Friday, February 18, 2005

Recent correspondence regarding some of the issues raised on this site.

This report from Donna Browne is from 4 days ago -- 2/15/05. That was when I couldn't access my website Latest News Page. But the information it provides is still fascinating to read:

Field Notes 2/15/2005
Today's lesson: Red-tail copulation may not last long
but attempts are certainly frequent, at least with
this pair.
2:45PM Pale Male makes twig trip to nest
3:05 near copulation on Oreo roof, thwarted by wind?
both birds circle
3:17 Lola flies in from the N and perches on chimney
Oreo building.
3:21 copulation on Oreo roof
3:44 Pale Male flies S and then SW at 72 st, Lola
still on Oreo
3:46 visitor hawk spotted behind tree screen in SW
3:48 Lola flies above Linda circling, Pale Male
returns from South
3:49 Lola lands on N corner of Linda roof, Pale Male
flies over, copulation
3:51 Lola flies to TV dish railing
3:53 both hawks circle in front of Woody talons down
Pale Male perches on silver stack of Woody
3:56 Lola flies East then circles back to Pale Male
3:58 Both hawks fly West over North end of
Conservatory Water.
4:40 Both hawks discovered sitting on Terra Cotta
roofed building uptown
4:42 Lola perches on far left top railing of Oreo
4:45 Pale Male arrives, copulation?, and leaves
4:59 copulation Oreo railing, Lola preens, birds sit
sides touching, heads turned to each other.
5:03 Pale Male up and North, perches on terra cotta
roof building uptown, Lola still on Oreo railing
5:17 Lola up, both hawks on green top building uptown
5:19 Lola perches on NW top corner of Dr. Fischer.
5:21 Pale Male to Linda 5
5:25 Pale Male to nest, arranges twigs
5:28 Pale Male to Linda 3
5:40 Bat arrives and hunts over Water, Lola?
5:41 Pale Male flies to roost, Pin Oak foot of Pilgrim
Temperature 48F
Donna Browne

Recent correspondence regarding some of the issues raised on this site.

2/18/05 -- A correspondent wondering, as many readers do, why she is so drawn to the Pale Male saga:

I’m an ex-New Yorker who now lives on the edge of a canyon in Southern California. Through my windows I enjoy all varieties of birds and wildlife. I love the different varieties of raptors we experience here: red-tails, coopers, turkey vultures, along with the myriad varieties of birds that come to visit us. This enchantment exists right outside my home, and it is most appreciated and wondered at, and yet…I am so overly compelled and drawn to Pale Male and Lola and their saga.

I ask myself why - what is so very compelling? I think the answer, especially as an ex-City dweller, is the lure of the primitive. The idea being that within the concrete confines of the City, vibrant and natural life exists and flourishes - life that can rise above the mundane of everyday urban human existence. Living in the City ... we sometimes forget that the Earth and its creatures can remain true to their natures no matter what the circumstances and what obstacles are presented to them. We realize the miraculous adaptability of all creatures. It reminds us of our own role in the natural ebb and flow of life. And I feel humbled by that knowledge.

Shari Landes

Dear Marie Winn,

Last year my sister and I included a day of Central Park birdwatching in our trip to New York and it was memorable. In spite of our efforts to learn about the birds of CP ahead of time, we did not know about the red-tails. But when we were there we did see one perched on one of the park light posts. We were very surprised to see a red-tail in the park but a passer-by said simply something like it was 'probably one of the red-tails.' It wasn't until after we had returned home and saw the PBS 'Nature' documentary aired here in the San Francisco Bay Area that we learned of the famous nesting pair (and evidently others :)

I have loved reading John Blakeman's essays in response to the increasingly detailed observations that I see posted on your site. There looks to me to be a wonderful synergy emerging between these two that I, for one, look forward to reading regularly.

[Readers weigh in]

Dear Marie...It is very good to learn that the orange confusion doesn't bother the Hawks, I love the photo on the top of the page of Pale Male against the back drop. Maybe he sees it as a celebration of his new nest! I want to add my voice to the opinion poll regarding terminology describing their activities. I think it's perfectly fine to use words to describe their activities that are pleasing to a public website, after all this is not a private science anthology. It is a site shared by people of all ages, including children, and there are sometimes when it's just more poetic to describe something in a lovely way. We are people, after all. We're not trying to win any awards for scientific accuracy, that has been established as scientific accuracy is noted and appreciated, but we can still refer to our Stars in the way we feel happy about doing, there is that freedom. The exact depictions are valued and very much appreciated as points of fact. This known, we do have the freedom then to adapt the language to suit the venues at hand. Gathering such widespread support for these great creatures has to a great extent been achieved thru media acknowlegement, and as such, words have been adapted to most please the widest possible audience. Shakespeare himself would approve. Without "poetic license" there would be no poems, no love songs, no movies, plays, operas, ballets anything. Anyhow, that's my opinion. I'm a singer-songwriter and have a CD out on Tomato Records, called The Great Tomato Singer-Songwriter Collection. And I won an ASCAP Award for New Songwriters of the Year. Sincerely, Amanda



It is funny that you and others are so squeamish about "copulation" vs. "mating" while there is Lincoln with a post-coital picture of Pale Male from a few years ago in BIG format on his web site. I think this obsession with when and how often the redtails do it is overblown since Pale Male has more than proved his virility over the years.

I have not seen The Gates and have no interest in them. Several of my friends have gone and have been either impressed or puzzled. None have rhapsodized as the Times did. The Times' aerial shot was just depressing to me. One of my coworkers told me used the "exhibit" as an excuse to take his wife and dogs for a walk (wife unleashed, I presume).

I guess Mr. Bloomberg is another millionaire with bad taste in art.


More on sexual linguistics:

Ms. Winn,

I can identify with you when it comes to using the 2 words
above. Copulating sounds "dirty".

However, maybe if you just close your eyes each time you type it, eventually it will become natural to use

Also, after reading J. Blakeman's information, we in NYC have a unique hawk lifestyle being created here. It's
fascinating to see how the hawks are adapting to NYC. So,
maybe it would be best to use the proper word, and educate others to do so. After all, thousands and maybe millions read the hawk sites

Also, can you imagine the surprise and excitement J. Blakeman experiences from the fact that PM produces and
raises 3 babies just about every year, when he has never seen it in his decades of research.

Thanks for a WONDERFUL site!!!!!!

Btw, I live in the Bronx and work in Manhattan.

Carol Taggar sends the following: [NB I tried to include the photo on this page, but I failed--the image was too large, it seems. But you can get it for yourselves by going to the URL's Carol includes. You'll get a good idea of Central Park's relation to Manhattan Island via this super-hawks-eye.] view

Dear Marie,
There is a wonderful satellite photo of Central Park, although you may already be aware of it. Since I am not familiar with Central Park, I had fun enlarging the photo and comparing it to your diagram at the back of your book, Red-Tails in Love.
The web site is or
That's pretty complex, so if the above doesn't get you to the photo, you could probably get it through a search engine. The photo is really quite amazing. I think I was even able to identify "The Hawk Building" in the enlargement.
Carol Taggart

A letter in response to my previous musings about whether readers are losing interest in the Pale Male story:

Greetings from the nation's capital! I'm writing to affirm, like other readers, I, too, am silently following Pale Male's life and history unfold before me via your web site and Lincoln's. The former provides provocative and fascinating scientific details, while the latter soothes the soul with a compassionate vision. In particular, although I am far-removed from a daily proximity to Central Park (I wish!), please be heartened that Pale Male and his loyal court have awakened in me a drive to quickly develop my long-held but deferred interest in birding. I had long thought I'd bird watch much later in my life, but to feel and read the passion pour from your consistent reporting and Lincoln's obvious love for animals has moved me to act now. I can't wait to take a quick trip to NYC and join a weekly CP bird count and catch a glimpse of His and Her Excellency. Rest assured, the ripple effect created in early December 2004 continue to resound in many, like me, who begin and end (including mid-day web visits) their days with the rewarding and comforting habit of following virtual Pale Male news.

Washington, D.C.

p.s. Love John Blakeman's letters-- read addicted!

Another response:

Dear Marie,

I just thought I would let you know that I am one of the ones that has been keeping up with Pale Male and Lola since the nest crisis. I live in Long Island and I come in weekly to see them. I just moved here about 9 months ago and I am one of the lucky ones that can do this. I read your website daily and Lincoln's and I am truly grateful.

I am from Atlanta; there we are fortunate enough to have a pair of barred owls that nest in our backyard. What a treat. I get to hear all the various calls at all hours.
Atlanta is not small, its around 5 million people in the metro area. We also have red-tails that hunt in our yard- its great. And all of this in a huge built up metro suburban sprawl. Its magical-- but we have had to fight the developers to save some of the forest in our city.

I have worked in NYC on and off over the years. I think its so important for people to have this connection with nature that Pale Male and Lola can bring.

Anyway, I was really excited about coming to NY because I could see my favorite hawks Pale Male and Lola, and only a train ride away. I happened to be in Atlanta when I heard the news of the nest destruction. So, I hurried back to NY to join in and protest.

I've been keeping up with this ever since December and so have my friends throughout the country. Just thought you would like to know there are others even outside of NY who are keeping up on a daily basis!

I will be in this week; but it won't be to see the Gates! I do agree with you about all of that but I am glad to read Mr. Blakeman's assessment.
Hope to meet you some time.


Another letter reaffirming interest:


After reading the comment from Debra Lott on your website today, I felt I needed to add my thoughts on this issue. I live in Colorado so unfortunately I cannot make it to Central Park to see Pale Male & Lola in person. Thanks to you, Lincoln and John Blakeman I am able to keep up with what is going on in the life of Pale Male, Lola and the happenings in Central Park. I start my morning with a cup of coffee and checking out what has transpired overnight on both yours and Lincoln’s website. It may seem that we have fell off the bandwagon but as Debra said we all lead pretty hectic lives. When Pale Male’s family was threatened, thousand of people from all over the world did whatever they had to do to try to help in whatever way they could.

I am so grateful for what all of you do. Thank you so much for introducing me to some wonderful new people and animals. I loved your book and am looking forward to the next edition.



Littleton CO

The Deba Lott letter can be found on the LATEST NEWS page

Here's a rather persuasive one in favor of Christo, from Susan Keiser

Hi Marie:

Now that it has been established that they are no threat to our avian friends, I'd like to put in a good word for the Gates. Comparing them to the assorted fountains and statuary in the park is an "apples and oranges" thing. They are TEMPORARY. By going right to the history books, the author of the 'Slate" author misses what is remarkable about it and all of J-C and Christo's artworks: Each is monumental, ephemeral, and often urban. The largest urban artworks I can think of are sculptures like the Picasso in Chicago, which are miniatures when compared with the Gates. Other artworks on this scale, such as Smithson's "Spiral Jetty" are permanent and permanently alter their sites. And they are also located in remote, difficult to get to parts of country, not in one of the largest cities in the world. And finallly, there are sculptures like Richard Serra's "Arcs", which was so disliked by the people who used the plaza where it was located that it was eventully removed.

It is actually extremely difficult to make public art on a large scale (much less monumental scale) that doesn't impose itself on its environment in a negative, almost facistic way. Because it is interactive and temporary, the Gates are actually more like the baseball and concerts approved of by Olmstead and the article's author. They bring activity and people to the park in large numbers. Acting much like their wrapping projects, the Gates (while they are up) make frequent visitors see the park in a new way. And when they come down, perhaps anew yet again. The tourists and city residents who have never beeen in the park, may go for the spectacle and then return to experience the park in its normal, serene state. How can these things be bad?

While the Slate author doesn't gripe about how much money was spent, that is another frequent complaint. "Couldn't the money have been used to (fill in the human tragedy you claim to care about but do nothing to prevent or cure)?". This is also specious. New York City will reap an enormous profit on the investment made by J-C and Christo. Assuming it is spent wisely, it WILL go to "good causes," which will also get funds directly from the sale of tee shirts etc. Certainly entertaining the masses is a more noble way to raise money than putting on parties for the fashionable people.

Critics of the project claim J-C and Christo are just being coyly secretive when they say "it has no message or meaning, it is just art," This isn't just some stupid artspeak. If they could define it in a verbal sound bite they wouldn't need to make it. People paint, sculpt etc. because whatever it is in their head and heart can't be put into words. Art is not a translation and not a puzzle to be solved. Art can and should be talked about, but ultimately it must speak for itself, with every viewer in each new generation hearing and saying something different. While J-C retain total control of creating their artworks, what they mean to them will be different from what they mean to everyone else who sees it, each of whom will experience it in their own unique way.

Finally, the Gates are not intrusions into the park, they very respectfully span the paths, the intrusions that are already there. And how can they be seen as anything other than an attempt to celebrate the park, regardless of whether one thinks the project succeeds or not. While in the orignal plan the gates would have left holes upon removal, in the end they were installed in a such way that when they go, they won't leave a trace. I think Olmsted would have loved them.


February 15, 2005

Gated Community
by Nora Lawrence

The Gates, the latest monumental project by the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, consisting of just over 7,500 saffron-colored gateways spread across 23 miles of paths in Central Park, opened Saturday to a wide public reception and massive media fanfare. While much coverage has been dedicated to an examination of The Gates as a work of art, and on Christo and Jeanne-Claude's 26-year fight to realize their project, less has been said about what the project portends for the future of Central Park.

The artists have been hopeful for The Gates since the election of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a patron of the arts that the duo considers a good friend. The Central Park Conservancy, a private, nonprofit group that has helped maintain Central Park and supervised its usage for the past 25 years, took the reins of the city's negotiations with the artists, calling upon Christo and Jeanne-Claude to make several concessions in their artwork to better preserve Central Park's land. The artists financed the project in its entirety and have also donated $3 million to New York City's parks--which some say was a result of nudging from the Central Park Conservancy.

Despite these moves made to lessen The Gates's impact on the environment in which it stands, the Sierra Club's New York City branch is not satisfied. According to Charles Lyman, chairman of the Sierra Club's Parks Committee, and member of the Executive Committee of the organization's New York City group, Central Park is home to about 7,000 birds from 60 to 70 different species. Six or seven of these species are endangered. The Club's major environmental objection is that the effect of The Gates on bird life was not measured before the work's approval. The Club's protests are contestable; it has not been proven that Christo and Jeanne-Claude's two-week project, in its finalized form, will cause more harm to the park and its wildlife than anything else that happens there.

However, the Sierra Club's objections also raise the issue of the ownership of Central Park. No doubt The Gates is the largest work of public art ever to grace New York, and it has provided New Yorkers and visitors with a unique reason to visit Central Park's walkways in the dead of winter. But granting Christo and Jeanne-Claude wide-scale control over the park's pathways and accepting their $3 million has set a potentially dangerous precedent for the use and control of New York's public space.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude certainly compromised to get The Gates off the ground and please environmentalists. They halved their initial request for 15,000 gates, and agreed to anchor each gate with 600-pound steel bases instead of drilling holes three feet into the ground. These bases are lined underneath to protect the sidewalks. The project was installed in February instead of May or October, the artists' first-choice months, so as not to disturb the park's bird migration patterns. No gates have been erected in or around the most natural areas of the park, and all across the park, the rhythm of the gates pauses to accommodate low-hanging branches.

While the fact still remains that the gates are man-made structures in an (albeit man-made) natural habitat, this does not seem a unique danger in Central Park. While I watched Much Ado About Nothing last summer at the Delacorte Theater, two ducks flew up from the pond behind the stage on which Jimmy Smits was wooing Kristen Johnston. One duck got caught in some rope above the theater and plummeted headfirst onto an unsuspecting audience member, who, after a scuffle, escorted the duck out by the wing. As an urban center, Central Park can be hazardous to animals, period.

Because of all of the compromises and the artists' reputation for doing large outdoor projects, Christo and Jeanne-Claude have been called "environmental artists." There is a danger in the semantic slippage between the terms "environmental" and "environmentalist" art. Christo and Jeanne-Claude, no doubt, are environmental artists. Their works are all created outside, are site-specific, and are on a massive scale. But Christo and Jeanne-Claude certainly are not environmentalists--while their works may call attention to a site, the projects are not executed with respect to the environmental needs of a location. For Wrapped Coast (1969), the duo wrapped 1.5 miles of Australian coastline in cloth. For Surrounded Islands (1980-1987), they surrounded eleven islands in Florida's Biscayne Bay with floating pink fabric--certainly not projects that had the safety of dolphins and other marine life as their primary concern.

In fact, in Christo and Jeanne-Claude's recollections of the processes through which their artworks are realized, they position themselves as creative martyrs on a mission against oppressive environmentalists groups, two artists working tirelessly against bureaucratic requests for Environmental Impact Statements and suffering through meetings with aesthetically challenged community boards. In a 1976 statement regarding his California project Running Fence (Jeanne-Claude at this time was not listed as a collaborator), Christo admitted that after his application for a permit was rejected, "the shore portion of the fence was constructed without the required permit." In the project Wrapped Walk Ways (1977-1978), in a Kansas City park, Christo and Jeanne-Claude did drill holes into the ground to support their work, because they could.

Environmental concerns are only one issue for those facing Christo and Jeanne-Claude. In detailing his opinion of The Gates, Lyman asked an important question of Mayor Bloomberg: "Does he have the right to give public property to a private individual, for that individual's personal gain?" The press conference held Friday for The Gates at the Metropolitan Museum did little to quell Lyman's fear of commercialism. In his introduction of The Gates, with Christo and Jeanne-Claude standing at his side, Bloomberg concentrated on the city's potential for monetary gain. He asserted that the project would bring the city an estimated $80 million in tourist revenue, and would provide an "economic boost during a traditionally slow month."

The equation gets more complex upon an examination of Bloomberg's personal ties. Bloomberg is a friend to Christo and Jeanne-Claude and an avid collector of Christo's drawings. The preparatory drawings for The Gates are being sold for as much as $600,000. "I bought two of them," Bloomberg stated. Bloomberg's personal financial support of the Central Park Conservancy is also of special concern. A nonprofit, private organization, the Conservancy took over maintenance of Central Park 25 years ago, and now raises 85 percent of the park's funds. It works with New York City's Parks Department and prides itself on the restoration of the park to a state much better than that of the park circa 1979. The park, it's true, looks beautiful. But turning over the maintenance of New York City's parks to private organizations can make for skewed priorities. While the Central Park Conservancy okayed The Gates, they also used their authority to nix the use of the park as a rallying space for RNC protesters in August.

The argument could be made that good art has to be the product of a singular vision, that the creative freedom that Christo and Jeanne-Claude have obtained by financing their own project is crucial to the production of true art. But Christo and Jeanne-Claude's financial situation has granted them access to the park. They will pick up the entire $21 million tab for The Gates. Yes, the exhibition will probably be a financial boon to the city, and it provides a democratic aesthetic experience for all. But is the vision of Christo and Jeanne-Claude more important than that of an artist with less impressive coffers? Sierra Club activist Edgar Freud is concerned that The Gates will cause "an avalanche of other big-time operators" trying to gain control of parkland. The paths of Central Park are marked by Christo and Jeanne-Claude's now-iconic saffron: Could commercial ventures be next? New York City needs to standardize and make public the process by which future projects for city land are chosen. These projects should be chosen at the discretion of the city and its residents, not that of a private organization.

NORA LAWRENCE is a freelance arts writer in New York City.

Real lovebirds, those hawks!

2/18/05 -- Here is Jack Meyer's list of park sightings for today. Looks like a typical late winter collection of birds EXCEPT for one exciting difference. Note the third-from-the-bottom entry: the red-winged blackbirds SINGING NEAR THE AZALEA POND. That's another, much awaited harbinger of spring. They weren't singing last week. Now they are, on one of the coldest days of the year, demonstrating that the various changes in bird behavior observed as spring approaches are due to light, that is, the gradual lengthening of days, not due to temperature changes.

DATE: Friday, 18 February 2005
LOCATION: Central Park
OBSERVERS: Marty Sohmer, Jack Meyer

Red-tailed Hawk
Mourning Dove (Evodia Field.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Feeders.)
Downy Woodpecker (Several, feeders.)
Hairy Woodpecker (Feeders.)
Black-capped Chickadee (Feeders.)
Tufted Titmouse (Several.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Several.)
Brown Creeper (Evodia field.)
Fox Sparrow (Evodia field.)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco (Several, Evodia field.)
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird (Singing near Azalea Pond.)
House Finch (Feeders.)
American Goldfinch (Several, Feeders.)


From Yesterday's Daily News:

New York Daily News -
Real lovebirds, those hawks!

Thursday, February 17th, 2005

Love is in the air.

With their new nest still under construction, Pale Male and Lola, the famous red-tailed hawks of Fifth Ave., have been in full-feathered ecstasy along the rooftops of the upper East Side.

"They mate every day, five times a day for five seconds," said Lincoln Karim, who recently spotted the lovebirds expressing their love atop an antenna on E. 79th St.

In December, the co-op board of 927 Fifth Ave. took down the bird's nest amid complaints of hawk leftovers raining down on the ritzy sidewalk.

After a week of protest by bird lovers - including Mary Tyler Moore, who lives in the building - the co-op board relented and installed a stainless steel basket to house the new nest.

The birds have been rebuilding their home, one twig at a time, and are about half done - taking frequent love breaks.

Marie Winn, who wrote a book about the Pale Male and Lola called "Red-tails in Love," said Lola should lay her eggs in early or mid March.

Bird lovers were happy to hear the news that Pale Male and Lola haven't let their real estate crisis dampen their passion.

"It's a little bit of nature in New York," said Gretchen Lengyel.

Her friend, Peggy Stotter, chimed in with a quote from an old Broadway show tune, "Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets."

Austin Fenner

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Mail has been coming in about my posting of 2/14, entitled SOME CONTROVERSIAL THOUGHTS

2/15/05 -- Mail has been coming in about my posting of 2/14, entitled SOME CONTROVERSIAL THOUGHTS. Here for example, is a letter from Debra Lott that made me feel I had been a bit insensitive:

I wanted to speak up for the other side of the fence. Yes I know many folks fell off of the bandwagon after the resolution of the nest crisis, but I expect there are also many like myself who continue to quietly monitor the progess of Pale Male and Lola. I have a full time job during the day and spend my nights and weekends writing. I cannot spend long periods in the Park. I am grateful for sites like yours and Lincoln's that allow me the opportunity to watch Pale Male and Lola's progress.

