles in to take her place.

And close observers in Central Park could not have missed other evidence in early March. For more than a week, with Lola perched on the nearby balconies or roofs of opulent Fifth Avenue apartment buildings, and with Pale Male swooping down from the sky, the two birds copulated frequently, Ms. Winn said.

Pale Male brought an offering of food - perhaps a pigeon or rat - each time he approached, she said.

Ms. Winn said that there may be a lesson in this for suitors: "Always bring a gift."