Yesterday, my husband and I went to the Park to view Christo's Gates. I thought John Blakeman's take on them very sensible, that they will do no lasting damage to the Hawks. As much as I enjoyed the Gates, which I did, that is not why I will remember yesterday in the Park. We walked to the Sailboat Pond, my very first vist there with the intention of seeing the nest. When we got there, people were lined up at several telescopes.

I heard the murmuring in the crowd that Pale Male and Lola where on a building close by. When my turn at the telescope came and I looked through it, there they were, in all their majesty. I have only ever seen pictures of them, mostly from Lincoln's site (why isn't he working for National Geographic? His pictures are incredible!). The wind blew through Pale Male's feathers and my breath caught in my chest. Many people were in line at the telescope, so my first look was much too short. But I saw them, together, for the first time. I am still feeling the sense of awe they inspired.

Yes, the Gates were there, but so were Pale Male and Lola. What will I remember about yesterday? What do you think?


Debra Lott

After John Blakeman corrected my ID of the red-tailed hawk in Isaac Shapiro's photo below, I posted the correction though I was quite chagrinned to have made a mistake about the hero of my very own book! Then with the subject line reading "True Confessions", I e-mailed Blakeman to tell him I had made a public correction. I also asked a question. Below, my confession note to JB, and his response:

Dear John,.
Ok, Done. I confessed to the world. But come to think of it, what WAS that bird doing in the heart of PM and Lola's territory? [That spot is directly due west of the nest. I'm sure I've seen Pale Male in that very tree many times.] Is this another "only in New York" thing, or a common occurrence?


Let me see if I can make some sense of the plethora of red-tails in Central Park. First, there are far more red-tails in Central Park than there should be. Only a single pair would be expected in a similar rural area. But there may be three pairs, and who knows how many un-mated (see how the word properly works?) other birds.

In rural areas, in conventional woodlots, no resident adult would ever tolerate the presence of any other red-tail so close to a nest site at this time of the year. So yes, this seems to be another unique factor in the CP red-tails. For me, they grow more different from the rural pairs each week, it seems.

The short explanation must surely involve the availability of food. Remember, the ability to capture abundant prey is life itself for a red-tail. When prey are scarce, when an adult must spend many hours each day peering across the landscape for a mere twitch of a mouse or rat whisker, life is so competitive that the resident hawk will absolutely not tolerate any territorial incursion by any adjacent interloper. Most rural red-tail territories in the East and Mid-west are in the range of 2 to 4 square miles. But Pale Male and Lola appear to have a minute territory of only about 0.4 sq. miles.

Not only is their territory uncharacteristically small, they conversely produce giant broods. Here in rural Ohio, an area not much lacking in ample red-tail food, red-tail pairs average about 1.5 or fewer eyasses each year. In all the years I've watched wild pairs here (about 35 yrs), I've never seen a nest that fledged three offspring. There simply isn't enough food to feed three of these explosively-growing blighters as they near fledging size. But Pale Male and his consorts have done this repeatedly. The only explanation is an extreme abundance of easily-captured food in Central Park.

That must be why these other, interloping birds so casually perch and fly within what should otherwise be the exclusive landscape of Pale Male and Lola. They have so much available food that they have a much reduced impulse to drive out adjacent hawks that also hunt the same prey in the same areas they do. Abundant food is prompting a great deal of intra-specific (same species) tolerance.

Central Park is turning out to be an absolute red-tailed hawk paradise, lacking absolutely nothing the species seems to require.

And here's another thing most NCY hawk watchers aren't aware of. Out here in rural, conventional red-tail habitats, no RT would be caught dead (well, alive) perching so close to humans as they apparently do in CP. Out here, when strolling toward a perched wild red-tail on, say, the edge of a woodlot some quarter mile away, the bird will quickly fly off when I approach within several hundred yards. Rural red-tails just don't abide strolling humans nearby. Central Park red-tails have learned that humans aren't much different from the grazing cows or deer that rural birds commonly see and tolerate. No one in NYC ever takes a pot-shot at sitting red-tails, only lots of digital photos. The birds have learned to merely disregard most human threats.

You people are getting to observe red-tails with an approachable intimacy exceeded only by us falconers with the trained birds that sit on our fists.

Take advantage of all of this. I know of no other place where this species is so approachable and consistently observable. You have a peculiar wild and regal spectacle so close at hand. Only in the Big Apple. It's great.


John A. Blakeman

For those of you who read the text below before 2:45 on Monday, 2/14, please check it again. I've corrected a mistake I made.

Eben Shapiro, an editor at the Wall Street Journal, [and father of the photographer], sent this great shot of an immature redtail with Christo's Gates as a backdrop, taken near the model-boat pond, along with the following note:

This photo was taken at approximately 2 45 p.m on Sunday, 2/13/05, by 11-year-old Isaac Shapiro, a fifth grader at PS 9. Isaac has taken an intense interest in the fate of Pale Male and his family and has spent a fair amount of time on Fifth Avenue this winter, watching.

When I first posted this I assumed it was Pale Male, because of the light-colored head, and its location smack in the heart of Pale Male's territory.. But a quick e-mail from John Blakeman pointed out that I was mistaken. He wrote:

"Isaac Shapiro at P.S. 9 is to be commended for his wonderful shot of the red-tail with a pair of "Gates" as mere background.

But this bird has light-colored eyes and a brown, banded tail. This is an immature red-tail, not our vaunted Central Park patriarch. Fine and majestic, nonetheless.

Nice shot, Isaac. Shows that The Gates are no impediment for our red-tails."

Isaac's hawk may very well be the light-colored immature redtail that has been living in the Ramble all winter, often hanging out near the feeding station. We sometimes call him "The Suet-eater" because...well, you can figure it out.

2/17/05 -- Today's Cover Picture in the NY Post

Cover of the NY Post today -- 2/17/05

The NYC Audubon alerted the media to the fact that copulation by Pale Male and Lola has commenced. [There! I used the word. It wasn't so hard. Next time it will be even easier. You can find more on the Mating vs. Copulation controversy by scrolling down on the old LATEST NEWS page] Unfortunately the reporter of the story called it "mating" throughout the story. When he called me I had given him the the scoop about sexual linguistics--that "mating" means pair bonding, not the hawk sexual act-- but he said he couldn't use the "c" word in a family newspaper. I laughed merrily since the NY Post is just about the trashiest paper published in New York. City

Monday, February 14, 2005


For a REAL Valentine, check out Lincoln's website,!] MEANWHILE...


New York has gone wild with joy about the Christos' sea of orange. Michael Kimmelman, the Times' art critic started the ball rolling two years ago with a wildly enthusiastic article about Christo and the project. His front-page article in the NY Times yesterday was nothing short of ecstatic. "A work of pure joy," he enthused, "A vast populist spectacle of good will and simple eloquence..."

When the Daily News called the public's reaction "Gates Fever" a slightly disagreeable thought popped into my mind:

New York's reaction to the Gates, this feverish jumping on the bandwagon, this universal rapture , this desire to be part of a New York happening, with tourists flocking in to have a look, the headlines, etc, reminded me of another recent event that similarly galvanized the city. What was it? Why, it was the Pale Male and Lola nest-removal crisis!

Suddenly last December Pale Male was on everyone's tongue. People all over the city who had never heard of the species Buteo jamaicensis, indeed, who didn't know a red-tailed hawk from a red-handled handsaw were flocking to the model-boat pond to jump on the hawk bandwagon. And when one of the pair happened to come sailing by in the sky, people screamed and jumped up and down, crying "I see him! It's Pale Male!" as if they were having an Elvis sighting.

It was very strange. Of course it was great too, because it undoubtedly helped achieve the goal of forcing the building to restore the spikes. But there was definitely a mass hysteria element about it.

Things have settled down now. Only the real hawk enthusiasts continue to monitor the happenings at the hawk bench, and of the thousands of correspondents who wrote to me on my web-site, now only a few hundred I feel I have gotten to know, who are fascinated by John Blakeman's info and the daily reports from the hawkwatchers, continue to be interested.

Still, this thought gave me pause. It made me rethink the Christo project, and even my strong antipathy to it. I'm sure there are many other ways of seeing it, but looking back at the events between December 8th, when the nest went down, and December 23rd, when the spikes were restored, iI began to feel as if we had all been caght up in some sort of wild, slightly nightmarish waking dream.



[This one is from] Why the architects of Central Park would have vetoed "The Gates." By Witold Rybczynski
Posted Monday, Feb. 14, 2005, at 4:11 PM PT

I'll leave judgment of the aesthetic merits of art installation in Central Park to the art critics, but a comment by Christo and Jeanne-Claude caught my attention. They have written that the name of their project comes from Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, who called the various entrances to the park "gates." In fact, the idea of naming the 20 pedestrian entrances to the park after popular professions, such as The Farmer, The Engineer, and The Miner, came from a committee that included neither Olmsted nor Vaux. What struck me was not the factual error, however, but the attempt to enlist the 19th-century makers of Central Park in this modern project.

From the beginning, Olmsted and Vaux strenuously opposed all attempts to introduce art into the park. In their Greensward Plan of 1858—the competition entry that won them the commission—they wrote that while it would be possible to build elegant buildings in the park, "we conceive that all such architectural structures should be confessedly subservient to the main idea, and that nothing artificial should be obtruded on the view." They considered art a similar distraction from the restorative purpose of the landscape and kept statues out of the park. The sole exceptions were Emma Stebbins's Angel of the Waters, atop the Bethesda Fountain, and a series of figures representing prominent Americans that were to adorn the Terrace, but were never erected due to a shortage of funds.

However, then as now, the urge to decorate the park with commemorative artifacts was irresistible. Already by 1873 a monument to Shakespeare had appeared, and no fewer than 20 other works of sculpture had been offered to the city. The memorials were gifts from public associations and wealthy individuals, and the pressure to allow statuary in the park grew simply too great to resist. A committee that included Vaux, as well as the painter Frederick E. Church, drew up a list of rules. Statues would be permitted only along the Mall, and they could not be too large. The aim was to limit the visual impact of the artworks on their natural surroundings. A year later, there was a proposal to build a colossal statue at the south end of the Mall. Olmsted and Vaux vetoed the idea. "The idea of the park itself should always be uppermost in the mind of the beholder," they reminded the park board.

It was not that Olmsted was a purist. He considered skating and boating integral parts of the park experience, and as Central Park grew in popularity he accommodated cricket and baseball. Against the objections of the park commission, he organized public concerts, and he opposed—not always successfully—the Sabbatarians who wanted to restrict such activities on Sundays. He described the intended parade ground as a "country green" (today, the Sheep Meadow) and generally discouraged military drills. The park was not to be a place for ostentation or display.

There are now more than 50 fountains, memorials, and sculptures, though there is no monument to Olmsted and Vaux, who deserve one. There are monuments of famous and forgotten figures, artists, politicians, entertainers, fairytale characters, and even a heroic dog. And now, for a short time, 7,500 orange vinyl gates. Jeanne-Claude has been quoted as saying that she thinks that Olmsted would be "very happy" with the installation. I doubt it.

Witold Rybczynski is Slate's architecture critic.

Nest Developments

Photo by Lincoln Karim

Here you can see how much progress has been made on the nest. I'd say it's more than half completed.

Sunday, February 13, 2005


*********Great letter from Katherine Herzog*******

Dear Marie,

......After much inner debate I went to the park yesterday and was happy to see those Anti-Christos... PaleMale, Lola and Lincoln stealing the spotlight from the Gates project. In my two hours in the Park I came upon two large groups of people entralled with what? One group was watching the Pale Male documentary being shown by Lincoln during hawk downtime and the other group was crowded around the entrance at E 76th Street. I thought Christo or a celeb must have been spotted. Indeed, two celebs, Pale Male and Lola sitting on low branches close to each other. In contrast, no one was looking at the Gates, I mean, you see one, you've seen them all. So, with Lincoln confirming the first observed mating.***..and the enthusiastic response of the crowds of Gates-people to the Hawk was a Great/Gate Day.


PS from MW
***Yes! It happened yesterday, at about 1:45 p.m. As for the way we describe the act : John Blakeman once requested that we avoid confusion by using the scientifically accurate term "copulating" instead of "mating". I must say that I find this a bit difficult. I'd almost prefer the "F" word. Something about the word "copulating" sounds so...well, so unpleasant. Guess I flunk out as a scientist.


I sent John Blakeman a note this morning, asking about the possible impact of the Christo project on the CP redtail pairs. Here is his comforting response

... I've followed the Christo (and Jean Claude) project, mostly because it's in CP. It's well reported in a number of media. It was just featured on the NBC national evening news. So I've seen the spectacle of the thing.

I have no concerns regarding its untoward effects on our raptors. They doubtless see the colors so much differently from us, but I'm certain that it will have no lasting effects. Once again, the only matter of consideration for the red-tails is the availability of prey. It will take them just a few minutes to begin to look beyond and beside the flapping nylon (or whatever it is) for their preferred prey. Since it won't deter the activities of rats and pigeons, it won't disrupt the red-tails.

I find the "art work" a peculiar curiosity. Only in New York. (Fortunately, it appears that few, if any, public funds were expended on the event.)

There is an interesting color perception question for red-tails. It is now known that European kestrels, and therefore almost surely American kestrels, too, can detect ultraviolet wavelengths well beyond spectra that mammals and probably other birds can see. We have some evidence that peregrines, also, can see well into the ultraviolet. The question is, can buteonine raptors such as the red-tail also detect broader wavelengths? I don't have any evidence that they do or don't, but it's quite possible. Their brains (as we now know so much better) are arranged so very differently from mammals. Consequently, their vision is probably also very different. They don't think like mammals, and they probably don't see like we do either.

And what if the flags event rather markedly disrupted their hunting? What if food became very difficult to capture while the saffron drapes waft in the wind? The ability of red-tails to endure lengthy periods of famine is quite remarkable. Right now, all of the CP red-tails are quite fit and fat. If any were to be trapped and their chests were to be felt beneath the breast feathers, the keel or breastbone would be hard to feel. In their high condition, a result of ample food, they carry around a remarkable supply of body fat and muscle. There is no doubt each bird could easily go 10 days without a meal, and still be able to fly and hunt. Only after 14 days or so would the un-fed bird begin to be in trouble. This ability to weather week-long episodes of no food actually determines where red-tails are required to migrate from in winter. In Michigan, and most of upstate New York, red-tails tend to leave the northern parts of these states each winter. In the southern tiers of counties, the hawks can always thrive in the winter. This is because in the northern regions deep snow tends to lay on the land for weeks. In the southern parts, snows are not as deep nor long-lasting. This allows the southern hawks to hunt winter voles in snow-free areas.

So, even if the Christo project keep our hawks from hunting as they'd like, the project will be taken down before any real harm could happen. Our birds can handle this, I'm sure. Thankfully, it's not happening during incubation or eyass-feeding periods, when food procurement is crucial

[Reporting on nest activity of 2/11]

Hello All,

Busy morning for the hawks. Lots of kite-ing in the
wind. Pale Male brought more twigs. Rik reported the
stashing of prey, including a mouse, by Pale Male
behind the first southwest angle of the lowest black
roof of the white structure atop the Green Awning
building. (In future to be called prey stash area
atop Green Awning Building.)

2:55PM Pale Male seen hunting pigeons near Bethesda

3:08 Lola perches on left of railing, third down,
northwest terrace of Ship shape building.

3:10 Pale Male perches Linda 6 with obviously bulging
3:15 Pale Male flies SW and circling
3:17 Lola kites with talons down
3:31 Pale Male and Lola do aerials with talons down
for about two minutes. Lola flies to southern most
chimney of Green Awning and perches, Pale Male flies
towards her, we think this may be the moment but
no...he banks off. For the next few minutes Lola
changes to a number of different perches.
3:41 Lola back to Chimney on Green Awning
3:42 Lola takes off
3:52 Pale Male and Lola circle up to 78th St.
4:39 Three hawks appear out of the south high and
circling. They travel to the north past the boat
4:45 Lola dives at the visitor sending him west with
her in soft pursuit.
4:46 Pale Male banks off and perches on Linda 2.
4:50 Lola returns down fifth Avenue and lands on
railing of prey stash area, disappearing around the
blind corner into prey stash area on Green Awning.
Lola reappears in a few minutes with what looks like
blood on right foot. Eating the stash? She takes off
and rides the wind disappearing behind buildings.
4:56 Lola perches Linda 1
4:57 Pale Male leaves Linda 2 flies N up fifth then S
then lands on nest site.
5:00 Pale Male and Lola both fly west. Lola towards
the Ramble. Pale Male breaks off and passes S over the
bench, then circles N and disappears.
5:02 all hawks out of sight
5:08 Lola comes from the south, Pale Male from the
north circling.
5:10 Lola perches on Linda 1, PM flies north tree line
of Fifth Ave.
5:15 Lola up goes south then north on Fifth. Visitor
hawk appears from west treeline
5:20 all hawks disappear into trees going northeast.
5:25 Three hawks circling around building whose top
has porthole and long oval windows near 78th and
5:30 Pale Male flies south, Visitor goes west with
Lola in faster pursuit than before.
Sorry no roost information.
Sunset was at 5:27PM Temperature 35F

2/11/05 -- Received the following very gracious response to my Christo letter, from one of the party-givers. This is the sort of opportunity for real dialogue I welcome.

I'm going to share your comments with everyone at my party and at a party I'm attending. And I've sent it to our environmental book group, with whom you met at the Harvard club (Wendy Paulson, etc. ).
The Gates are worth watching and evaluating after the fact. Until then.....

A preliminary sketch of the Christo Gates project. On Saturday it will be a reality.
2/10/05 -- I've been receiving various invitations from people, some of them friends, who live on Fifth Avenue and on Central Park West, to come to parties offering a view of Christo's The Gates. Here is the letter I am sending them. [I hope they remain friends!]

Dear XYZ

Sorry to have to decline your kind invitation. Though the Gates is an event that has captured many people's imagination, the Central Park nature and birdwatching community is pretty solidly unhappy about it.
I know the project is ephemeral, and it may certainly be a work of art, but in my estimation the Gates don't belong in Central Park.

Let me give you my reasons. First, it violates Vaux and Olmsted's powerful mandate, that the park be a peaceful refuge for city-dwellers, a place where people who don't have lovely country homes may go at any time to enjoy the beauties of nature. However aesthetically pleasing the Gates may prove to be, the project is certainly not a part of V & O's concept of rus in urbe.

My second reservation about this project has to do with its commercial aspects. What the Christos end up doing with the large sums of money the Gates is generating and will generate [including T-shirt stands throughout the park] is their choice. It is still a commercial venture, not a public project with public oversight, and as such should not take over and dominate a public park. The Gates has taken over Central Park for almost a month now, and will be doing so for quite some time after the orange flags are down.

There is a third reason that I mention diffidently, since there's no way of proving its validity. Central Park is a haven for many wild creatures, not only our celebrated red-tailed hawks. There are many other resident and migrant birds [Woodcock migration begins at the beginning of February], as well as the various mammals, amphibians, and invertebrates that find respite in the park. I don't know what effect this spectacular introduction of metal gates with orange flags will have on these creatures, but even though the Christos have not installed the gates in the two major woodland areas, I can't help thinking the project will have some impact on wildlife. It doesn't seem likely that the impact will be a favorable one. For example, the three pairs of resident Central Park hawks hunt mainly around the park's meadows, not in the woodlands. Will a sea of orange flags surrounding their habitual hunting areas make it easier to spot small rodents on the ground? I wouldn't think so.

Warm regards,

PS I'm sending this same letter to several people on the park's periphery who have invited me to view the Gates from their windows.


Now you can see why the building at 73rd and 5th is called the LION BUILDING. [You can only see the lion heads with binoculars. Of course Lincoln's super-scope makes it crystal clear.]


Thursday, Feb 10, 2005 (2:00 to 4:00pm, then 4:30 to 5:00pm): Both Pale Male and Lola visiting the nest and nearby buildings before I arrived, but light hawk activity from 2:30 to 4:00pm. However, when I returned from the Boathouse at 4:30 saw an exhilerating aerial courtship ballet...soaring and circling around each other which lasted several minutes...then they flew to the nest and stayed there for about 10 minutes. They were very active in the nest. They may have copulated at the nest but unfortunately cannot confirm since I could not get a good enough view. PaleMale then flew to Linda and Lola to a tree on near the 72nd Street Transverse.
By the way a "gate" was put up exactly where Lincoln puts his wonderful mega-Meade telescope. Estella spoke with the Gates assemblers and asked them to remove or relocate the gate. They come back and took down the offending Gate and carted it away. Way to go Estella!

Report from the Bench 2/9/2005

According to the AM crew, it was a very busy morning
for work on the nest. Both hawks made multiple trips
with twigs. Including numerous short trips to the
small tree on the top terrace of Woody.
1:37PM Lola was perched on the antenna of the Oreo.
Light rain begins.
2:40 Pale Male arrived and perched on the 3rd railing
down on the left of Green Shade building.
3:00 Sun came out.
3:03 Pale Male flew south.
3:04 Lola flew south.
3:15-3:23 Sharp-shinned hawk in tree above bench and
bench environs.
4:13 Sharp-shinned pair did small circles with each
other for 9 minutes over the southern section of Model
Boat Pond.
Christo uprights complete on westside of boat pond,
circumference of Pilgrim Hill and paths.
(Jean reports three Red-tails sitting in trees south
of Turtle Pond, none PM or L.)
5:48 Twelve paired Mallards flew over the bench,
landed on the ice of the Model Boat Pond and padded
around in the twilight. (?)
6:10PM Pale Male had not returned to the pin oak at
the foot of Pilgrim Hill nor had Lola returned to the
oak adjacent to light pole 159, their preferred roosts
since 2/3.
Best, Donna

2/10/05 A note from Patricia, the person with the troublesome redtail near her feeder
A note from a reader offering more advice about the problem:

Hi Marie,
I just read your posting of my letter to John on your website and would like to correct your impression of my letter. I was not trying to drive the RT or any other Hawk away from the area permanately, just not to have it as a long term resident in the area.

Here is a copy of an e-mail I sent to John regarding what has transpired here.

Hi John,
I tried your advice about going out when I observed the RT in the tree and as I approached it would take flight. This was continued for 2 days and on the third day no RT was seen all day. On the 4th day the RT returned but did not stay for over an hour and the activity has markedley increased by the ground dwellers. I dont wish to drive the RT off entirely and can live with ocassional visits which seem to be the case now. As a side note on the second day a Sharped Shinned hawk was observed hunting in the area but left after about an hour and I assume it made a catch. I will keep monitoring the situation and keep you informed. Thanks again for your help and I hope the RT and other hawks and I can all enjoy the area as it greens up.

And more advice


Patricia may also find the following advice from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology useful (

"At some point you can expect a visit from a hawk, usually a Sharp-shinned Hawk or a Cooper's Hawk. At first you'll probably welcome the close-up view but if your hawk stays around and scares your feeder birds away, what can you do? The best solution is to take your feeders down for a few days. The hawk will get hungry and move on. "

The Lab's Project FeederWatch site has lots of information about birds and birdfeeding:

And their "All About Birds" site can't be beat for identification, birding how-to, attracting birds, etc.:



2/9/05 -- JOHN BLAKEMAN ANSWERS SOMEONE WITH A DIFFERENT PROBLEM and added since this morning, a CODA.

Last December we worked so hard to bring our redtail pair back to its usual place. And so when I received the letter you are about to read, from Patricia Varner in Troy, NY, I was taken aback. Someone trying to GET RID of a Red-tailed hawk! However I promised to forward her letter to John Blakeman and I did...with a little trepidation.

Below you will find Patricia's letter, and Blakeman's perfect response. Boy do I admire that guy! And I did end up sympathizing with Patricia when I clicked on the URL she provides and saw her beautiful backyard.

Here is my problem. I live outside the City of Troy NY. just NE of Albany and have a backyard garden and habitat along side a river with a variety of wild life in residence. About the end of December 04 I observed a hawk in the trees out back and welcomed it as a visitor. This was the first RT to be seen here but I have had many visits by a shaprshinned hawk which came and went and has returned numerous times but never stayed long. As I observed the RT it has retuned every day and perched in an area of about 500 yards around the garden and remains there from sun up to dusk moving around on ocassion. I have observed it is not interested in the numerous pigeons that come to feed (aprox 31) but is focused on the squirrels and other ground dwellers and has turned what was an active area into one of limited activity. I would not be upset if the RT was a visitor but it seems to be constantly here. I would like to know if there is anything I can do legaly to discourage the RT from being around all the time. I feel cheated as i feed all the wildlife and enjoyed seeing them scamper and play which has ceased with the RT in the trees so close. To get a better idea of the area please go to my webshots page at and see the variety and location I am talking about.
Thanks in advance for your time.


Marie Winn kindly forwarded your email to me. I hope I can be of help.

First, as a professional landscape designer (specializing in native prairies and savannas), I note the quality of your garden. Very nice work.

I wish I had some good news regarding the red-tail. Unfortunately, I do not. As you know, red-tails are protected along with most other birds, so they can't be shot at or trapped. You are certainly free to walk out under the hawk's tree and try to cause it to decide to perch elsewhere. That, of course, could get tiresome, and there's no telling how long it would take for the bird to learn that it's not welcome. In just two or three rousings it might decide to perch and hunt elsewhere. On the other hand, it could easily learn that you won't spend any great part of the day out there and it might come right back an hour after you leave. Red-tails are exceedingly smart hunters. They can be very hard to fool.

You have certainly gone to great lengths to provide food and habitat for the animals you feed, and their dispersal upon the appearance of a red-tailed hawk is certainly not a part of your wildlife feeding plan. But the wild red-tail sees things differently, as only a wild animal can. It sees the cavorting squirrels as very available food sources, sitting on the ground ready for taking. Unless concentrated by human feeding, squirrels in the wild seldom come together on the ground in multiple numbers. In the wild, the red-tail has to pick its prey very carefully. But at your feeding station, the hawk's food has been concentrated. The hawk is just as much a valued wild animal as the squirrels, and it has discovered a new source of food, the congregated squirrels. The laws of nature apply to all animals, not just the ones we personally prefer.

I wish I had a solution or better news, but wild red-tails will do what they are genetically programmed to do, search for and take food. When the snow melts and voles (meadow mice) are more easily seen, the hawk is more likely to spend her time peering out over meadows for these prey animals. Until then, the squirrels are simply very enticing.

I frequently get similar complaints from people whose bird feeders attract Cooper's hawks. They kill song birds at feeders rather profligately. They only eat song birds, and they find cardinals and mourning doves at feeders easy pickings.

Nature is filled with predators. The red-tail is one of them. I wish I were able to solve your problem, but I can't.

My best wishes, nonetheless.


John A. Blakeman

Before I posted this correspondence I asked Patricia Varner if it would be all right to include her letter and her name. She sent the following response, which may serve as a coda to the little drama you have just read.

Hi Marie,
Yes you may use my name and letter either in full or paraphrased and as for a picture you may download anyone you wish from my webshots site. For your information I am trying what he suggested and going out into the garden and the hawk leaves. Today it flew to the other side of the river and perched only to be harrased by a small flock of crows which hang out in the area forcing it to leave the area entirely. I did return several hours later and I just walked to the tree area and it left. I must admit I find this magnificent bird a wonder to see. John also sent me another letter explaining why the hawk was not attacking the pigeons. Will close for now if there is anything else you need from me don't hesitate to ask.
Birdingly Yours,


Mon, Feb 7th--2:30 to 4:30pm--Observed Pale Male and Lola at the nest, both separately and together...flying in with twigs. Lola spending more time on the nest fastidiously rearranging the twig structure to suit her requirements. They were on many of the surrounding buildings often sitting close together but no mating activity that I or the Hawk Regulars who had been there from early a.m. saw to report. But, Valentine's Day is just around the corner!
Leaving at 4:30pm, a lovely immature Cooper's Hawk (almost identical to the Sharp-Shinned except the Cooper's is a bit larger and has rounded tail feathers) flew to a London Plane tree near the Hans C. Anderson sculpture clutching some small prey in his/her talons.

Katherine Herzog


When I received John Blakeman's latest essay, responding to Donna Browne's observation of a puzzling aspect of Pale Male's nest-building technique, [see below - 2/5/05] I was taken aback. "Merely feathered flying dinosaurs" ? "Meager mind"?? Our hawks???

I remembered last week's article in the NY Times Science section about the avian brain, the one with the headline "Minds of Their Own: Birds Gain Respect." I wondered if John Blakeman reads our local daily in Huron Ohio. So I e-mailed him the article [with a respectful though challenging note.].

Within a few hours I received an answer. Not surprisingly, he HAD read the NY Times article. And he stood by his guns nonetheless.

Re-reading the article in light of John Blakeman's reply, and re-reading his first letter, I decided that indeed, he was right. My bristling at the "meager brain" assessment was certainly anthropomorphism on my part. I had always known that the corvid family were the Einsteins of the avian class. I just didn't want OUR BELOVED HAWKS to be relegated to the dunces' corner.

But really, Blakeman wasn't doing that. He was separating emotions from facts. I felt a bit sheepish, Then I began to think about Blakeman's various descriptions of his relationship with his trained redtail, Savanna. Don't I detect quite a bit of emotion in those passages? This made me feel a bit better about my quite unscientific reaction, though in truth his emotion doesn't ever seem to temper his scientific conclusions.

I hope this note makes a difference for those of you who find you have the same first reaction that I did.

You'll find below, Blakeman's first letter, and then his second letter, written after I sent him the NY Times article.



A quick comment on Donna Browne's delightful nest activity observations.

She noted, “By 3:10 Lola was sitting on the center light of the Carlyle and Pale Male made trip after trip bringing twigs. Upon bringing one multi branched twig to the nest and working to adjust it for six minutes, Pale Male took it in his beak once again, left the nest circled, came back with the same twig and then placed it. (?)

Her question mark is reasonable. Why would the bird spend six minutes trying to get it placed or adjusted “just right,” and then fly off and return with the same twig and casually place it in the nest again? This didn't look sensible to Donna, and she questioned it, as she should have.

This kind of unreasonableness will be commonly seen when watching red-tails at length. The bird was deeply involved in trying to get the stick right where he wanted it for six minutes. Then, for no apparent reason he flew off with it, returned, and just put the stick in the nest with no concern. What gives?

It’s this. The cerebrum of red-tailed hawks isn't too large. Their brains are rather small, and a great deal of neural capacity must be devoted to the processing of visual images and remembering successful hunting experiences. If you can't see nor capture your daily food, you are a soon-dead hawk. Other things can happen somewhat crudely. Hunting and flying can't.

Consequently, a number of hawk neuromuscular behaviors are rather ritualized, roughly programmatic, not thought out nor reasoned. Nest building, especially the insertion and placement of sticks is one of these behaviors. As intent as the bird might have appeared in its stick-placing deliberations, its meager mind was really not paying much attention at all. The bird was merely going through the motions (seemingly like a number of students I once taught, and much like myself when I'm assigned undesirable and menial tasks). The bird got bored, so it decided to fly off with the stick and come back with it from, perhaps, another angle.

Don't read much into this. The bird thinks hard about hunting. It thinks very little about putting sticks together to make a nest. The bird really has no understanding or comprehension of what it’s doing. It just goes through the genetically programmed motions. If it looks indeliberate and unconsidered to us, it is. Don't presume that these birds have mammalian minds. The don't. They have bird brains, and those small collections of neurons work in only limited ways.

Don't make the mistake of presuming or assigning normal human thought patterns to red-tailed hawks. You can do that to your dog, who you know thinks so much like a human. Their brains are very similar to ours, in general arrangement and organization. Dogs, like us, are very social, so we can easily identify with them, even assign them very human personalities. But don't do that with the hawks. Remember, birds are in some respects merely feathered, flying modern dinosaurs. They can't and don't act or think like mammals. Don't try to make them do any of that.

I still smile in moderate frustration when I see such ritualized neuromuscular behaviors when Savanna, my adult falconry red-tail eats a provided meal on my gloved fist. She particularly likes turkey poults (young hatchlings). I have a freezer full of these and other similar hawk food delights. Savanna will step onto the poult and pull off a wing, the head, or just some general body part. Anyone who’s watched Pale Male or Lola eat up close knows the scenario. In watching the feast, the bird often grabs the food inefficiently, even missing some very obvious (to us) exposed tidbit of food.

For a bird that can so adroitly grab fleeing prey with its feet, to watch it so clumsily use its feet and beak in the rather random tearing apart of its food causes one to wonder if the bird is in good health. There is little that is delicate when a red-tail steps on to a dead prey animal and starts to rip it apart. It’s not unlike watching a two-year old try to feed himself.

So expect to see such going-through-the-motions behaviors. That’s all they are. In the end, they always work out, as crude and random as they so often appear.

Contrast those behaviors with what the bird does so expertly; that is, to fly and hunt. Nothing random or clumsy there. It’s expertise that surpasses any ballerina or professional athlete. No question marks needed.



You are astute. I read this information a week or so ago, and rather dismissed it for my raptors, and still do. The need for a major reconsideration of the unique organization of the avian brain, distinctly separating it from the mammalian one, is long overdue. I have no issue with that. I recall from basic ornithology class many years ago reading about how different bird brains are. The authors of the new study are correct. The old perspectives must be thrown out.

But in the larger picture, those relate primarily to tissues and structures, not to a universal, elevated bird mentality. Note that the birds used to illustrate this contention were all corvids: crows, jays, and ravens. The intellect of these birds has been noted for centuries, and the newer understandings of avian brain tissues helps to elucidate the brilliance of these birds.

Hawks however, have never been known for their intellects. And neither have most bird groups. I believe the study's authors used corvid intellect only to substantiate their more general claim that bird brains are decidedly different from mammals. If a crow is so smart, it therefore has to have a brain different from a lab mouse or rat.

I stand by the contentions of my note. In fact, I clearly stated that red-tails don't think like either humans or dogs. They think like raptors, not mammals. So, is the question a matter of degrees of intellect (as with the corvids), or is it with the very different arrangements of brain tissues? I think the greater story is the latter. And that helps explain the "un-thoughtful" behaviors people will see red-tails engage in, such as messing with a stick for six minutes, only to fly off with it and then return and leave it.

Yours is a very good question, one that I didn't address except here. Others, too, wondered, I'm sure.

Whatever the perspective, the more important understanding is that hawk watchers need to refrain from anthropomorphizing the hawks. However their brains work or are arranged, they are real bird brains, not mammal brains. That can help account for some otherwise strange hawk behaviors.


John A. Blakeman

2/7/05--An amusing note about Pale Male and Lola from a former NYC resident who now lives in Florida:

Amazing info on your web site. From John Blakeman's scholarly research, it seems that PM & Lola are living in territory MUCH MUCH smaller than a RTH normally would. Being that humans in NYC live in quarters much much smaller than humans do in most places, it would seem to be acceptable to conclude that PM & Lola are living like REAL New Yorkers! They've already had to deal with a lousy coop board, and now it turns out they're living in cramped quarters too! If they start riding the subway I'll eat my hat.


Lisa Ivers


Yesterday I sent John Blakeman the map of Central Park with the redtail nesting sites marked that I also posted on this website. It was annotated [baed on my info] and sent to me by Karen Anne Kolling. I added a few observations of my own and some questions. Below is what I wrote to him and his amazing answer:

John: Below, a map that might be useful to your understanding of the Central park redtail situation.

In summary: we have solid evidence for three breeding pairs: 1. Pale Male, 2. The North Meadow pair [both these pairs had young that fledged], and 3. The failed nesting attempt of the Hecksher Ballfield [formerly CPS] Hawks. The male of that pair is very light-colored and is often called Pale Male Jr. There is another possible nesting pair at the park's north end.

PS Someone has sent me a note reminding me to mention to you that the Central Park hawks do not feed exclusively IN the park. [There are pigeons and rats everywhere in the city, after all.] Pale Male and Lola, for instance, have been sighted on various occasions perching considerably further east than Fifth Avenue-- on Lexington Ave, or even 2nd Ave -- almost to the East River. This would considerably extend the actual size of their territories, perhaps making them conform more closely with the square mile you noted was the usual territorial size.

I might mention one more observation: I live on Riverside Drive, the western-most part of Manhattan. Our apartment overlooks Riverside Park, a narrow strip between Riverside Drive and the river,. We look out on New Jersey. What I'm about to say is VERY impressionistic, but I don't think I started regularly seeing Red-tailed Hawks out our windows facing the river until about ten years ago. Now I and many others see redtails in and around Riverside Park very, very frequently. I am almost certain there is a breeding pair somewhere near my building, though I've never succeeded in finding a nest. Put that together with the fact that before Pale Male arrived in Central Park in November, 1991 [probably on or around Nov. 10th] a redtail sighting in Central Park was a very rare event, something to write in BIG LETTERS in the Bird Register, while today they are as common as robins, practically, and you'll begin to see what an odd situation this is. It looks like a sudden redtail population explosion occurred during quite a short time period.




Once again, I'm knocked over with your important, new information. You have broached a question that I've pondered but didn't dare raise. Are any of the CP red-tails hunting beyond Central Park proper? Might there even be nesting red-tails elsewhere on Manhattan. If so, and from what you described it sure seems likely, then everything -- I mean everything -- is changed. Could the wild, rural red-tail adapt to a hard-surfaced urban environment that lacks any significant vegetated landscape? The little falcon, the American kestrel did this in the 19th century. But I know of no studies describing this for the red-tail.

Once again, it doesn't make sense. The RT is a big, muscular raptor that so much prefers meadow voles. This prey species may be only marginally present in Central Park, if at all. But it is absolutely absent in the streets and alleys of the rest of constructed Manhattan Island. The incidental perching of red-tails on the edges of back street rooftops in search of rats, mice, and pigeons is moderately reasonable. But how does this giant bird then swoop down and take a rat or pigeon as it darts between pedestrians, taxis, trucks, overhead wires, and all of the other airspace impediments of any modern big city. Red-tails have great difficulty successfully hunting in forests, for this same reason. They can't easily maneuver around tree branches, shrubs, and other vegetational obstructions. That's why red-tails are seldom seen in densely forested areas. When they are, the birds are always perched on the edge of the great forests looking out on to an open forest clearing.

The phenomenon of the Manhattan red-tails is now far more complicated and developed than just Pale Male and Lola. They might actually be the odd couple out, because unlike the others, they don't nest in trees. The other, less-observed pairs may be actually more representative of the red-tail expansion into city centers. The reasons why this is happening needs study and explanation.

Conservationists have lamented the multiple pressures modern industrial society brought against raptors. For decades, in the 19th and first half of the 20th century, raptors where almost universally regarded as vermin. How could a species that rapaciously kills and eats "good" species such as squirrels and cardinals be worthy of respect and protection. Depending on one's view, either God or evolution had made egregious mistakes in allowing the proliferation of these flying criminals. A shotgun could reverse some of that.

But things have changed dramatically, so much so that common raptors have now probably reached territorial saturation, which provides for me the only explanation of the recent incursion of red-tails into NYC. Remember, no one was shooting New York City red-tails in previous decades. Whatever has caused the birds to invade the city, it must certainly have something to do with changed conditions in their normal rural areas. Central Park has always had rats and pigeons and squirrels. It has had mature nest trees for a century. Nothing in either Central Park, nor on greater Manhattan Island has changed as quickly has the red-tail population there. Whatever is causing this new phenomenon, it's something out in the countryside, not in the city. The city has been the same for decades.

What, then, has changed in rural areas? What out there could possibly have prompted red-tails to so dramatically change their natural history? Here's the way I see it And of course, good population studies are needed to authenticate this with hard data -- these are merely my own personal prognostications. (Some of my professional colleagues might object to the public appearance of these here, as they are only private thoughts. But it's good for everyone to form their own thoughts on observed natural history phenomena. I hope these conjectures might prompt others to engage in good, evidence-based thinking.)

First, you are correct in surmising that the many hawks you have been seeing on Manhattan are a very recent occurrence. If any had taken residence years ago, people would have recorded it, with the same excitement you have presented in your wonderful book. A nesting red-tail pair simply can't go unnoticed. Resident NYC red-tails are new. Why?

As a retired high school biology teacher, I recall fond memories of my career, especially the wonderful kids I was privileged to teach. I taught in a school district composed of both rural farm families and conventional suburban housing developments. In the early years of my career, in the 1970s and '80s, virtually all the farm boys had 12-gauge shotguns and .22-caliber rifles. These boys engaged in a great deal of legal hunting and trapping in the Lake Erie marshes. They were as close to the wild as most anyone in the 19th century. These kids would often share hunting and trapping stories with me, asking intelligent biological questions.

Whatever could that have to do with modern NYC red-tails? Everything, I think. Today, virtually no farm kids (what few are left) or other students have the slightest idea on how to hunt or shoot a firearm. In twenty years there has been a major turn of life styles. Formerly, kids spent a great deal of time out in the local woodlots and marshes. From time to time, a few of these boys could not resist the temptation of taking an illegal pot-shot at a passing red-tail. They never killed enough to reduce the population in any detectable number. But they did reduce the average age of the mature breeding pairs of red-tailed hawks. The number of red-tails today in Ohio (and New York and New Jersey) is probably close to what it was after WWII. Before the War, all raptors were shot without restraint. Their populations were decidedly reduced by human predation. With raptor protection laws and enforcement after the War, those pressures were reduced. So the red-tail pretty much saturated all available habitats.

The infrequent killing of red-tails didn't reduce the population, as there was always a large "floater" population of young, unmated birds awaiting a new pair-bonding and breeding opportunity. Every time a red-tail was shot, a new floater quickly filled the ecological void. Remember, all successful species must produce more offspring than can possibly survive. That was a major element of Darwin's explanation ("theory") of evolution. That's exactly why about only one fledged red-tail in four or five ever survives to adulthood. Sadly, most of those wonderful new eyasses that come off the Central Park nests will never survive their first year. Most will drift off and starve. They will never find an un-occupied habitat with sufficient prey for their inexperienced, even meager hunting skills. Old adults have learned all the tricks in capturing a hundred grams of living flesh each day. Young birds have everything stacked against them in this vital quest. Most of the hawks fail.

So, what might occur if very few wild hawks are now being shot, or killed by leg-hold traps? My personal experiences with rural school boys, farm organizations, and others (where I commonly give my hawk protection slide shows) show that this is really the case. Very few hawks are now being killed by humans, and that changes everything.

Formerly, a young red-tail that had learned how to make it through its first winter could merely float around the countryside after its first molt (when it got the red tail and was sexually mature) and try to find an adult that had somehow lost its mate. Because a moderate number of red-tails were being killed by humans, there were a good number of potential new mates for both the rising young adults and the older breeding birds who had lost mates. Raptor biologists are always amazed at the speed with which a new replacement mate appears. How many mates has Pale Male had? How many seasons did he go without a mate? There has always been a new mate waiting for him.

Presently, there are many fewer new-mate openings. Few hawks are being shot. Mated pairs can now grow old gracefully, at age. Red-tails can easily breed successfully for a decade, and some approach 15 years or more. That then (as I see it) is the explanation of the new NYC red-tails. Lots of young red-tails are coming off wild nests every spring. In my state of Ohio, there is likely to be as many as 5000 active, productive nests each spring. With an average of 1.5 fledged eyasses for each nest, that's over 7000 new birds each year. Yes, most of these are going to starve before their first hard winter sets in. But what an abundance of surviving, unmated "floaters" must still populate the wilds of Ohio each year. Where are these birds going to spend their adult years? It can't be out in the countryside, as all available good territories with ample prey are already occupied by experienced adults.

I believe that the red-tails that have recently taken up residence in NYC have come from this saturated floater population. These birds are famous for "floating," drifting around the landscape, looking for something promising. Surely, some of these birds could drift over from New Jersey or down the Hudson and pass over Manhattan. At a nice soaring height of 2000 ft, the trees and "meadows" of Central Park would be easily seen. The abundant prey in the park would also be easily detected.

Why, then, didn't this happen before? Red-tails have always been seen drifting through the park, especially in migration seasons. The major change has been this. Formerly, most self-respecting red-tails simply would not compromise their innate fear of inordinate numbers of 150 lb bipeds strutting about below. Red-tails have enough innate good sense to stay away from the proximity of humans. A transient Central Park hawk visitor soon decided to head back up the Hudson, hoping to find some territorial opening in the landscape. Until recently, these birds could eventually do this. They had no ultimate imperative to try to make it in The City.

But today, they do. Frankly, it's tough out there in countryside. If you thought getting a nice, inexpensive, well-located Manhattan apartment was nearly impossible, the finding of an unoccupied nesting territory may be equally difficult for young adult red-tails. And as so many women know, most of the good men are already married. All the good hawks are already mated out there in the countryside. For a newly-graduated red-tail (meaning that it survived the first winter), there simply aren't many potential mates nor open territories. Therefore, in instinct-denying desperation, a few red-tails have elected to come into the city and see if a life could be made there. And a few of these birds have learned to adapt, to truly make it in The City. Pale Male may have been the vanguard of this new dimension of red-tail life history.

Just as I mentioned in one of my very early essays here, Pale Male has come to New York City and made a success in exactly the manner of hundreds of thousands of human immigrants -- learn the way of the new country, work hard, adapt, and make a new life. Pale Male did it. And now a few other red-tailed hawks are doing it. What a better characterization of one of the great features of New York City?

Please continue to keep me posted on the greater red-tailed hawk population of Manhattan. If this is happening in New York City, it's likely to be happening elsewhere. Most large American cities have central open greenspaces that adaptive red-tails could colonize just as they have done in Manhattan. The text and reference books on American raptors must be re-written again. The first revision was the urban success of the peregrine falcon. Next was the continuing expansion of the bald eagle. Now, it's the urban red-tail. I'm so glad it's happening in New York City -- and that there are so many wonderful people to watch and monitor it. Without your book, this entire matter might have passed unnoticed. Again, thanks so much.


John A. Blakeman



DONNA BROWNE WRITES: In accordance with John Blakeman's request for data about Pale Male and Lola's various activities, I'm attempting to quantify and identify Red-tail prey in Central Park. Any sightings of Red-tail meals to be noted for time, location, prey, Red-tail ID if possible, and sent to

or for those without email to be noted in the Central Park Log Book, would be most appreciated.

Here's Donna Browne's very detailed report of day before yesterday's nest happenings. Note that on that day the sun set at 5:19 pm, so some of the activity she describes occurred under twilight conditions:


Very active day for the nest. Many twigs were gathered
and placed. Several instances of both birds on the
nest at the same time and Lola also ate on site.

By 3:10 Lola was sitting on the center light of the
Carlyle and Pale Male made trip after trip bringing
twigs. Upon bringing one multi branched twig to the
nest and working to adjust it for six minutes, Pale
Male took it in his beak once againm left the nest
circled, came back with the same twig and then placed
it. (?)

At 5:05 Lola left the Carlyle and perched on the
southern big square building. 5:06 Pale Male appears
from the SW with a twig. He takes it to the nest and
places it. Pale Male leaves the nest and perches on
the top corner of Linda. At 5:10 both birds leave for
the Ramble. The assumption was that the hawk day was
over. But at 5:18 Pale Male arrives with a twig from
the SW and places it on the nest. 5:21 Lola arrives
at the nest and arranges twigs. At 5:22 Pale Male
leaves and perchs on Linda 5. 5:30 Lola flies to a
Pin Oak just west of Pilgrim hill mound, east of the
transverse. She stays for a few minutes, many
squirrels are whining in the tree, there is a very
squeaky baby carriage on the sidewalk. Lola moves to
a different tree, still in the area but closer to the
Boat House where there is only one squirrel chattering
and running up the trunk within a few feet of her.
She ignores him.
By 5:45 Pale Male has taken up roost in the same Pin
Oak of the last few days.



Yesterday (Sat) Pale Male delivered some twigs to the nest after circling the pond two or three times. He then sat on the nest for between 5 and 10 minutes. Then the most incredible thing happened....he jumped off the nest and soared low across the pond, like a jet plane, wings back and went after some pigeons in the small grassy area behind the benches. He was no more than 5 feet above our heads. A spectacular aerial show. Somehow the pigeons all got away and Pale Male landed in a nearby tree empty handed. It must have taken about 5 or 6 seconds from beginning to end. What a thrill to have seen that.

Bob Brooks

Map Courtesy of
and sent with annotations based on my info by Karen Anne Kolling

2/6/05 -- Get out your magnifying glasses. The lettering on this map of Central Park may be hard to read.

Each yellow rectangle on the map indicates a Red-tailed Hawk nest. Going from North to South, they are:
1. At the Harlem Meer and 110th St., a possible, but unconfirmed hawk pair.

2. The North Meadow pair: Last year, in a tree at the SE end of the North Meadow, this pair hatched three young, all of which fledged successfully.

3. Pale Male and Lola [Our celebrities]

4. The Hecksher Ballfield Pair. [The male has a light-colored head and is often called Pale Male Jr] This pair made an unsuccessful nesting attempt in a tree at the northwest end of the Heckshire Ballfield. They are almost certainly the same pair that has been trying to nest on a high ledge of a building on Central Park South for the last two or three years. Last year they were observed in territorial battles with a pair of Peregrine Falcons that are often seen at one of the high towers of the Sherry Netherland Hotel on Fifth Ave. and 59th St. [Though the falcons are consistently seen in the same location, year after year, no nest has ever been found]. The falcon encounters probably encouraged the redtail pair to move a bit north and west, into the park.

BLAKEMAN ON PROGENY -- i.e. Are all those CP redtails Pale Male's kids?



The plot thickens. In December, when I came upon the Central Park red-tails, I learned only of the famous 927 Park Ave pair. Then a bit later, I saw tangential references to another pair that attempted a nest in the Park proper. Now I learn that there have been a total of three pairs residing or hunting in the park recently. When will the surprises end? Back in the ‘90's I thought that any nesting RTs anywhere in NYC would be unlikely, and surely un-persisting. Red-tailed hawks just don't nest in major urban centers – period. At every turn, I've been wrong on virtually every initial understanding of things red-tail at Central Park. I'm pleased to admit my errors, especially when they are corrected by the observations of so many local hawk watchers. What they see is more significant that what I say. I'm merely prognosticating at a great distance based upon my rather different rural red-tail experiences. Hard field data can't be argued with.

I will have to pull up the map of Central Park and try to orient the locations of all three pairs now. Initially, I thought the presence of a single pair in such a small place to be unlikely. But three pairs live there. Utterly remarkable. This is likely to be the highest population density of the species anywhere in the East. In areas of the West with high ground squirrel populations, red-tails frequently occupy territories of about 0.5 sq. mi. Central Park is 800 and some acres, as I recall, and a square mile is 640 acres. Three pairs in approx. 800 acres yields a territory size of approx. 0.40 sq. mi. In the wild grasslands of the West virtually all of the open ground space is occupied by ground squirrels. But so much of Central Park has no hunting habitat. The actual prey habitat of the park is only a fraction of the total size. (There’s another master’s thesis, describing habitat and prey utilization by red-tails in central Park.) Any way it gets sliced, there must be a lot of continually available rats and pigeons. I'd still love to learn what all of these hawks are eating, and how they capture their prey. It’s not anything like rural birds. (Suet?)

What do I make of the territorial encounters? They are very important. They cause all the birds to understand where each is “allowed” to be. Keeps the peace. These events, as aggressive and disruptive as they might appear to be, are not at all. This is part of the fabric of red-tail social interactions, ever bit as much as any human choosing to open or close an apartment door after someone knocks. I liked the characterization of “being herded.” Although it appeared that physical contact almost occurred, this seldom happens. The entire business is wonderfully ritualized with the wheeling around, the screaming, the dives, and occasionally some real physical contact. But even that is usually ritualized, as both birds usually grasp opposing legs and talons for an instant before letting go.

Occasionally there will be a powerful attack on an intruder that blows off some feathers, causing the unresponsive bird to retreat in obvious distress. Such intruders are inevitably birds of the year that haven't yet learned the protocols of red-tail property rights. Just one or two of these incidents sets the youngster aright, and she then behaves herself appropriately. One of my falconry red-tails saw a new immature sitting in a field overlooking my bird’s frequent hunting area. Savanna wasted no time and flew over and knocked the youngster off her limb. She retreated quickly. The next day the same bird was sitting in the same tree. But just as soon as Savanna and I stepped into the field a quarter mile away, the youngster immediately flew off. She learned a lesson from my grand matriarch hunting companion. When required, the same lessons are taught to inattentive intruders by wild birds such as Pale Male and Lola. From the description of this territorial conflict, all parties behaved with appropriate deportment, as proper New Yorkers would, of course.

Again, a record of when and where and which birds are involved in these aerial displays would be invaluable in discerning habitat utilizations.

Now to the question everyone romantically ponders. Have any of the interlopers been sired by Pale Mare? Do the parents recognize their offspring and therefore accommodate their adjacent presence. It sure would make a better story if any of this were so. But it makes little biological sense. I'm guessing that few, if any, of the other RTs seen in Central Park are 927 offspring. Here’s why.

In virtually every case in rural areas, adult red-tails deliberately drive off the season’s young in July or August. When things start to get hot and there is no longer any hint of spring (meaning that prey animals also are getting harder to find and capture), parents stop feeding the fledged eyasses and actually drive them away, if required. Most of these youngsters have the same feelings toward mom and dad as we did when we were 18 or 19 and they are glad to fly off to new horizons, un-pestered by weird parents.

I am absolutely certain that neither parent is able to recognize its progeny in subsequent years. That happens in social mammals, of course. But none of this is in the limited behavioral abilities of these birds. Their brains aren't set up for such recognition. Sorry.

The summer’s “leave-the-house" behaviors persist throughout the year. The birds just don't have any genetic or behavioral compulsion to return to their natal territory. Why go back home? Mom and pop will come right out and give them “that look”. Red-tail populations that faithfully returned to natal territories to attempt to breed drastically limited their choices of mates. After a few years of this, the only potential mates were siblings and cousins. Biologically that makes everybody similar, and that becomes a genetic defeat. Biologically, it’s best to mate with someone reasonably unrelated, to minimize genetic deficiencies and maximize genetic variabilities and the consequent behavioral opportunities. Who wants to date his sister? Who wants to have mom and pop riding herd, or flying over them? Again, the compulsions to return to a red-tail’s growing-up neighborhood are pretty weak.

But of course, I admit to being initially wrong on so much of the Central Park red-tails. The fact remains that any of the other birds, could indeed, be Pale Male’s progeny. I can't deny that. Could be. Probably not, however.

For now, we have to guess. This is why it would be nice to get many of these birds banded. Because this is a special population worthy of special study, colored marker bands should be used, allowing easy identification with spotting scopes. The fact that Pale Male is so easy to identify has been crucial in understanding the entire population. How helpful it would be to have all six or so of the CP red-tails color-banded. And the progeny question would be answered immediately if all the eyasses were banded on the nest or soon after fledging. If the birds were banded, we'd really have a handle on so many questions.

I don't recommend that the 927 eyasses be banded on the nest. Getting to the nest would require the re-installation of the dangling structure (What was it, the swing platform, or something?). But in the wild, in open rural areas, the young could be easily trapped and banded when they start to hunt in June and July. (See my description elsewhere on how that is done, causing no harm whatsoever to the hawks.) I'm not sure this could be done in Central Park, however. The complications are multiple and I won't delineate them here.

As a biology major I tried (how mistakenly) to stay away from literature classes where I would have to figure out the ever-convoluting plots of the great novels. But that’s exactly what we have here. Our real-life novel now has some other personalities. I thought the story was to be only Pale Male, Lola, and their annually departing (I think) offspring.

But some more chapters are being written by our hawks. This is going to be a good tale.


John A. Blakeman

Correction of facts in my reply to John Blakeman

Here's what I wrote:

One pair made a prolonged but unsuccessful nesing attempt last spring in a tree a little north of the Great Lawn They may have already begun to incubate eggs before the nest was somehow destroyed.[Let's call them the Great Lawn pair]. The male of that pair was exceptionally light in color and was popularly called Pale Male Jr.

Another pair hangs out at the southern-most border of the park,[59th St.] and is often seen perching on buildings on Central Park South: the Trump building, and the one with the green roof next to it especially. They have been seen bringing nesting materials to a building ledge last year and the year before that-- another prolonged nesting attempt.[Let's call these the CPS hawks] A birder named Ben Cacace who works in that neighborhood had very detailed observations of their activities.

Well, I didn't mean The Great Lawn. It was actually a tree a little North of the Heckscher Ballfield, and just a little south of the 66th Street Transverse. So let's call that pair the Heckscher Ballfield pair.

Now it appears that last year, the pair I referred to as the CPS pair was regularly pursued by a pair of peregrine falcons that hangs out near the top of a building at 5th and 59th St. It seems more than likely that the CPS pair simply moved into the park to get out of peregrine territory and made a nesting attempt near the Hecksher Ballfield. SO...scratch the CPS pair. They and the Hecksher Ballfield pair are one and the same.

Oh yes, another thing: There is probably yet another redtail pair at the northern-most part of the park, somewhere around 110th St. and the Harlem Meer.

GOOD NEWS: A hawkwatcher named Karen Anne Kolling is working on an e-mailable map of Central Park with all hawk territories marked on it. As soon as she sends it I'll post it on this site.

2/04/05--From Lincoln Karim's website
The latest view of the growing nest, with Pale Male jumping to compress the twigs [My explanation].

2/4/05 --Two interesting reports from Donna Browne followed by JOHN BLAKEMAN'S RESPONSE and a public query from me to John Blakeman in return:

At approximately 1:45PM today [2/3/05], Pale Male and Lola
worked together to chase another Red-tail away before
she reached the the mid-Model Boat Pond/nest site
area. Initially all three birds came from the South.
PM and Lola managed by a kind of herding technique to
turn the visitor west. PM then came from above the
visitor and struck at him. Lola flew north, perched
on Woody, and PM continued to chase the visitor west
towards the Ramble.

New roosting habit...
At 5:30 PM, Pale Male, as he did yesterday (at 5:15),
came from the Ramble to roost in one of the trees just
south of the east/west path by the Hawk bench and
adjacent to the circular path around the model boat
pond. Lincoln said that this is unusual as in the
past Pale Male only roosted this close to the site
when there were eyasses in the nest.

Best, Donna



The posting this morning about an aerial territorial conflict is exactly what I anticipated from the other CP pair.

This is going to be interesting. More of these territorial interactions are likely to be seen in the next few weeks. The mutually-to-be-agreed upon border between the two pairs is now in decision.

It would be helpful for the Regulars (and others) to start mapping each of these encounters. Actually, both the perched and flying locations (and times) of every sighting should be mapped. From such a map, the territories become clear. It would be interesting to see how the borders might change or fluctuate during the pre-nesting period, on through fledging.

As I mentioned in yesterday's note, the appearance of another competitive Central Park pair could reduce the 927 pair's brood size. Given the small size of CP, I think this is very likely -- and not a bad thing, either. I'd very much prefer to have two pairs using CP. From this, the loss of either nest, or of a member of either pair, would not be so catastrophic. The alternate pair would continue a CP nesting legacy.

Red-tailed hawks haven't reached any Central Park ecological equilibrium yet. This is exciting.

Central Park is now a major red-tailed hawk natural history laboratory. There ought to be some college biology students at some NYC university who could undertake a proper field study of these birds. Significant things are happening. They need to be seriously studied. There are several master's theses awaiting. Wish I could be there.


John A. Blakeman


Dear John,

Thanks for your great letter.

When you assume that this territorial conflict between the 927 Fifth Ave hawks and another redtail involved "the other pair" -- presumably the successful nesters at 97th and the North Meadow-- [Let's call them the North Meadow pair], you may not be aware of two other redtail pairs that have been around for several years.

One pair made a prolonged but unsuccessful nesing attempt last spring in a tree a little north of the Great Lawn. They may have already begun to incubate eggs before the nest was somehow destroyed.[Let's call them the Great Lawn pair]. The male of that pair was exceptionally light in color and was popularly called Pale Male Jr.

Another pair hangs out at the southern-most border of the park,[59th St.] and is often seen perching on buildings on Central Park South: the Trump building, and the one with the green roof next to it especially. They have been seen bringing nesting materials to a building ledge last year and the year before that-- another prolonged nesting attempt.[Let's call these the CPS hawks] A birder named Ben Cacace who works in that neighborhood had very detailed observations of their activities.

Since the three birds yesterday were seen coming from the south, my own hunch would be that the intruder was either one of the Great Lawn hawks or one of the CPS hawks.

All these territories seem to me to be much smaller than what one reads about the size of redtail territories. Especially close are the Great Lawn pair and Pale Male and Lola. The Great Lawn nest was a bit west of Fifth Avenue, but less than 10 blocks south -- I'd say it was around 65th St. That's less than 1/2 a mile from 927 Fifth. Meanwhile, the North Meadow pair [the successful ones] nested a bit more than a mile to the north.

What do you make of this overabundance of redtails around here? There have been other territorial encounters in years past similar to the one Donna describes,[although it's never clear who the intruders are] but basically all these pairs seem to be co-existing fairly peacefully.

I know you wrote, in a previous letter, that there would be no "family feeling" between the Fifth Avenue pair and their offspring of past years. Nevertheless many of us have a vague sense that the other birds are being tolerated more than usual because they are offspring. Any even small possibility of that?





Yes, I just checked out the new nest site image, with both birds on it, and I smiled again. These birds are doing just what most experienced, red-tailed pairs should be doing right now, on schedule. As you know, I've never much doubted the fidelity of this pair to this refurbished nest sub-structure, and now that extends to the emerging nest itself. All is well.

Let's watch and see what happens. The pair isn't going to waste any time or energy with any tentative alternate nests. That happens sometimes in the wild. This pair is now totally re-committed to 927 Fifth Ave.

But here's something to watch for. Nest construction is likely to proceed in one of two modes. Rural birds usually start selecting a nest site in earnest about now. That's what's happening with this pair. But many other pairs dawdle around with a meager pile of sticks for a week or so, then all of a sudden, in a day or two, they bring hundreds of sticks to the nest, causing it to pop up to full size rather instantly. I've been in the field on a late January day, discovered a new low nest like the 927 on one today, then came back a day or so later, and little more had transpired. Upon resumption of nest observations in February, still not much more.

But when I've skipped two days and come back, a full-sized nest is in place. Instant nest. Let's watch to see if Pale Male and Lola get into one of these "let's build the house in a day" modes. It's very likely they will.

Someone should be measuring (estimating) the height of the nest at the end of each day and creating a graph on this. If someone can email daily images, I can easily do this on my CAD program with an accuracy of an inch or less. If someone can measure a brick the same size as the one behind the bird, we can easily figure out the dimensions. From just looking at the bird itself, I can estimate dimensions. Such nest-building data would be really fine field observations. And if a day or so is missed, we can interpolate. I'd be glad to post the readings every four or five days.

The alternate, less exciting mode is the go-it-slow one, where the nest just gets put together at a leisurely, incremental pace. That can happen, also. Let's see which method the pair chooses (And they might do something I'm not familiar with, too. We can all learn.)

The other observation of the immature bird eating suet is plainly weird. If I offered a piece of suet to my red-tail, she'd give me that "How dumb do you think I am?" look, sneering in absolute repugnance. I can understand how the Park hawk might have taken its first bite of the suet. The suet was obviously placed in the Park for other birds, and as I always contend, red-tails sit around and see and contemplate everything. It saw a woodpecker on the suet, and noticed that it looked like the winter fat it consumes on the squirrels and rats it eats. So yes, it could have taken a single evaluative taste. But to pull up the entire chunk and go off and eat from it is unheard of. Red-tails just don't consume much fat. And they aren't particularly enamored of beef products, especially those with lots of fat. (Don't try to feed a red-tail ground beef or hamburger. Too much fat.)

Another Central Park red-tail mystery.

One last point. Apparently another RT pair had an active nest in CP last year. For authentic ecological understandings of red-tails in CP, I think it would equally valuable to monitor the activities of all other CP red-tails this year. I'm impressed that Pale Male and Lola allowed another pair to reside and nest in CP. How these two pairs interact will be very interesting. Are they communally hunting throughout CP (unlikely, as RTs are very territorial)? If not, which pairs are hunting where, and with what success? How have the two pairs partitioned the small hunting territories of CP? That's important, because if a second tree-nesting (or other) pair becomes as experienced and stable as the 927 pair, the new pair might begin to claim more territory, perhaps some that Pale Male and Lola now claim. That could reduce the availability of food to feed the offspring, which could, in turn, reduce the brood size to a more normal one or two.

As I mentioned in a previous note, this is rather equivalent to the noteworthy predator/prey relationships of the great cats on the savannas and grasslands of east Africa. You NYC people get a better chance of studying this than I do out here in rural Ohio. My RT territories are 2-4 sq mi. I've got to be traveling all over the countryside to see adjacent pair interactions, if any are to be seen at all. You fortunate folks need merely to rotate your spotting scopes, or to walk a block or so to another part of the park.

Look, the CP red-tails are no longer just a wonderful urban curiosity. They are legitimate wild denizens of a major human ecosystem, the Park. It's time their behaviors be documented and quantified. I no longer question the persistence of CP red-tails. They are with us for the present, and I think for the future, too.

Let's see how this year progresses. It's February. Let's see when the first copulation is noted. (And it's not "mating." They did that several years ago by forming the pair bond, the social relationship.) All of us, including hawks, are noting the increased day length. The testosterone and estrogen (well, mostly just the testosterone) are starting to ooze. Copulation will start soon. Somebody, keep track of copulation events by time of day and site. Do they have preferred times and locations for red-tail sex, or are these things just rather random? For red-tails, how is "Sex in the City?" I'm betting that the raptorial thing is every bit as engaging as that of the show. And now, there may be two CP pairs to observe.

See why we observational field biologists have so much fun? We can all get into the red-tail's mind when we see and understand what they do in their daily lives.

I've run on a bit here again. Got to get back to work.

Keep us all posted.


John A. Blakeman

This photo by LINCOLN KARIM, taken on Groundhog Day, [six more weeks of winter!] clearly reveals how much progress these diligent hawks have made in the great task of nest rebuilding.

2/3/05 --The Super-Regulars

There is a small group of birdwatchers who come to the park often enough, in all seasons, to be called Regulars. I count myself in that group. But even these Central Park loyalists go off and do other things occasionally -- a trip to Colombia, or a few weeks at Point Reyes, or, speaking for myself, frequent spring and summer weekends at a small cabin in Putnam County.

I only know two Super-Regulars. They never seem to take off for exotic climes , and only on a rare occasion do they check out Jamaica Bay or other city parks. Mostly, these two unique gentlemen arrive in Central Park every single morning, always at 7 a.m., summer, winter, autumn, spring, except, of course, when the weather is too terrible for anyone with a modicum of sanity to venture out into,or when illness intervenes.

Anybody who has spent any time in the Central Park birding community knows who I'm talking about: Marty Sohmer and Jack Meyer. Every morning these super-Regulars check out the best birding spots, and then retire to the boathouse for a quick R&R. Then out again to check the late risers among the birds.

If you are out birding and run into Jack and Marty, they will point you in the direction of any interesting bird they've come across that morning; odds are their list includes more birds than yours. Moreover, when Jack comes home, usually by noon, he promptly sends an e-mail listing of the day's birds to the listserv called e-birds. In this way a great many people can get an idea of Central Park bird opportunities on any given day.

Here is a typical winter's list, when the park is down to its bare minimum, in numbers and species of birds: [That will begin to change by the end of this month.]

DATE: Thursday, 3 February 2005
LOCATION: Central Park
OBSERVERS: Marty Sohmer, Jack Meyer

Red-tailed Hawk (Pair on nest site with twigs 10.45 AM.)
Mourning Dove (Several, Evodia Field.)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Feeders.)
Downy Woodpecker (Several, feeders.)
Hairy Woodpecker (Feeders.)
Blue Jay (Feeders.)
Black-capped Chickadee (Several.)
Tufted Titmouse (Several.)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Feeders.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Several.)
Brown Creeper (Feeders.)
Fox Sparrow (3, Evodia Field.)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco (Several, Evodia Field.)
House Finch (Several, feeders.)
American Goldfinch (Many, feeders.)

taken on 2/1/05

Though Pale Male and Lola get most of the attention these days as they rebuild their Fifth Avenue nest, Central Park Regulars are well aware of a number of other Red-tailed Hawks regularly seen in the park. Pictured at the right is one of these, an immature redtail often seen in the vicinioty of the Azalea Pond and the Evodia Field bird-feeding station. How do we know it's immature? Not by size, obviously, since fledglings are the same size as their parents by the time they take their first flight. This bird reveals its immaturity by having yellow eyes rather than black eyes, and by the absence of a red tail. [Immature redtails are often referred to as browntails.]
This particular young bird has another odd feature. He has been seen eating suet at the feeding station. When Lloyd set up his tripod and took this picture, the hawk was on a nearby branch inching his way closer to the suet feeder . But since it was feeder-filling day, there were about twenty people gatherered at the feeders, watching the bird's activities. This may be why he never gave Lloyd the satisfaction of getting a shot of the hawk with his beak right in the suet. Instead, the hawk hopped onto the branch right next to the feeder for several minutes, perhaps hoping we would all go away. Finally he flew off.

Advice for non-hot-shot birders:
[Lloyd, read no further!]

It's always a good idea to take a long, hard, second look at a sparrow you assume to be a Song Sparrow. It may turn out to be a Savannah Sparrow. This has happened to me on several occasions, and God knows how many times I simply called a Savannah Sparrow a Song Sparrow.

Here Lloyd has captured on film a magnificent Savannah Sparrow in the snow, near Willow Rock. Note the notched tail --one of the ways to distinguish this sparrow from a Song. The photo was taken on 1/29/05.

[It's clear that Sibley is mainly intended for hot-shots. He doesn't even mention the possibility of mistaking a Savannah for a Song. Peterson emphasizes this possibility.]

1/31/05 Photo by LINCOLN KARIM

Pale Male with Twig

From Lincoln Karim's website,

Nest Site Update Sunday January 30, 2005
A crowd of onlookers watched as Pale Male brought a twig to the nest at 3:22PM today. He flew in front of the building with the large twig in his mouth, then he rested on the Linda building before finally depositing it on the nest. The nest is beginning to take shape. Later, at about 4:30PM both hawks sat next to each other on the Stove Pipe building.


A few weeks ago Swarovski Optik of North America contributed a scope (model ATS 80, 20-60x) and tripod to the Central Park fans of Pale Male and Lola. As the company wrote in a recent e-bulletin, their gift was to the Central Park "birder-stewards who have been watching and documenting the nest for years and who spoke out on behalf of Pale Male and Lola after their eviction. We hope the equipment will be used and enjoyed by numerous hawk admirers for years to come."

A hawkwatcher many of you know from his faithful presence at the hawk bench, Kenneth Brown, has agreed to be in charge of the scope. As soon as the weather gets just a little warmer [let's say a little higher than 20 degrees!] the wonderful Swarovski scope will be regularly available for hawkwatching at the model-boat pond.

Special thanks to Paul Baicich, former Editor of BIRDING, and Director of Conservation and Public Policy of the American Birding Association, who is now working for Swarovski, for having initiated this grand gift.

1/30/05 -- A few days ago I posted a Nomenclature Guide, giving some of the names hawkwatchers of yore assigned to various buildings up and down Fifth Ave. [See below].

Today I received a note from Steve Watson [of Pasadena, California] about a similar scheme used at Yosemite National Park:

"Just had to say that I was amused by the descriptions of the various buildings that you folks use to locate the hawks. I spend a lot of time in Yellowstone National Park watching wolves, helping the researchers when possible, etc., and the location descriptions are just as esoteric and fun! The turnouts in the road all have names whose origins are lost to history, it seems..."trashcan", "coyote", "fisherman's", "Dave's Hill", etc. Key features in the landscape are identified..."orange rock", "Mom's Ridge", "Dead Puppy Hill", and so on. It can sound like a treasure hunt at times..."[Alpha male] 21 is just left of the dead conifer 50 yards behind the stand of 4 aspens, right of the confluence, by the old beaver dam..." :)"

- Nest Report--from Lincoln Karim:
Saturday January 29, 2005
Rik Davis reports that Pale Male was seen 'all morning' delivering twigs to the nest. I witnessed one brief empty-handed visit by him at 5:30 PM.


A more typical pose for a LEO, also taken on 1/28/05 -- with ear-tufts raised. The photo below was taken just after the bird had ejected a pellet.



Incredible photo by

Every year for the last six or seven there have been long-eared owls [LEOs] spending some of the winter months roosting in Central Park. They usually arrive towards the end of November and stay until mid-March. During their stay, much of the attention of the Central Park Nature Community is focused on the comings and goings of these mysterious creatures. People gather at their daytime roosts to watch them fly out for their night hunting - [These are called Flyouts] And a small group of intrepid owl lovers often follows them into the Ramble to monitor their nocturnal activities. A very small number of... well, lunatics, sometimes arrive before dawn to try to witness a LEO returning to its daytime roost -[A Fly-in, this event for insomniacs is called].

This year there was one brief LEO sighting in December and no regular LEO roosts discovered anywhere in the park...until yesterday, when one of the park maintenance workers happened to mention to a hawkwatcher that there was a strange big bird in a tree near the Maintenance Shed. [This is a building near the East Drive a bit south of Turtle Pond and the Great Lawn.] It had been there for several weeks, the worker said.

Yesterday the first group of owl worshippers gathered to see what we hope will be the first of many fly-outs. Because of the location of the bird and the tree, this owl was unbelievably exposed. [Often it is very hard to see an owl in its daytime roost]. Lincoln managed to get the remarkable picture to the left, though dusk was approaching. The fly-out was clocked at 5:45 pm.

1/29/05 -- Yesterday's report from a hawkwatcher:

Hi Marie,
At 1:45 today (Friday) Pale Male made a couple of circles over the boat pond and delivered some flimsy looking twigs to the nest, hung around for a few minutes and then flew to his guardrail perch two buildings south of the nest. Later, Pale Male and Lola sat together on a building a few blocks to the north (the one with the 2 satellite dishes).

Bob Brooks

Guide To Building Nomenclature

For years hawkwatchers have used a sort of shorthand naming system to describe the various buildings to the north and the south of the nest building. This helps to clarify hawkwatcher reports of where the hawks are to be found at the moment, or where they have been sighted earlier. For example, in Bob Brook's report above, he notes that Pale Male flew to his guardrail perch two buildings south of the nest This refers to a very favorite perching spot for both hawks.

We old hawkwatchers call that building LINDA's. Why? Because the apartment one floor lower than the top floor of that building, the one with the guardrails at each of the six windows, is owned by a woman named Linda Janklow. We have met her at the hawk bench several times, and she once very generously invited me up to see for myself a hawk perching right outside her window. It was thrilling to be that close to Pale Male!

The six windows with guardrails on that one-floor-lower-than-the-top floor apartment are identified by number, going from north to south. So... "Lola is sitting on Linda 1" might be the shorthand description a hawkwatcher might give someone trying to locate one of the hawks. Or "Pale Male is on Linda 6."
Or...Pale Male might be located "on the roof of Linda's"

Without going into explanations for the various names [maybe later...and some of it is obviously descriptive] here is some of the traditional hawk building nomenclature:

Starting at the HAWK BUILDING and going south: DR. FISHER'S, LINDA's, THE LION BUILDING, THE UGLY WHITE CONDO. That's from 74th to 72nd St.

Starting at the HAWK BUILDING and going North: WOODY'S
[even though he hasn't lived there for years!]the GREEN SHADE BUILDING [even though the green shade hasn't been there for years] THE OCTAGONAL BUILDING, THE SMOKESTACK BUILDING, THE STOVEPIPE BUILDING, THE OREO BUILDING. [This is from 74 to 79th St.]

Not every building between 72 and 79th St. is named here, just the ones with conspicuous features, or some history. And some of the names may have changed since I was an impassioned, daily hawkwatcher ten years ago. [The obsession inevitably metamorphoses into a deep but non-exclusive interest after a few seasons at the hawk bench-- thus making room for a new bunch of obsessed hawkwatchers each year.]

I'll probably post a revised version of this nomencalture list, once I hear from some of the more recent devotees.

It would be great to have a panoramic photo of the Fifth Avenue buildings in Pale Male and Lola's territory. That would make all of this much clearer.

Photo by LINCOLN KARIM - 1/27/05
1/28/05 -- Now that Lincoln is back, here's the first good shot of the nest site, with twigs !! That's Lola standing there. Ye of little faith who still doubted that Pale Male and Lola would ever accept the new structure-with-spikes put up on December 23, doubt no more.

May I presume to offer some advice to all the new hawkwatchers who are beginning to gather at the model-boat pond to watch the Fifth Avenue Hawks for another nesting season: Curb your anxiety! In Red-Tails in Love I wrote about the pangs we all suffered back in 1993-95 as we sat on the hawk bench and worried at every stage of the breeding cycle. But everything was, and still is in the hands of that ineffable power I still think of as Mother Nature.

Remember, Pale Male and Lola are experienced, magnificently capable creatures. Don't let fear color your enjoyment of this grand spectacle. Just leave a little room for awe.

Lincoln's first report from the Model-boat Pond:

Nest Site Update Thursday January 27, 2005
First time at the MB Pond in 7 weeks. A lot of new twigs in new nest structure. Hawks were active on the nest on at least two occasions while I was there. Courtship behavior prominent (flying together with talons extended). Both Pale Male & Lola remained active around the nest for at least an hour and a half.

1/27/05 :

All's well with the world. The case against Lincoln was dismissed. Pale Male and Lola are ever-more present at the nest site, landing on it, checking it out, bringing twigs occasionally. Nest-building should begin in earnest within a week or so [That's my prediction, not a scientific fact.]

If you've been reading John Blakeman's essays, you'll remember that he said serious nest-building would begin when the days begin to get noticeably longer. Well, maybe we're just a little ahead of Huron, Ohio, but I, for one, am beginning to feel the lengthening days. Waking up a half an hour earlier in the morning, for instance.



At about 11 a.m., at 100 Centre Street, the Criminal Courts Building, on the second floor, in a room called Part C, Lincoln and his lawyer were called up to the judge. The assistant district attorney, standing at the right of Lincoln and his lawyer, told the judge that the complainants had dropped the charges. The judge looked directly at Lincoln, gave what I thought was a sympathetic look, and said loudly CASE DISMISSED!!

In the courtroom was a small group of Lincoln's friends. We hugged and kissed, each other and Lincoln as he stepped out of the dock and into the free world. It was a great moment

Thanks, everyone, for your wonderful support.


"You have a great ability to get inside the redtail's mind," I wrote in an admiring note to John Blakeman on 1/23. Here is part of his response:

About my perceptions of the red-tail's mind:

It's not so much a matter of profound perception as of the inordinate number of hours spent in the personal company of these birds.

Each of my fellow falconers shares most of these understandings. Because of my extensive field and captive breeding studies of red-tails, I have an additional understand of their ecology and the interplay of their mentality with the natural environment.

I'm not so personally excited about my ability to read the red-tail's mind. All humans who work with animals learn about them. It's nice, and contributes to my understanding of the hawk. But I hold in more precious regard my personal experiences with the bird. There are about 3000 licensed falconers in the US, and every one of us treasures both the opportunities and obligations we have in keeping wild hawks in our care and hunting with them. Because hawks and falcons are essentially non-social predators (unlike dogs), our trained hawks do not regard us as their "masters," nor do they respond to any of the usual controls of voice or deportment that a trained dog or horse might. A falconer must creatively attend to every need of the hawk, as its absolute servant, not its master in any way. Make any training or caring error and the hawk simply flies back into the wild given the first opportunity.

Every time I step into the field with my red-tail, Savanna, sitting free on my fist, I marvel just as I did when I first did it over 30 years ago, that the bird will fly free through the air, attempt to capture a fleeing rabbit, and either capture it and allow me to approach and retrieve the hawk, or I must stand there in the field and elevate my gloved fist with a piece of meat to cause the hawk to return after a missed hunting flight. The bird freely turns around and flies to my fist, lands, and then resumes her hunt.

Who else gets to observe a predator conducting its own hunt so closely and intimately? My mind is 12 inches from Savanna's, and during the hunt I see every movement she makes. I follow her eye, feel the tenseness in her clasping talons on my gloved fist as she thinks she sees a prey animal, and the swish of her wings brushes my face as she leaps off in pursuit. Who gets closer to a wild raptor than this? How could I not understand?

This unique relationship between men and hawks has been the core and motivation of falconry since its origin in China and Mesopotamia millennia ago. I am honored and privileged be able to be a modern falconer. I'm pleased to be able to share some of my perspectives with your cogent readership. They already grasp the regality of the red-tailed hawk. My thoughts merely expand them a bit.


John A. Blakeman

Today's report from Katherine Herzog, one of this year's regular hawkwatchers:

Tuesday, Jan 25th: Upon entering CP at 76th & 5th at 2:26pm--observed PaleMale flying to the nesting site. He stayed there for a few minutes, flew off and then Lola flew to the nest staying only a few minutes. Then at 2:35pm both PaleMale and Lola flying together....landed together on the nest and stayed for about 5 minutes. They were extremely active showing territorial behavior by circling over the nest and sitting on the roof tops of four other buildings north and south of the nesting site. Things are definitely heating up! (Also, saw one or more RTH's...not P or L... in the Ramble.)
Did not see any appreciable nesting material but since I have been going to the park every day for the past month, this was the most active I have seen the pair...on and around the nest.


Tuesday January 25, 2005
Lot of nest activity reported. I saw at least two visits to the nest. Also saw both hawks on the nest at one time.

Yesterday's report from Katherine:

Monday, Jan 24rd: Though I myself observed only PaleMale sitting on and flying around nearby buildings (north and south of the nest on Fifth Avenue) between 2 and 2:30... was told by Estella, a veteran PaleMale fan, when I returned to the Hawk Bench at 4pm that Lola sat on the nest for about 15 minutes today at around 3pm!

Anyone wishing to make a contribution to the Lincoln Karim Defense Fund should go to the website You can make a donation on the site, through PayPal.

There's nothing like a disaster to increase vigilance. There hasn't been such close attention paid to the Fifth Avenue Redtails, at least not at this time of year, since the very early years of the Pale Male saga. Although the hawkbench is manned [and mainly womaned] by a new set of hawkwatchers than in the days I wrote about in Red-tails in Love, the excitement and energy and obsessive attention to the smallest detail is the same.

Here's a report from a faithful group of hawkwatchers, sent to me by Donna Brown. It brings it all back. Thanks guys.

Hi Marie,

Today at 2:01PM, Stella, Holly, and Donna saw Lola
land on the nest site and put her beak down to the
surface and do something. She kept doing whatever it
was (twig arrangement?)until 2:05 when she left the
site. She then flew up to the Carlyle and perched on
the 6th light from the left.

During Lola's nest site visit Pale Male was perched on
Linda 4.

2:07PM Pale Male flew towards the Ramble.

2:27PM Pale Male landed on the nest site and placed a
twig. He then left the site and began circling the
area. Lola left her perch on the Carlyle and they
flew in aerials together for some minutes.

2:55PM Stella, Donna, and Sam saw Pale Male fly to the
nest site with a twig and leave it.

3:32 Donna saw Pale Male fly east over the Boathouse
with a twig in his talons.




A sincere question was raised about placing dead mice or other dietary enticements in the new nest structure, to prompt the pair’s return and re-use of the site. Inasmuch as red-tails normally select mice as their daily fare and consume them with unvarying delight, this approach would seem reasonable. For those of us lured to fine chocolate, we know what a red-tail might do to procure a nice warm mouse, as mice and voles are red-tail chocolates, for sure. I use mice in my red-tail traps when taking birds from the wild for banding and other licensed activities. A red-tail finds it very hard to resist such a choice morsel.

(And don't be alarmed about the licensed trapping of raptors. It’s nothing like the leg-hold traps used for fur-bearing mammals. A mouse is placed in a low cage with small nylon-cord snares along the top. The red-tail’s toes are ensnared as it attempts to grab the mouse inside the trap. Neither the mouse nor the hawk are injured in any way. The process is closely monitored and the hawk’s toes are released from the snares within a minute of capture. She’s not injured, only confused about her inability to fly away from the trap when I quickly approach. And don't even think of trying this yourself. Without proper state and federal permits, it’s absolutely illegal. Secondly, if you don't know how to properly handle a newly-trapped raptor, you are very likely to get a pair of needle-sharp talons buried completely through your hand or any other body part. This is not for the inexperienced.)

Yes, red-tails would be attracted to a fresh mouse, dead or alive. But here’s an important consideration regarding red-tail behavior at the nest. Away from the nest, at least a 100 yards in most cases, red-tails act like red-tails, as cunning and powerful hunters. When motivated, they will spare no effort in taking a targeted prey animal that presents itself before the hawk.

But in the vicinity and at the nest itself, red-tails assume very different behaviors, especially when a hen is sitting, or especially when eyasses are present. By nature, the species quickly grabs and pierces any prey that presents itself, not unlike what a domestic cat would do to a mouse that attempted to run within striking distance of some apartment-dwelling feline. Any carnivore that hesitates to attack in such situations is not going to survive in the wild. Consequently, a hungry red-tail, or one capturing food for eyasses back at the nest, will strike instantly and lethally when prey are closely available.

But how might those behaviors play out on the nest? What if a hungry red-tail landed on the nest rim, and an eyass or two were nodding off in an afternoon’s slumber. Then, an eyass awakes and pops it’s head up. If the adult were to follow it’s normal hunting patterns, it would instantly reach out and grab this new animal movement. The eyass would be killed. Any red-tail that had this natural, unrestrained pouncing behavior at the nest would kill its offspring. Raptorial child abuse of he worst sort. Fortunately, most of those genetic behaviors are now extinct.

To the point. Lola and Pale Male, like all successful red-tail parents, have an inborn restraint of hunting and killing behaviors at the nest. Those of us who have watched red-tails dive onto and kill either mice or rabbits are always astounded to observe their slow, considered, even delicate movements while at the nest. The adults often curl their talons underneath and walk with slow, deliberate steps on the nest, so as not to puncture an egg or young eyass. Likewise, the adults take inordinate care in pulling off tidbits of flesh from animals brought to the nest for the eyasses or incubating adult. I've watched my trained hunting red-tails rip apart food on my gloved fist hundreds of times. The strength and deliberateness of this is always impressive. But equally impressive is the converse delicacy with which they handle both prey and their feet on the nest, all to protect the eyasses.

Here’s the point about the advisability of offering mice or other food items to lure the birds back to the restored nest site. Because of the hunting and killing restraint behaviors the birds have at a nest, the offered food would not be an enticement. The adults would, indeed, recognize the mice as food. But since they didn't capture it at a distance away from the nest, it would not be regarded as quite natural. They would use it, but it wouldn't contribute in causing the birds to use the nestsite. The found food items just wouldn't connect with any of the bird’s experiences. The hawks would make no connection with the usability of the nestsite with the offered food. In short, red-tails don't capture food in a nest, and when they eat or offer it there, they do so with delicate restraint.

I've watched all of this in the captive pair of red-tails I used in captive-breeding trials back in the early ‘70's.

The fact that Pale Male and Lola have been seen periodically at the nest in recent weeks is an extremely strong indication that they will resume normal activities there. If they didn't like what they saw, they would not be visiting the site in early January, when there is little natural tendency to do so.

It’s still too early to be concerned. In my area of northern Ohio (same latitude as NYC), the third week of January is the meteorological low point of winter, with the statistically coldest weather. Soon, things will start to slowly warm (although it’s not increasing temperature, but increasing day-length that gets the breeding hormones flowing). Presently, it’s the depths of winter, so don't be concerned. Red-tail breeding is highly seasonal, and this am not the season, yet.

Just watch. Activity at the nest will take a marked upswing in February, just about the time that you personally notice that days are getting longer. You haven't noticed that yet, and neither have our famous pair. Spring training hasn't even started. It’s still winter. Be patient. Lola and Pale Male are.

It’s good that so many are thinking about, concerned with, and observing the world’s most famous red-tailed hawk pair. All is well. Let’s watch the pairs’ developing new chapter. Nest building will resume, I'm certain. All is naturally aligned.


John A. Blakeman

Post Script:

When I sent John Blakeman the letter [sent to e-birds by Deslie Lawrence] suggesting a dead mouse be placed on Pale Male's nest site as an enticement, I mentioned that Pale Male and his clan do occasionally avail themselves of dead birds that have collided with a reflective glass window at the Metropolitan Museum. He also had some thoughts about that, which he sent in a sparate e-mail:


I forgot to mention that RTs will, indeed, eat newly-deceased birds that have lethally collided with windows. As I mention so often, sitting RTs spend a lot of time surmising everything in the observed landscape, and they notice the feather wisps of dead birds. They also recognize the birds as both tasty and easily procured. I've noted that RTs take particular notice of both feathers and fur in the field. When hunting with my red-tail and we walk past a the kill site of a rabbit consumed by some other predator, my hawk always spots the remnant fur and wants to jump down onto the ground and see if it can find anything edible -- or catchable. The only hint are a few clumps of loose fur. She picks these out from the multitude of dead grass and leaves. Their eyes are primed for fur and feathers, whether they move or not.


John A. Blakeman

1/22/05 -- Hot News in the midst of a Blizzard

Just as I was beginning to worry whether I wasn't jumping the gun a few days ago when I said I sensed a change, I received this e-mail:

Today, Saturday, Jan 22nd at 11:45am, just before the snow started coming down in earnest...saw PaleMale and Lola sitting close together on a window railing two buildings down from the nesting site. PaleMale took off heading north and Lola flew to and landed on the nest, looking like she was adjusting some twigs. Two bench regulars said they saw Lola yesterday putting some nesting material on the spikes. Love is in the air!

Katherine Herzog

Long-eared Owl
Where are our Long-eared Owls????

Though we've had a rare owl in the park this year, it's been a disappointing owl season nevertheless. By this time' in past years, some LEO's have always been found to have settled in for the winter. None this year, alas!

To give you an idea of the riches of the past, here is a report I posted on this site in 2003, at just about this time.

1/24/03 --The latest Owl Report
The 8 long-eared owls that have been roosting on Central Park's East side since 1/12/03 were seen at the usual evening fly-out last Tuesday, 1/21. On Wednesday morning 4 members of the Early Birders, a regular Wednesday morning birding group, saw an owl flying west of the West Drive, not far from the Tupelo meadow. Screaming Blue Jays were accompanying it. Curious, the birdwatchers headed for the owls' usual roost tree. But not an owl was to be seen there. Instead, they saw a light-colored Red-tailed Hawk sitting conspicuously on a branch in one of the owls' regular roosting trees. It may have been Pale Male. His crop was bulging - he had obviously eaten recently. We all hope it was not an owl snack. In any case, the owls have not been seen since, though groups have been looking for them in many of their usual spots.


What a shot! Taken yesterday, it shows Lola perched on a branch, with the classic tower of the Hotel Carlyle gleaming in the background.

Pale Male and Lola continue to be active in the vicinity of the nest, though I haven't heard of any hawk-on-nest sightings in a few days. Why not? Because it's been bitterly cold around here. On Wednesday the temperature was only 8 degrees above zero, yesterday and today are almost as cold. So many fewer hawkwatchers have been around to document visits to the nest.

Don't forget that cold is not the decisive factor in the hawks' decision to begin serious nest building. It is light. As the days lengthen, the hormones that govern the hawks' breeding cycle kick in. That will happen in early February. I'll keep you posted.

BLAKEMAN on TALONS -- 1/19/05

John Blakeman, the extraordinary Ohio falconer and hawk expert whose letters are enjoyed by so many readers on this website, saw Lincoln's photo of talons on and sent me the following comment:


I saw the wonderful close-up of one of the hawk's feet on the site on Tuesday evening. I noticed something rather interesting.

First, this is a remarkable photo. Wonderful work.

But I instantly noticed the rounded dullness of talons on the left foot. They are seen in perfect profile in the image, and they are markedly dull. Typically, red-tail talons are needle sharp, instantly able to pierce the skin of any prey they encounter – and for squirrels in particular, this is very important. Squirrels have particularly thick skin that can resist the 40-60 lbs (or greater) of force of a redtail's grip. (Although the squirrels of Central Park are apparently gray squirrels, a slightly smaller species than the thick-skinned fox squirrels of my area.)

Obviously, this talon dullness is of no real concern. The birds are eating well in Central Park. But it does reveal that they are spending a lot of time landing, perching, and taking flight from stone ledges on buildings. This is dulling the talons. Birds that spend their lives in trees have needle sharp talons. The rubbing of the talons on the bark of tree branches appears to sharpen them. But when rubbed along stone ledges (buildings in NYC), the sharp ends can get dulled, as we see here.

Again, no problem. Pigeons have very thin skin and are easily dispatched. Squirrels may require a bit of experienced foot and talon manipulation on the head, followed by a lethal bite. Rats are easily dispatched with a quick grasp of the head.

But a close look at the talon end shows a flattened end. Curious.

Oh, and the extended right foot? That's merely a stretch. Falconers see this all the time in their confidently-perched birds. They pick up the loose foot, squeeze the talons a bit, and extend the leg outward, as seen here. Just after the picture was taken, the bird brings the foot back under its belly and perches on a single leg. Later, it will reverse to sitting on the opposite leg.

When I trap red-tails for banding, I always examine the toes and feet for remnant blood, feathers, or fur, revealing a recent meal. I couldn't see any leavings here.

(We can't get photos like this out in the countryside. Nice work.)


John A. Blakeman


John Blakeman's comments on how to tell the age of young hawks by eye color appears lower on this page. He has sent in a small correction, and has added to it a some interesting observations about red-tailed hawks and their appetites:

I should have been a bit more careful in the RT aging notes I submitted. I took the info off the top of my head, not from my written records of accuracy. I made a slight goof, stating that in third year RTs there is a remnant hint of yellow at the bottom of the eye. Wrong. It's at the top of the iris. I just went out to feed my three-year old red-tail, and saw my error in hand. (This is why scientific papers are peer-reviewed before publication.) It's a minor point, but an error, nonetheless.

If I can, let me make a one other observations that Central Park hawk watchers might find interesting. Lincoln mentioned that the young bird he saw (surely one hatched in 2004, as it had a brown tail), was spending some time peering at a rat that could be seen at the base of some phragmites (common reed, a horrible nonnative wetlands invader from Eurasia – sorry to hear that Central Park has it, as we are trying to suppress it before it completely overtakes the last open Lake Erie marshes in my area). From the tone of Lincoln's note, he seemed to wonder why the hawk failed to drop down on the rat and have an easy lunch. He noted that the hawk later flew off toward some mallard ducks on a pond, but the effort seemed only modest to Lincoln.

He was correct. The hawk's flight at the ducks was certainly only halfhearted and inconclusive. Lincoln has surely seen enough RT hunting flights to discern which ones are serious, fill-the-crop ones, and which are token “let's see if they fly” ones. This flight was the latter.

Here's what I make of both of these observations. First, the reluctance to drop down on the quite vulnerable rat: Any RT that passes up so convenient a meal as this does so for only one reason. The bird simply was not hungry. It has had a full-crop meal in the last day or so, and also has ample fat reserves. This bird is living well, so well, in fact, that it can afford to be selective in what it wants to attack for food. The bird may have had Rattus norvegicus flesh for the last five days, and now wants to savor some other Central Park morsel. After all, as good as NY restaurants are, who chooses to order exactly the same meal each evening. The hawk was merely pondering the menu, and Norway rats didn't excite her palate. Being previously well fed, she could afford some culinary discretion, even if it meant passing up an otherwise easy meal.

We falconers recognize this behavior well. Our birds, when hunting, are as free as the hawk Lincoln saw, and they will only hunt when hunger prompts, exactly as wild birds do. That's why falconers carefully weigh their birds before hunting. The hawk must be high in muscular weight, but not fat; just like a trained athlete. A hawk too fat just sits there and contemplates the landscape. When that happens, it's time for the falconer to offer the hawk a choice tidbit of meat on the fist and call the bird back to hand. Wait a day, and it will then resume its natural hunting desires. Lincoln's bird was both fat and sassy. It will be a survivor. (Sixty to eighty percent of all first-year RTs fail to survive the year. This one will survive and probably go on to breed.)

About the pass at the ducks. This bird is in its adolescence. And like most adolescents (well, except for you and me, who were perfectly behaved), this hawk couldn't resist the final urge to take a pass at these big -- well -- sitting ducks. But the hawk didn't have a chance of capturing one of these fleet-winged wonders. An RT in a straight tail chase (right from behind, not from high above) can barely hit 40 mph. A mallard can accelerate quickly to 50 or 60 mph. Our teenaged red-tail didn't have a chance. But it sure was exciting to make those water-soaked birds get up and fly away. (And which one of us wouldn't do that from time to time, too, if we could be a red-tail for a day? Raise a little hell, just to see what happens.)

All of what Lincoln saw in this passive red-tail has led many to believe that the species is slow, dumb, even phlegmatic. The big oafs just spend a lot of time sitting around and get characterized as lazy. But that's a complete misread of the species. When hungry and highly motivated, an RT can take almost anything. When hungry, it can take a mallard, but will do it by clever ambush or aerial stealth, just as pigeons are taken by Central Park RTs. Let it be understood by all, our red-tails are extremely successful hunters. They are intellectual, cerebral hunters weighing a multitude of factors that give them the best probabilities of hunting success. Nothing is random or by chance.

Some have thought they'd like to go to the last wild areas of Africa and watch the great cats hunt antelope or other prey. Few of us will have that opportunity. But exactly the same predator/prey interactions can now be seen in Central Park, of all places. A moderate understanding of the behaviors of the CP red-tails can illuminate what's transpiring. These birds aren't just sitting there, and they aren't just flying around randomly. They are living their remarkable lives as their biology dictates. Presently, we get to see it, understand it, even share it. And we don't have to go to the Serengeti to experience nature so raw in tooth and nail (or talon and bill). Of all places, it's in Central Park.


Many more sightings of Pale Male and Lola near AND ON the nest. Today, at about 2 p.m. I was lucky enough to see Pale Male circling near the Boathouse. Then he flew towards the nest and briefly landed on it. There are definitely more twigs to be seen on the nest, although the number is still small. It's getting exciting. It's also unbelievably cold! I wish I had a down coat like our hawk friends do.


I sent one of CP's best birders, [and also best photographers] Lloyd Spitalnik, a copy of Donna Browne's letter reprinted below, in which she reported an incident with a photographer taking many flash photos of the Boreal Owl. Since the owl was not seen again in the park, she assumed, and I felt it was a reasonable assumption, that the annoying flashes spooked the owl and sent it to more peaceful climkes. Below is Lloyd's response:

Thanks Marie. I wonder if this idiot chased it away. On the other hand, the report says the bird's eyes were closed , which indicates to me that it wasn't being disturbed too badly.
I spent the late Saturday morning and early afternoon with Dotty and her crew.[MW: she's the lady who flew in from Florida to see her first Boreal Owl} We had a very nice time but of course there was no owl.


This is welcome news about the hawks. I'm including the list of the other birds this great walking group saw in the park yesterday. They also meet on Wednesdays and often intersect with the Early Birders.

Late: Sunday, January 15, 2005
Location: Central Park
Observers: Barbara Saunders, John Forbes and Ardith Bondi
Reported by: Ardith Bondi

When we arrived at the Model Boat Pond in the afternoon, Lola was on the nest, and Pale Male flew into a tree near the Pond. Lola flew off and
returned shortly to the nest and then flew to a nearby building and sat there for a while.

Hairy Woodpecker
Downy Woodecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Dark-eyed Junco
Fox Sparrow (Evodia Feeders)
White-throated Sparrow
American Goldfinch
House Finch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Pinetum, feeders)
Red-tailed Hawk
Tufted titmouse - many everywhere
Black-capped Chickadee
House Sparrow
American Crow
Ring-billed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Double-crested Cormorant
Ruddy Duck
Northern Shoveler
Pied-billed Grebe (with Ruddies north end of Reservoir)
Canada Goose
Mourning Dove
Eur. Starling
Mute Swan (Lake)
Northern Cardinal
American Coot

1/16/05 --
WHERE'S OUR RARE OWL? I asked that question here yesterday. Now I received the following report from Donna Browne. It may provide the answer.
Now when I think of Dottie Hull traveling in vain from Florida in hopes of seeing the Boreal owl, [she was in the park on Saturday], and when I think of all the others who were deprived of this opportunity as a result of this creep's overuse of a flash camera, it makes my blood boil.

Thursday afternoon around 1PM as I walked from
Central Park West towards Tavern On The Green, I
noticed repeated camera flashes blazing through the
evergreens masking the service area behind the
restaurant. At least five in the time it took to walk
past the building and around to the back. There I
discovered a man, I won't call him a gentleman, with
his tripod and camera inside the gated area within
yards of the Boreal Owl, taking one flash photo after
another. I looked through my binoculars at the Boreal
Owl, from a respectful distance, and saw his closed
eyes squinch tighter with every flash. In the past,
I'd seen one or two flash photos taken of the Boreal
without reaction so I surmised he'd had enough. I
approached this person and politely asked if he'd
noticed the Boreal's reaction to his flashes. He said
the owl was fine, wasn't reacting at all. I pointed
out the effect the flash was having and that perhaps
the bird was being stressed. He took another photo
and in his best "don't you worry your sweet head,
little lady" voice, said,"See, no problem." My
immediate impulse was to grab his tripod by the legs
and smash him upside the head with it. But being a
pacifist and not having money for bail, I settled for
staring at him until he went away.

So it's a double whammy, because of people like
this one, not only may the Boreal Owl have fled far in
hopes of getting peace,I do hope not, but also being
new to the Central Park Birding Community, my daughter
Samantha and I will never hear where the Long Ear
roosts. At no time soon will she be able to see one
quietly and from afar for the first time in her life.
For as Marie pointed out in her essay concerning the Christo in Central Park, many New Yorkers don't have a country house. And we like so many others, for many a long day, may have only Central Park and its creatures to refresh that secret place within that yearns for wild marvels and upon seeing them soars and is free.

9/16/05 -- Hawk News

Had a call from Lincoln this afternoon. He was at Bow Bridge with a small scope, not his super-huge one. But with it he saw one of the hawk pair -- he was too far to tell which one it was -- land on the nest and stay there for quite a few minutes. Many of us have seen this happen during the last few weeks, but this was the first for Lincoln. His voice had a happy sound that I haven't heard for a month. He sounded hopeful!


Two days ago the Early Birders [a walking group that will celebrate its 10th birthday this June,] saw the Boreal Owl in one of the Hemlocks near the Tavern On The Green entrance. We had great, unencumbered looks at it. And that seems to be the last sighting of it. A few people searched for it in the rain yesterday. [I was not one of them.] And many people were out searching since the early hours this morning. No luck. I'm particularly sorry that Dottie Hull, who flew up from Florida with her husband yesterday, missed adding it to her Life List. Well, chasing birds is always a crapshoot. How lucky we Central Park birders are to have had it in our back yard for almost a month! And you never know. It may be back tomorrow.

more thoughts from John Blakeman

Yesterday I wrote John Blakeman to tell him how many readers of this website have written to say they love his letters. I told him I was thinking of writing more about the nest-removal crisis. Here's a part of his response, beautifully written as usual:

... the far greater story, with many implications, is this unforeseen invasion of an urban environment by a wild species presumed utterly un-adapted to such reproductive success. As you know, I heard of a pair of red-tails nesting in Central Park many years ago, [Note from MW: He's talking about my book here] but I utterly dismissed the story as an aberration probably equivalent to the many others we outlanders hear about New York. There couldn't be any real biology here, just some weird red-tail behavioral anomalies. Knowing the species as well as I do, none of this was out of the question, and all of it could be easily dismissed. After all, raptor biologists wouldn't anticipate going to the center of Manhattan Island to learn about the red-tail. But I was wrong on so many accounts.

The greater story is not just Pale Male and Lola, or even city red-tails in general. The big story is how wildlife can adapt to modern urban life. The Norwegian rat did that several millennia ago. Squirrels didn't have to adapt at all to urban forests. But raptors are invading cities and thriving. Falconers, having raised and trained peregrines, knew that this species could probably be enticed to breed in urban areas. That's a now well-described conservation success story. But no one, even "experts" like me, would have ever imagined that red-tails would elect to enter cities and breed there.

As a falconer and raptor biologist (and conservation lecturer -- I have several conservation slide shows that I give on raptors, prairies, Alaska, and my Western Studies) I'm always concerned when conservation and ecological success stories are so frequently neglected. Environmentally, it's not all going to hell. The good stories, such as the restoration of raptors, or my tallgrass prairies, have to be told, to give encouragement and hope. . .

Keep in touch.


John A. Blakeman

From Aimee Van Dyne, one of the major organizers and protesters during our recent crisis:

Dear friends of Pale Male and Lola,

I'm sorry it's been so long since I've sent an update, but we've been waiting for some significant news to share with you. Unfortunately, we are still waiting. The good news is that Pale Male and Lola have been seen on the nest (usually once every few days) and are occasionally dropping twigs on the nest. However, we haven't seen any intense nest-building as of yet, so it's hard to know what to make of it all. Pale Male and Lola are still very much a couple, and their nest-building instincts usually don't kick in until late January/ February, so we continue to keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best. Both hawks are observed practically every day, hunting and visiting their usual spots, so that is also very good news. Many other red-tails continue to be spotted throughout the park, many bearing a striking resemblance to PM and Lola. For a more detailed account of their activities, visit

As all of you know, Lincoln Karim was falsely accused and arrested for crimes he did not commit, in an effort by Paula Zahn and Richard Cohen to intimidate Pale Male's supporters. Lincoln was suspended from his job, and is still awaiting his hearing. Although we are all hoping and assuming these charges will be dropped (the accusers have no case, and Lincoln has tons of evidence in his defense) we are still waiting. In the meantime, Lincoln has been suspended from his job at AP and is accruing heavy legal expenses. A legal defense fund and letter writing campaign have been set up in Lincoln's defense. If you would like to support Lincoln, please visit,, or for more information.

Thanks again to all of you who helped Pale Male get his nest supports back!


A New Letter From John Blakeman About Young Hawks


I read Lincoln's posting this morning on his website describing his sighting of another red-tail in Central Park. He recognized it as a young bird, but pondered whether it hatched in 2004 or earlier in 2003.

As a help in "aging" the red-tails now being seen ever more frequently in Central Park, I sent to Lincoln the following field marks. For those who see new red-tails visiting Central Park, here's how to determine their ages.

Birds in Their 1st Year (from fledging in Spring through the first molt in their second summer) -- These hawks look like red-tails, but don't have red tails. The tails are brown-banded, matching the brown color of the back. They also have very prominent dark belly bands, a belt of dark feathers across the abdomen. Their eyes are a dull, light yellow, never dark.

Birds in Their 2nd Year (after the second summer molt, before the completion of the third-summer molt) -- All of these will have a red tail (or a mixture of old, un-molted brown feathers flanked by new red feathers). But the eye color will vary from a slightly brown-tinged yellow to a slightly darker brown. The iris will never be completely, uniformly brown as in full adults. It wll be light-colored, but not as bright as first year birds. Yellow-eyed, red-tailed birds are always in their second year.

Birds in Their 3rd Year -- This is where it gets tricky. Third year RTs have the red tail, of course, and their eyes are dark brown, similar to fully-mature adults. But almost always the iris is darker brown at the top of eye compared to the bottom. Third year birds have a remnant hint of the immature yellow at the bottom of the eye. If you see a dark-eyed RT, but there is any variation between the darkness of upper and lower portions of the iris, it's a bird in its third year. These differences can be rather subtle, so take care.

4th Year and Older Birds -- These marvels always have uniformly dark irises. After the third year, it's very difficult to assess a bird's age. There is one field mark that we believe to be true, but don't have really good data on. Watch your birds and see if you see this phenomenon.

We see old, successful, mature adults sitting around the countryside that don't have the usual dark belly band. It appears that some, maybe most (but certainly not all) older birds tend to lose the dark feathers on the belly as they age, probably well after five years. Certainly not all adults lose the band as they age. I had a 16-year old bird who looked like she was in her fourth year.

Obviously, to properly discern iris coloration, one has to telescopically zero in on a perched bird. A pair of binoculars is often insufficient to separate third year birds from older ones. A spotting scope is best.

Hope this information is helpful.


John A. Blakeman

Here's a drawing I got off the Christo's website in 2003. It will give you an idea of the slabs and flags, and the intrusive nature of this art work.

1/14/05 --Reactions are beginning to come in about the Christo Project. Negative ones. Good.[See letter from Carol to the Christos, below]

I am in favor of letting Christo and the powers-that-be around here know that there are many people who disapprove of this "art work" in Central Park. Write to the CP Conservancy [though they seem to have had no choice] to the Parks Commissioner Adr1an Benepe, to the Christos, to the Mayor, etc.

However I personally feel it is far too late to try to organize any effort to keep it from happening. We tried in 2003 and failed. Now the heavy slate slabs with the bright orange markers are already in place throughout the park, hundreds and hundreds of them [thousands?] We already have a mini-Gates installed in our park. [Of course the real thing will be much worse.] It is an accomplished fact. A done deal. It's too late to stop it. So write letters. But save your energies for the future. You can be sure they will be needed.

PS This is my opinion only, obviously.

To whom it may concern:

I can not tell you how dismayed and alarmed I am over your decision to
display your flags in Central Park, where animals nest and find refuge,
not to mention the number of people who also look for relaxation in
nature's surroundings.

I will tell you that if you ever try set up this abhorrent thing in the
parks and wild lands of the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live, I will
do everything in my power to send an outcry to every organization,
public official, and newspaper, loudly objecting to this abuse of nature.

It is beyond description why this is happening in Central Park!
Obviously, none of the artists who dreamed up this project, or the
officials who approved it have any regard or appreciation of the
complexity of nature's surroundings and its wild inhabitants. Couldn't
you have chosen any place other than Central Park?

Carol T.

[Taken without use of artificial lighting]
1/13/05 -The Boreal Owl was seen this morning, at about 7:30, by the Early Birders. It was in the same Tavern on the Green area tree it has been roosting in for the last three or four days.

Are you wondering how a Boreal Owl ended up in Central Park? Here's a posting from Nina Dee on Eagle Chat, Alaska, a Birdingonthe.Net chat group: [Kind of amazing that they're talking about OUR owl in Alaska!]

By the way, the boreal owl in Central Park is one of many northern owls who have gone south this year. In Minnesota, according to one message by Jim Williams on Birdchat, "over 1,300 Great Gray Owls, plus several hundred Northern Hawk-Owls and Boreal Owls have been counted. Initially concentrated in areas north and west of Duluth and along the Lake Superior shoreline toward Canada, the birds are now beginning to spread to the south." Are they sure some of those owls aren't being counted twice?

p.s. I used to have boreals nesting in my woods in Fairbanks, and I miss them. There's nothing quite so tiny but big-eyed as a baby boreal owl.


1. Promote the welfare of birds and their environment.

1(b) TO AVOID STRESSING BIRDS or exposing them to danger, exercise restraint and caution during observation, PHOTOGRAPHY, sound recording, or
filming. . . .USE ARTIFICIAL LIGHT SPARINGLY for filming or photography, especially for close-ups.

1(c) Before advertising the presence of a RARE bird, evaluate the potential for disturbance to the bird, its surroundings, and other people in the area, and proceed only if access can be controlled, disturbance minimized.

Below is an earlier report of the owl's discovery in the park, posted here in December. It refers to the same photo seen to the left here, which was published in the NY Daily News:

12/31/04 -- Rare Owl in Central Park

A Boreal Owl, extremely rare for the area and never before seen in Central Park, was first sighted by birdwatcher Jim Demes during the Christmas Bird Count on December 19, 2004. It was perched in an evergreen just to the south of the entrance to the Tavern on the Green restaurant, a major tourist attraction.

He reported it as a Saw-whet Owl. [The Boreal and the Saw-whet are not dissimilar. They are both in the Aegolius family, though the Boreal [Aegolius funereus] is a bit bigger, and has a paler bill and some black outlining on its facial mask]. A bit later Peter Post, a highly accomplished birder, thought he'd go and photograph that little saw-whet. I can't quote here the expletive he emitted when he took a look at the owl and realized it was a Boreal. The Birders' Grapevine was activated,[Birders carry cell phones these days] and within minutes there were 25 people at the spot.

Since then the bird has moved to a Norway Spruce not far from that first location, but a little to the north [Birders' etiquette requires me to be vague about the exact location. People are protective of roosting owls. Daytime is their sleeping time, and they are vulnerable to disturbance. Being forced to fly in the daytime is highly dangerous to a small owl like a Boreal, which is only 10 inches tall.]

Ever since its discovery, the Boreal Owl has been attracting great crowds of visitors, for many of whom it is a Life Bird -- one they've never seen before. On December 20th, my first of many visits to this beautiful creature, I ran into Steve Quinn of the American Museum of Natural History. He is one of the best birders I know -- I often sign up for his Spring Migration bird walks -- and it was a Life Bird for him too! Needless to say it was for me too.

PS --As of January 9, 2005, the owl is still in the park, and remains in the general area of the Tavern on the Green.


A typical mid-winter bird report for Central Park, except for the last bird on this list. Yes, it's still here! [Someone e-mailed me this morning that she and her husband are flying in from Florida to see the Boreal Owl. Now that's a hopeful person.]

[Jack Meyer, by the way, who posted the list below on e-birds, is a daily Regular birdwatcher, and leads wonderful walks during the migration seasons. I'll be posting his schedule in a month or two.]

DATE: Wednesday, 12 January 2005
LOCATION: Central Park
OBSERVERS: Marty Sohmer, Jack Meyer

Mute Swan
Northern Shoveler (Several, lake.)
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Feeders.)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Azalea Pond.)
Downy Woodpecker (Feeders.)
Blue Jay
Black-capped Chickadee (Feeders.)
Tufted Titmouse (Several.)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Several.)
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco (Evodia Field.)
Common Grackle (Willow Rock.)
House Finch (Feeders.)
American Goldfinch (Many, feeders.)
Boreal Owl (1.)

1/11/05 - Hawk Sightings

One report of Lola at the nest site yesterday for a five or so minute stay.


Lincoln showed me a photograph of the nest site, taken, as before, from Bow Bridge [quite a distance away]. There seem to be a few more twigs in the photograph when compared with an earlier shot.

All these tiny bits of information give hope that the story will have a happy ending.

Photographer and Central Park Regular Ardith Bondi writes:

For all avid Pale Male followers, Barb Saunders and I watched Pale Male and Lola
hunting together in Strawberry Fields at 3:00 this afternoon. Even there they
attracted ample attention.

Lincoln Karim writes on his website that he has received two reports yesterday of seeing Pale Male on the nest with "something", probably twigs. I'LL KEEP YOU INFORMED OF ANYTHING NEW HAPPENING. OTHERWISE, NO NEWS IS STILL GOOD NEWS. THEY'RE AROUND, THEY'RE PAIR BONDING. THEY'RE GETTING READY.THE DAYS WILL BE GETTING LONGER SOON. Right now it's still dark at 7:00 a.m, so the Early Birders walking group has been meeting a half an hour later --- at 7:30 a.m.


A few days ago one of the Central Park hawkwatchers reported that she had seen Lola at the Azalea Pond with an immature redtail in close proximity who was "mantling" a squirrel [Mantling means covering the body of some previously caught prey with the wings] The hawkwatcher assumed that the bird was one of the young from the 2004 nest.
"How did you know that the immature hawk was one of the 2004 kids?" I asked, "Did you recognize it by some field marks?"
"No," answered the hawkwatcher, "But it HAD to be one of the kids because Lola tolerated it in her territory. I assume that she would chase away any unrelated bird."

I wondered what John Blakeman might make of this report, and asked him , by e-mail, whether it was odd to have one of last year's young still around in the Ramble at the beginning of January.
He answered that it would be highly unusual, even "weird", and the next day followed up with the letter below:


The chance that the recent immature is one of last year's offspring would be only that, pure chance – and rather unlikely.

There is no way that Lola or Pale Male could (or would) recognize the new bird as one of their progeny. Yes, that happens with social mammals, where parents imprint to the smells or other identifying clues of the young. But that sort of thing doesn't happen in hawks. Lola didn't fail to confront the new bird because she recognized it as one of her beloved offspring. “Belovedness” rapidly evaporates in mid- to late summer when eyass feeding behaviors are no longer hormone driven.

I believe I mentioned in an earlier note that RTs are famous for becoming slightly social in early winter, meaning that adults will allow other RTs, mostly unpaired young adults (“floaters” we call them) and first year birds to occupy prime winter hunting habitats.

I think that's what's being seen in Central Park. Lola just sat there while the immature mantled her catch. While doing so, Lola was looking around and she also had seen numerous rats and squirrels in the park. She was also completely fattened from abundant food that she paid no attention to the intruder. Remember, for a hawk, food is life.

In my Western studies in Nevada, raptor biologists out there have a wonderful habitat concept called the “raisin bread” theory. In early summer there are abundant ground squirrels that provide abundant food for nesting RTs. But mid-summer drought sends these mammals back underground to pass the drought in a hibernation-like state. By late summer and into the fall, there are few prey animals for the RTs to capture, and except for the very capable old adults, immatures get hungry (well, they start to starve) and that always compels young hawks to migrate.

But scattered across the Idaho and Nevada deserts are isolated desert marshes. In the raisin bread theory, these are the “raisins.” As the RTs (and others) encounter these islands of refuge, they drop in to hunt the abundant voles there. Hundreds of diurnal raptors can be seen at some of these in early winter.

The same phenomenon may occur at NYC. Central Park is a raptor raisin, a winter raptor food oasis, an area with a large, available prey supply within a larger region devoid of prey. This new intruder just happened to see the food, too, so she* decided to stay and take advantage of the mammalian offerings. Lola, fat as she was, paid no attention. This is rather common, as I said, at this time of winter.

But in a few weeks, that will change altogether. As the sex hormones take effect, Lola will not allow any intruder in her territory. It's always something of a spectacle in watching an adult resident drive off an intruding bird. There is seldom, if ever, any physical contact (an event falconers call “crabbing”). Usually, the adult simply flies over and displays her body in a way that is easily discerned by the intruder. The immatures almost always get the body language of the adult. If the adult lands nearby, she will bow her head and lift her wings a bit. This is called an intra-specific threat display, and the young bird recognizes instantly. It's the look every Catholic nun used to give errant 8-year old boys when they should have been doing their arithmetic lessons. The youngster responds rather quickly.

But the real story here is that Lola isn't making any threats. She's comfortable allowing the intruder her hunting discretions. This is further testament to the ample prey in Central Park. The pair produced two and three eyasses for nearly a decade. That, alone, indicates the large supply of food animals. Lola's seasonal disregard for this new intruder is another one.

I doubt that the intruder was a bird hatched at 927. And even if it was, the parents would not have recognized it as such.

Hope all of this brings some light.

(*The sex of unknown hawks are always female, a grammatical convention of falconers that extends from Shakespeare's time. The word “falcon” specifically applies to the female peregrine; the male is the “tiercel.” And in red-tails, 55-60% of fledged first year birds are females.)


John A. Blakeman


Just received this communication from hawkwatcher Aimee Van Dyne:

Hi Marie,

I just wanted to let you know that my friend Michael saw both Pale Male and Lola together on the nest today. They didn't have any twigs, but they both sat there for many minutes (after a few minutes, Pale Male flew away, but Lola was on the nest for a good ten minutes). It's a start!

Take care,

[I believe this is very good news. It indicates that they haven't abandoned the nest, always one of the possibilities if they find starting from scratch on bare spikes too daunting. Every sighting of the pair on the nest is GOOD NEWS. Bringing in twigs would be even better news. I'll be going over there this afternoon, rain or shine [it's pouring right now] and I'll see what I can see.]

Jan 4, 2005 ---NOTE FOR PALE MALE AND LOLA FANS: NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS! They're around, they're biding their time, waiting for the days to get longer. We'll get a better idea of their final plans in a few weeks.


In this fabulous picture taken by LINCOLN KARIM, you get the best view anybody will ever get of Central Park's rare new visitor, the Boreal Owl [Aegolius funereus] It has been moving around in the vicinity of Tavern on the Green since the Christmas Count. That was on Sunday December 19th. First reported by birder Jim Demes, it was subsequenhtly identified as a Boreal, not the somewhat similar but smaller Saw-whet Owl by Peter Post. For the last three days it has been roosting in a Holly near the restaurant. The best way to find it: look for a crowd of people with binoculars. This bird is a local celebrity.

Photo by Lincoln Karim
[Taken with long lens from Bow Bridge]

For those of you wanting to know what the new nest site looks like, with the architect-designed stainless steel structure to which the old spikes are attached, here is a fine picture. It doesn't look all that different from the old nest site, in my opinion. Only one thing missing, of course: the nest. Nest-building should begin at the end of January or beginning of February.

After receiving the correction from John Blakeman about my use of the word "mating" as a euphemism for the word "copulating, I e-mailed him back to say that I was just trying to be unnecessarily delicate, but that I knew what they were doing on the various rooftops and antennas of Fifth Ave. I also sent him a copy of Red-Tails in Love, which I began to realize he had not read. [It was never a book directed towards scientists, after all.]He wrote back the following letter, which I thought extremely thought provoking, and important -- a wonderful and profound letter:


I well understood that you (and most others) recognized the difference between mating and copulating. And I also understand the discretion that might be appropriate in presenting any of this to the public.

But given both the birds' profligate sexuality, and that contemporary uses of exact sexual terminology are not now so socially egregious, I think the public should be prompted to recognize the distinctions.

I say this because those of us who have worked with these nonsocial, solitary predators always marvel at their socializing behaviors when pair bonding. All of what you described, the vocalizing, sitting close together, and especially food sharing, are so counter to normal, day to day red-tail behavior. As both a falconer and a raptor biologist I get to see both a) normal hunting behaviors (in my hunting red-tail) that are solitary and decidedly nonsocial, compared to the b) social mating behaviors during the extended breeding season which has just begun.

I marvel at how the birds restrain their solitary and predatory behaviors when pair bonding. Red-tail copulation is interesting enough, but is not so remarkable as the complete turnaround in pair bonding behaviors. The public use of the two terms will prompt the hawk watching public to discern the importance of the bonding behaviors. It's important that observers not arbitrarily or casually ascribe human or mammalian explanations for any red-tail behaviors, especially the "lubby-dubby" behaviors that are now beginning seen. It's love all right, but very different from that of social predators such as dogs, or the ultimate primate, humans.

People need to understand that red-tailed hawks are altogether unique unto themselves. They are not a mirror or model of any other species. Their nobility is their own. And again, your book, I'm sure, has conveyed that. I look forward to reading it.


John A. Blakeman

1/1/05 -- 1:55 p.m.
Just received the following correction from John Blakeman, for the item just below. So much for trying to be lady-like and avoid using the word "copulation"! It's great to have a scientist reading my website! I promise to avoid Victorian euphemisms from now on.


Your New Year's Day note about the pair sitting next to each other, vocalizing, and sharing food, describe very normal behaviors for a well-bonded, experienced breeding pair at this time of the year.

You noted, quite accurately, that the pair will soon be "mating." But I think it's important to make a distinction between what we biologists would call "mating," and what the general public might regard "mating" to be. Biologists would presently regard the pair as "mated," meaning that they share the same territory, defend the territory, cooperate in building the nest, and participate in activities involved with rearing offspring.

The public, however, generally regards "mating" (as implied in your note) as copulation. As you know, red-tails can be promiscuously bold in their copulatory activities. The red-tail sex act takes only a few seconds, but it happens repeatedly during the prime sex-act days of February and March.

Hawk watchers need to distinguish between pair-bonding, the generalized, non-sexual "mating" of a male and a female, and specific copulation, the mounting by the male upon the back of the receptive female that produces fertile eggs.

We prefer to avoid the generic term "mating" altogether, and when appropriate, use "pair-bonding" and "copulating." Right now, the pair is strengthening the pair bond. Copulation will ensue in a month or so.

Indeed, these are "Red-tails in Love," encompassing all that that implies -- both long-term pair bonding and short-term copulation.


John A. Blakeman


I received the following report from Gloria Nissenson yesterday, and thought everyone would lick their chops just thinking about the delicious dinner. [Frederic is Frederic Lilien, the filmmaker of PALE MALE, who is shooting all the latest events for a new film]

By the way, the behavior described is a typical pre-breeding-season interaction between a pair of red-tails whose bond has not quite been renewed. She's top dog now, being bigger and stronger. As soon as the hormones fully kick in, a few weeks from now, he'll be bringing HER the rats, not begging to share hers. At that point they'll begin mating, and rebuilding the nest.

As Frederic left, Lola was sitting on a branch, having her dinner (of Central Park rat). We joined the crowd on Fifth Ave. to watch her.

A couple of minutes later, Pale Male flew to her side and sat next to her on the branch. The crowd was ecstatic to see them side by side.

He made constant noise, screeching at her.
They sat there next to each other for about 5 or 10 minutes. He never stopped making noise.
Finally, she flew away holding the dangling rat.

He flew off in the other direction.

12/31/04 -- Rare Owl in Central Park

A Boreal Owl, extremely rare for the area and never before seen in Central Park, was first sighted by birdwatcher Jim Demes during the Christmas Bird Count on December 19, 2004. It was perched in an evergreen just to the south of the entrance to the Tavern on the Green restaurant, a major tourist attraction.

He reported it as a Saw-whet Owl. [The Boreal and the Saw-whet are not dissimilar. They are both in the Aegolius family, though the Boreal is a bit bigger, and has a paler bill and some black outlining on its facial mask]. A bit later Peter Post, a highly accomplished birder, thought he'd go and photograph that little saw-whet. I can't quote here the expletive he emitted when he took a look at the owl and realized it was a Boreal. The Birders' Grapevine was activated,[Birders carry cell phones these days] and within minutes there were 25 people at the spot.

Since then the bird has moved to a Norway Spruce not far from that first location, but a little to the north [Birders' etiquette requires me to be vague about the exact location. People are protective of roosting owls. Daytime is their sleeping time, and they are vulnerable to disturbance. Being forced to fly in the daytime is highly dangerous to a small owl like a Boreal, which is only 10 inches tall.]

Ever since its discovery, the Boreal Owl has been attracting great crowds of visitors, for many of whom it is a Life Bird -- one they've never seen before. On December 20th, my first of many visits to this beautiful creature, I ran into Steve Quinn of the American Museum of Natural History. He is one of the best birders I know -- I often sign up for his Spring Migration bird walks -- and it was a Life Bird for him too! Needless to say it was for me too.

There is an article in this morning's Daily News about the owl, and it includes the same wonderful photograph by Lloyd Spitalnik you see to the left. You can probably find it on line, though I don't have a link yet.



12/30/04 -- 12:45 P.M. LAST MESSAGE FROM THE BATTLEFRONT [I hope!]


The scaffolding is down. Georgie is loading up the truck now. The engineer checked the work and approved it. Preferred does NOT need to go back to the building ANY MORE. The hawks are free to nest undisturbed, and now that the repair work on the roof has been done, there is no danger that they will be bothered by scaffolding during nesting season.






12/29/04 -- LATEST LETTER FROM JOHN BLAKEMAN, OHIO REDTAIL EXPERT responding to yesterday's happy posting about Pale Male and Lola bringing twigs to the nest.


Frankly, I’m not surprised at all to learn of the pair's initial refurbishing of the nest. From their viewpoint, the nest site has always been there, the ledge. The removal of the nest material, albeit alarming to us humans, was not a matter of distress to the hawks. Their nests are made of sticks that soon rot or blow away. Rural redtails have to rebuild or refurbish every year, most often in annually different or alternate nest sites. This pair saw the ledge still sitting there, and for them, the nest site was still there, too. They aren't engineers and have no understanding of whether or not the new nest twigs that are rather randomly dropped onto the site will ever coalesce into a real nest structure. They pretty much just drop some twigs up there just to see what will happen.

In rural tree nests they do the same thing. They throw sticks into a likely tree crotch, hopping that some will stick. When they do, they bring more sticks quickly. Finally, when they can land on the pile, they start to tuck new sticks with their bill sideways down into the pile. It's this action that binds the nest together. (Of course, if the entire nest were blown or dropped from the tree or ledge, the entire structure instantly dismantles into a cascading of scattering sticks.)

Right now, I wouldn't expect any serious nest-making activities. (But this pair has done several things I didn't expect, so what do I know?) For the nonce, until hormones really start to flow in late January and February, it probably going to be just a pile of sticks being loaded onto the center of the ledge. Things will get serious when a hawk is first seen squatting down on the pile and it begins to tuck twigs in sideways and form a real central bowl. The pair will need to bring a lot of loose bark and other lining materials to make a tight, warm nest bottom. But they've done that many times before and will do it successfully again, baring any unforeseen interruptions.

The nest-building activities right now, the bringing of twigs to the nest, are the exact equivalent of a young couple's bringing unpacked boxes and furniture up into their new flat. The unpacking and room arrangement will be a bit later. In fact, I wouldn't be concerned if the pair even apparently abandons activities at the ledge in early January. Nest refurbishing may take a break after the pair reaffirms that the nest site, per se, is in tact. As I've always contended, the real show starts in late January and especially in February.

And lastly, I'm certain that you are correct in contending that rats are a much more significant prey species than I thought. If you or other humans can ever see a rat in the day, a red-tail can see multiples of those. Their eyes and brains are finely tuned to the movements of small rodents on the ground. A red-tail will never miss even the twitching of a daylight rat's whiskers. And once a rat steps sufficiently away from cover, the hawk will nail it. Like it or not, the NYC Norway rat is probably as important as NYC pigeons in the presence of red-tailed hawks at Central Parks.

As always, I thank you for your inordinate efforts on behalf of this red-tail pair. Those efforts really extend outward to all of us who love this species. Things are, indeed, looking good.


John A. Blakeman


It began on a Tuesday and it ended on a Tuesday.

It was raining on Tuesday, December 7, when the nest was torn from its moorings and stuffed into two huge black plastic bags. Pale Male and his various mates had raised 26 young, [only three did not survive to fledge] in that stick palace for the last 11 years. Now it was gone. What was even worse, the anti-pigeon spikes that had served to anchor the nest's twigs were also removed, an even more shocking deed, because without the spikes there could be no nest-rebuilding.

Three wild, crazy, passionate, exciting, difficult, even dangerous and, for one of us, almost tragic weeks later, weeks of nightly protests, of countless newspaper and television and radio features all over the world [Le Monde called Pale Male and Lola Les Rapace de 5ieme Avenue] the last obstacle was removed.

It was a sort of platform window washers use, and that construction workers call by its official name, a swing stage. The workers of the Preferred Restoration Co. had gone up to the nest site in it to take measurements for the new construction that had been designed to hold the anti-pigeon spikes. Then the Champion Glass & Metal company workmen used it last Thursday to put the newly designed contraption back in place.

That work had been completed by 4 pm Thursday, December 23. But the swing stage was not removed at the end of that day. As the Champion workers [each of them a champion in my opinion] left, they said that they had been told to leave the swing stage up there because a final inspection had to be done on Monday.

A final inspection? Why not do it immediately? Or, at least, why not the next day? No, it had to stay up until Monday.

It was a difficult weekend. Saturday was Christmas, and Christmas can be difficult to be sure, with all those touchy relatives and overeating and toys that arrive without batteries. But that's not what was difficult.

The hawks curiously flew around their former nest site all weekend, attempting to land. But a big white sheet that advertised the Preferred Restoration Company had come loose at one end, and was flapping above the swing stage. In addition, some safety netting had also mcome loose, and flapped in a different place. No landing on the nest was possible.

Tom Berry, the site manager of the Champion Glass & Metal Co. nobly offered to drive in from Long Island on Sunday morning and do something about the flapping sheet. But he was refused entry by the building's super. He was following orders, of course, and your guess is as good as mine whose orders they were. It appears that one resident of the building had demanded an inspection, and that was to be done by James McCosker from the building's management company.

No inspection on Monday, although the Preferred Restoration workers arrived ready, indeed eager to take down the platform. The super wouldn't let them in. No, it was too icy at the nest site, they were told. Mr. McCosker was not a young man, by any means, and it would be too dangerous for him to do his inspection.

Calls were made, newspapers were called, a new protest was clearly in the making. Oh, the terrible power of a public outcry! I guess the one resident, whoever he was, coulcn't stand the thought. Or perhaps one of the other rich and powerful building residents like Bruce Wasserstein, talked him out of it.

Today, Tuesday morning, three weeks after that terrible day that the nest was so furtively removed, at about 10:30 a.m, the swing stage was lowered to loud cheers by a small audience of putative protesters across Fifth Avenue. No inspection was held -- someone, your guess is as good as mine who that someone was --relented. At last the new nest site, with its spanking-clean spikes [they were the old ones, freshly painted] was free and clear for the hawks to use.

Tuesday, December 28, was a clear, sunny and extremely cold day. The temperature was in the 20's. A few minutes after the platform was lowered, Pale Male and Lola landed on their former nest site. They held an inspection of their own. The new stainless steel contraption -- cradle, mesh, safety rails, whatever you want to call them, obviously passed this rigorous inspection. Fifteen minutes later they were bringing twigs to the nest.



Over the weekend a large white sign put up by the Preferred Restoration Co [obviously to use this opportunity to advertise] came loose and was flapping over the nest site. There was much anxiety among the faithful hawkwatchers, who saw Lola and Pale Male try to land on their new digs in order to inspect the strange new contraption that had been put up a few days ago. Now the huge white sheet deterred them. They hovered and then flew back to the park.

Tom Berry of the Champion Metal and =Glass Co, the foreman of the crew that installed the new nest structure and a hero in my estimation [I wrote about him and his company below] made a special trip to the building on Sunday, from his home on Long Island, to try to do something about the white sheet that his company hadn't even put up! I don't know what exactly he did but the situation improved. The sheet is tucked in somehow.

Now it is Monday. Everybody wants that platform down, to make the nest site finally available to Pale Male and Lola. So it's getting a little tense around here. Calls are being made to the NYC Audubon, to Preferred Restorations, to the Parks Commissioner, the Architect, the Mayor. People are unclear on what this last inspection signifies and who has required it. The building? The city?

Please be sure that MANY people are on the case. Even Mary Tyler Moore, with whom I spoke this morning. She'll see what she can find out.


So please don't worry quite as much. I'm getting many worried letters, and I'm sorry about your anxiety. I personally think we'll have a happy ending to this terrible-wonderful story!



Two days ago, on the glorious Thursday when the spikes were finally restored to Pale Male and Lola's nest site I spent four or so hours on the roof with a crew of workers, or I should say craftsmen, from Champion Glass and Metal Inc, the company that had signed on to actually construct the newly designed two part contraption. .

It was the company's owner, Ali Ghahremani, who was called on Friday, December 17th to see if he would take on the job. He made a quick decision: to drop everything else his company was doing and throw Champion's energies into helping Pale Male and Lola get their nest back. It was a brave decision, for the task was enormous, and the deadline was stringent.

The job: to take the plans [brilliant plans, I'd say] designed by architect Dan Ionescu and already passed by all the powers-that be from Audubon, the City, the Park, the Landmarks Commission, and to construct the structure out of stainless steel. Then it would be their job to bolt the 300 lb "Cradle" to the building wall and finally to attach on top of that the boat-shaped structure onto which the old spikes had been affixed.

[Mystery: After heartlessly removing the nest and spikes of Pale Male's 11-year home on December 7, why did the building management not throw away those spikes?
One possible answer: perhaps they hoped that once the hawks had resettled in some new home far far away from their unwelcoming building, the building would restore the old spikes back to their former place on top of the sad-angel ornament. Once again they would deter pigeons from desecrating it, [though surely not as well as the hawks had done.] Very rich people are often known to be thrifty, you know. How else did they get to be so rich?]

I am busy writing a new chapter for a new edition of Red-Tails in Love that will come out next April. It will tell of all the events of those sixteen days between the nest-removal and the final, triumphant nest-restoration. It will also describe in more detail the delightful hours I spent on the roof of 927 Fifth Avenue that rainy Thursday. I hope you will all have a chance to see it then.

But in the meanwhile, I want to wish a specially Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to those great guys who welcomed me into their work lives and impressed me with their skill, integrity, kindness to each other, and also, their joy at being included in this particular job. They had all heard about Pale Male and Lola. Now they knew they would be telling their grandchildren about their part in the drama some day in the far-off future. [Most of them were very young.]

So thanks to Tom Berry, the splendid leader of the crew [Project coordinator is his official title]. And thanks to 4 people who weren't on the roof that day but whose names Tom wanted me to include since they were just as important to the job as those men who were there: Ed Siolos, Vice President of operations for Champion, and the three men who turned the architect's design into a real thing at the Champion workshop in Deer Park: John Coahila, Fernando Garcia Gonzalez and Felida Diaz.

Thanks and Merry Christmas to Steve Goellner and Dave Townsend, who were down on the hanging platform hammering in the bolts, applying the epoxy, etc. for all the hours of the job. And remember, it was raining. I only saw them at the very end, when the scaffold finally was drawn up at the very end of the job and they climbed off it and onto the roof.

Thanks to Michael Aquilino, a glazier, who was perched on the roof's ledge just above where Steve and Dave were working, making sure they had everything they needed.

Thanks and Christmas cheer to Terrence Ripp and Jeff Crain, carpenters, who scurried around getting tools and equipment when needed and making sure everything was ready to be installed.

From another company, Preferred Restoration, present on the roof was Jimmy Kirwan from County Wexford --- he even told an Irish joke. Have a great holiday, Jimmy. It was fun shooting the breeze with you. Also there from Preferred, Justo Zumba.

Another contributor to the Pale Male & Lola Project was Felix Chavez, an artist and a specialist in art restoration. I never met him, but I saw the fruits of his labor: the fine paint job he did on the "Cradle" and especially on the spikes and their supporting structure. The paint covered up the stainless steel every part of the creation was made of. Somehow or other this artist made it look like it was made of basketry or wood.

And now my final thanks and admiration to John Flicker of the National Audubon Society who had played an important role in the crucial negotiations with the building management. And a loud, resounding Huzzah to E.J. McAdams , the young Executive Director of the New York City Audubon. E.J. donned an outfit of workmen's coveralls and a bright yellow safety harness. Then he climbed over the edge of the roof and descended to the waiting platform below.

He had with him a black plastic bag with the "starter twigs" for Pale Male and Lola, fresh twigs just gathered from a variety of trees in Central Park. They were all 12-14 inches long, the length redtails prefer.

Also included in the twig collection: two twigs from Pale Male's old 1993 nest that I had salvaged back in 1993 when the building removed the nest for the first time. A sentimental gesture.

I had given a bunch of them to Charles Kennedy, a Central Park Regular who was beloved by all. He was one of the main heroes of my book, and a hero in real life as well. The world knows him even better as a memorable figure in Frederic Lilien's documentary Pale Male that has been shown on the public television program Nature several times in recent weeks. Charles died of lymphoma just a few months ago.

His friend Lee Stinchcomb found the little packet of twigs in Charles' apartment after his death, and she gave EJ two of them to add to the starter twig collection. [My own twigs had vanished years ago.]

EJ climbed down to the newly installed Cradle and spike platform, deposited the twigs in just the way the various scientists had suggested, at random, with no effort at shaping into a cup shape. I nearly had a heart attack when I saw EJ disappear over the roof's ledge and I couldn't help hugging him with joy and relief when he hopped back to the roof in one piece.

I hope I haven't skipped anyone. But if I have, here's my excuse: It was raining so hard for all those hours that the ink on my notes ran and many of the pages stuck together. Some pages ended up looking like one big smudge.

So please forgive.

And to everyone who helped this story have a happy ending: Thanks. See you at the Hawk Bench next spring.

Dear friends of Pale Male and Lola

Briefly, I'm having trouble again with my Internet connection, and when I get to my website [which uses a sitebuilder, if any of you know what that is] I have trouble getting to this page. Now I've succeeded, so a quick message:


I've been writing about my experiences on the roof with a bunch of GREAT workmen from the Champion Metal & Glass Co. and Preferred Reastorations Co. I'll have to post that tomorrow or even the next day. But it was a thrilling experience, not only that the spikes were being put back, but to see these true craftsmen at work. I promise there's more coming about them, and about our hawk heroes.

I've received a few e-mails from anxious Pale Male fans. Where are you! Why don't you tell us what's going on? So this is my brief answer until I get my computer to behave again. Just posting this has taken me more than an hour.

Below, another fine letter from John Blakeman.

When I received John Blakeman's last letter about his conversation with Tess Parent, the Audubon scientist, I assumed he had been sent the plans. But just to be sure I sent him a link to a site where they had been posted. Here is his wonderful, comforting, optimistic response.


My wife and I were en route to Louisville when we were diverted by the extreme snowstorm that hit Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky two days ago. We were confined to a motel, with no access to the outside world. We escaped today, and I'm writing from my daughter's in Ft Wayne, Indiana. Thank you for getting the nest structure plans to me. This is the first that I've seen them.

In short, they are probably perfect, as good as could be designed. I'm very pleased with what I see. There will be no structural problems of any sort. The nest bowl can be effectively formed by the birds, and flights to and from the new nest will be completely un-hindered. It looks very acceptable.

Here's what I predict. If the pair chooses -- and I believe they should -- nesting should resume. I can envision the birds extending the sticks right to the outer edge of the new structure, which is now 26.5 inches from the building wall at the back of the nest. The birds will like this. Formerly, the nest was parked on a rather narrow ledge. Obviously, it worked. But from ledge nests I've studied in Nevada and Idaho, and from typical Eastern nest dimensions (up to 30 inches in diameter), the pair will delightfully extend the outer rim of the nest onto the new angled rods that point away from the building. And as hoped for, these rods will firmly support the nest, keeping it from falling over the front.

This is a very fine design. It will work. If the birds don't nest there this year, it's not because of this new structure. It will be for some other, unrelated reason.

I'm very pleased with both the materials and the design. For this site, for this pair, this should work.

But this should not be necessarily regarded as a model for any future nest structure for any other NYC or other urban red-tail nest. Pale Male selected this site for unknown reasons. As those who study Western red-tail ledge nests know, this nest site is much too high above the ground, and it is also on a rounded surface that slopes off precipitously on both sides. The narrowness of the "ledge" is not favorable. The new structure obviates that a bit.

But red-tails being red-tails, they frequently don't conform to the pronouncements of "experts" like me. That makes studying them so delightful. The birds so frequently come up with new and unique behaviors that allow them to succeed in ways never seen before. Red-tails seldom capture pigeons, but this pair has learned the feat well. Once, I found a red-tail that built a nest just 20 ft off the ground, with numerous more "perfect" nest trees nearby. The pair raised and fledged a pair of eyasses. So, red-tails are capable of many things not so commonly observed. Pale Male and his mates have shown that repeatedly. They should be happy with what they see when they now soar past 927 Fifth Avenue.

I will follow their nesting developments from afar, knowing that everyone has done all that could and should have been done. It's all now in Nature's Hands once again.

I thank you for your allowing me as a distant outsider to post my observations. My best wishes, once again, to all.


John A. Blakeman



12/23 [sorry, folks. My internet connection failed yesterday afternoon and I couldn't get on this site.]



[They look good. Because of the "cradle" supporting the new guard rails etc, the whole thing is now a little higher. From the picture the spikes looks a little closer to some jutting-out ornaments above. I hope this makes no difference. So many experts were consulted, I can't believe they would have passed on this if it weren't A-OK.]






{I haven't even had a chance to post a picture of the extremely unusual owl that has been roosting near Tavern on the Green since last Sunday -- a Boreal Owl.I'll do that tomorrow. If all goes well...]

To All Pale Male and Lola Supporters,

Your hard and relentless work has paid off--the masonry work for the new nest support was finished today and, assuming we don't have torrential downpours (which unfortunately is a possibility) the railing will be attached and all work completed tomorrow, as promised. Here is a note from the Audubon Society:

On Thursday, December 23rd, NYC Audubon will hold a final vigil to celebrate
the return of the spikes and welcome home Pale Male and Lola.
Come out and sing some songs hailing Pale Male to the tune of Christmas
We will also be saying a little thanks to 927 5th Avenue, since they complied
with the wishes of so many people.

TIME: 4:30pm-6:00pm (we can stay until 7:30)
LOCATION: 74th & 5th Avenue (park side)

Bring your candles, joyful signs, and umbrellas.

See you there,
NYC Audubon

December 21, 2004
More good news

From NYC Audubon, EJ McAdams:

I wanted to give you the latest update on the nest. Today I drove out with
the architect to Champion Metal Workers in Deer Park, Long Island to see the
structure. It is amazing: a perfect balance between the needs of the bird and the
needs of the building. (Design drawings will be in tomorrow's papers. And a
film of the design drawings will be on our website--if it ever downloads.)
Everything is on schedule and the structure should be up by end of day on Thursday.

More from tomorrow's NYT

[note: The nest has now grown from 200 to 400 pounds, you'll notice. I've
asked about the source for this ever-increasing weight. I'll let you know if I
hear back.]

The New York Times
December 22, 2004
New Aerie Is Readied for Fifth Avenue Hawks

A stainless steel cradle designed to support a new nest for Pale Male and
Lola, the red-tailed hawks of Fifth Avenue, is to be installed tomorrow on the
co-op building where the hawks' former nest was removed on Dec. 7, according to
the co-op's board and architect.

Naturalists and city officials yesterday praised the architect's design, and
the co-op's timing, saying the cradle could resolve a dispute that has
captivated bird lovers across the nation, while providing Pale Male and Lola with a
safe roost from which to hatch fledglings next year.

"It perfectly melds our concerns for Pale Male with the concerns of the
building," said E. J. McAdams, the executive director of New York City Audubon, who
joined the architect, Dan Ionescu, on a visit to a Long Island machine shop
where the framework was nearing completion late yesterday.

"We are all looking for Pale Male to come home for the holidays," Mr. McAdams

The new structure will incorporate steel pigeon spikes that were removed with
the old nest when it was hauled down from a 12th floor cornice of the
building, which is at 927 Fifth Avenue and overlooks Central Park at 74th Street. The
spikes had prevented the hawks' nest, which grew over a decade to a width of
eight feet across and to 400 pounds, from blowing away.

But the cradle also includes a guard rail and platform to prevent sticks and
branches from falling to the sidewalk, a hazard posed by the old nest,
according to some residents.

Mr. Ionescu, whose Manhattan firm was assisted by Beyer Blinder Belle, the
architectural firm responsible for restoration projects at Ellis Island and
Grand Central Terminal, said he and his staff had been working almost without
interruption since last Friday.

"We had to make sure the end result would be a cradle where Pale Male would
rebuild a nest, and that would assure the integrity of a landmark," he said.
The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission has already approved the design.

Mr. Ionescu said Audubon officials and naturalists had insisted that the
protective guard rails not prevent Pale Male and Lola from fully extending their
wings, which in Pale Male's case are more than four feet from tip to tip. That
is why the rails will be contoured along the arch of the 12th-floor cornice.

Adrian Benepe, the city's parks commissioner, also remarked on the timing of
the installation.

"I've been referring to it as a crèche," Mr. Benepe said.

But there is no assurance that Pale and Lola will immediately adopt the
cradle as a new home, Mr. McAdams said.

Nonetheless, both hawks have been sighted flying over Central Park, and they
show no inclination to go away. Mr. McAdams said they would have plenty of
time to rebuild before their annual courtship rituals, usually in February. Lola
typically lays her eggs in early March.

"We think the timing is perfect," Mr. McAdams said.

Below, a hawk story with a happy ending. Let's hope ours has one too. This article was sent to me via e-mail. I'm not sure whether it appeared in today's paper, or only in the on-line version. In any case, it makes reference to the Fifth Avenue Hawks.

December 22, 2004
A Happy Tale for the Birds: Wings Wide, Pierre Is Free

Not every red-tailed hawk is a celebrity.

Sure, there was quite an uproar in recent weeks when Pale Male and Lola, the beloved residents of a cornice on a luxury Fifth Avenue co-op building on the Upper East Side, were evicted.

But scant attention was paid last week when, about 100 blocks downtown at a decidedly less elegant location - above the chilly waters of the East River - a young red-tailed hawk was apparently attacked by a flock of seagulls and nearly drowned.

The hawk was rescued by police officers with the department's scuba team and taken to a Manhattan animal hospital, officials said. The officers named the bird Pierre because it was rescued near Pier 11.

A news conference was held yesterday morning in Forest Park, Queens, where the hawk was released back into the wild. Officers Charles Schnetzer, 29, and James Conroy, 40, both from Queens, were there to describe the rescue.

Around noon on Dec. 14, a group of seagulls attacked Pierre, leaving him fighting for his life in the river, the police said. He was spotted flapping in the water by officers patrolling the river by boat.

"We saw an odd-colored object in the water," Officer Schnetzer said. "We're used to seeing geese and seagulls, but this didn't look anything like that. I've never seen a hawk in the water. I didn't know about hawks until the whole Pale Male thing. Its wings were outstretched and it was flapping, trying to get out."

Officer Conroy added, "Someone came out of a building and said the bird was being attacked by the seagulls."

Several officers lowered an inflatable motorboat and used it to approach the hawk and throw a blanket over him to scoop him out of the water.

The hawk would probably have drowned if not rescued, said Christopher A. Nadareski, a research scientist for the city's Department of Environmental Protection, who was also at yesterday's ceremony.

"The gulls were either trying to get his food or just anxious because the hawk was in their territory," he said. "It was lucky the right people were nearby at the right time." Pierre was kept for a week of examination, he said.

"No obvious injuries were found," he said. "It was probably just in shock."

Mr. Nadareski said Pierre could not be released in the same area he was rescued because of the danger from the many Peregrine falcons that nest and roost on the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.

"With a young, inexperienced bird like this, there is a high probability it would have been attacked almost immediately," he said.

Forest Park was chosen because "we have 543 acres in the park and it's the largest stand of woodland in Queens," said Dorothy Lewandowski, the Queens borough park commissioner.

"We're hoping he stays in Queens," Ms. Lewandowski added.

Mr. Nadareski said he is an adviser to the architects hired by the East Side co-op building where Pale Male and Lola lived to design a support for a new nest for the two birds. (After the protests and media attention, the building's board met and decided to allow the hawks a chance to return and rebuild a nest there.)

Yesterday, Mr. Nadareski carried Pierre in a case with its air vents mostly closed off with duct tape so that the nervous hawk would not be ruffled by the camera crews, photographers and reporters hustling alongside of it.

"It's a stressful day," Mr. Nadareski said, as he carried the case to a snowy infield in the park, with a dozen cameras trained on him. "Not for me, for the bird."

Pierre was taken out of the case and Mr. Nadareski held him up and explained that the eyes and feathers indicated that he was probably hatched around April. He said he could not tell if the hawk was from New York City or would remain here, or even if it could be an offspring of Pale Male and Lola, for that matter.

He held the hawk up and said, "Sometimes they fall right back on the ground, but our hope is that he'll take off."

To help the photographers time their shots, he chanted "Three, two, one," and heaved Pierre toward the cold winter sky.

The hawk fluttered momentarily and then, revealing its majestic four-foot wingspan, flew off, dipping at first perilously low to the ground and then ascending high to a limb of a nearby tree.

Shutters snapped, shouts went up and a city official observed, "It's a big time for hawks in New York."

12/22/04 --- 2:20 pm
Please note that the vigils are continuing,4:30-7:30pm although no longer under the aegis of NYCA. They will continue until the spikes are up.

Here is yesterday's [12/21] Bulletin from NYC Audubon [EJ McAdams]:

Pale Male and Lola: The Wait is Almost Over

On Monday, December 20th, the project moved forward. The architect received
the final approvals and permits, and fabrication of the structure began.
Depending on the weather, the structure should be up on Wednesday or Thursday - just
in time for Pale Male and Lola to come home for the holidays.

When the safeguard structure goes up, it will have the spikes from the
original nest. In addition, biologists have advised NYC Audubon that twigs from
Central Park should be laid on top of the spikes to attract Pale Male and Lola,
and give them something with which to begin work, if they want.

This past Saturday marked the last of 12 NYC Audubon-lead vigils for Pale
Male and Lola. Thank you to the hundreds of members and supporters who stood out
in the cold and chanted "Bring Back The Nest," and to the thousands who sent
letters and emails, and signed the petition. Your overwhelming support of these
birds is directly responsible for the current progress on the project.

From an e-mail I received this morning from EJ McAdams, Director of the New York City Audubon:

I will go out today to check on the fabrication of the structure. Thursday looks like the day.


People have been asking me to explain why there's been such a powerful reaction to the removal of Pale Male's nest on December 7. People have also been expressing strong and violent opinions about the man most of us hold responsible for the terrible act, Richard Cohen, the chairman of the Board of Directors of 927 Fifth Ave.

Below is an article from this morning's NY Times that suggests an answer to the first question, and also points to the possibility of redemption when considering the perpetrator of the act. I hope Richard Cohen reads it. He probably doesn't look at this website, but like all New Yorkers he probably reads the NY Times at breakfast every morning:

December 21, 2004
The Strongest Force? Any Parent Can Tell You

What's the strongest force in the universe?

Some people will say gravity. But that would be wrong. Gravity, physicists say, is intrinsically puny and gets its overwhelming oomph only from the fact that everything, even energy, contributes to it. Which isn't much consolation, admittedly, when you drop, say, your trusty college edition of the complete annotated works of William Shakespeare on your foot.

An astronomer quoted in this newspaper a few years back said that jealousy was the strongest force in the universe.

Now we're getting closer.

I'd like to convince you, at the possible cost of my reputation as a cold-eyed observer of cosmic affairs, that it is love.

I learned this from a squirrel, some years ago, when I was living up in the Hudson Valley. An Eastern gray squirrel, Sciurus carolinensis, to be precise, since this is the science section. She was sitting on the corner of the roof in the rain, bedraggled and sopping wet, staring at me with holy fire in her little dark brown eyes.

This was on the third day of a siege of what had started as a nuisance and was now terror.

It had begun with an occasional scratching sound in the bedroom ceiling. Our first thought was mice in the crawl space running under the peak of the roof. But the only access was through vents at either end. Sure enough, when we went outside and looked up there was a hole in the vent. Some animal had chewed its way in.

It was the home of my girlfriend Catherine. She had built it only a few years before, slaving through the summers and weekends to do all the finish work with her own hands. She rightly felt violated.

We sent an S O S to her brother, who is a builder, and he came over with a 25-foot ladder, climbed up and announced that there was a nest of ripped-up fiberglass inside.

He nailed a new vent into place and went home.

And so we woke up the next day to the sound of chewing. The vent was just over the window and there was a squirrel spitting splinters as she tried to get in. We had nailed her babies inside.

We went out and threw stones at her. She retreated to a nearby tree and sat there squawking at us.

Maybe she will give up, we told ourselves, in a moment I'm still ashamed of.

She didn't. I went outside and stood in the rain looking up at the roof. The squirrel glared back down accusingly. I didn't have the heart to throw another stone at her.

"She's eating my house," Catherine said, giving me a look not unlike the squirrel's.

I slunk off and found a listing for animal trappers in the yellow pages. A tall guy I immediately nicknamed Daniel Boone showed up the next morning in a fur hat and knee-length boots. He climbed up the house with a long-handled net and quickly emerged with six baby squirrels. He set them in a trap in the woods near the house. They were spitting and growling.

He said, "Don't put your hand in," and went off for coffee.

As soon as he was gone the mother emerged from the woods. She scurried up the ladder into the house and then back out even faster, and ran through the woods up and down trees looking for her babies, winding up in the trap amid a renewed chorus of squawking.

Daniel Boone came back and took them away, he said, to new home in the woods on the other side of the Hudson. I have no reason to doubt his word.

We had to replace some clapboards and nail wire over the vent to prevent a recurrence of the invasion, and that was the end of it, sort of.

That squirrel's glare still haunts me. Especially now that I'm a parent myself.

In October, David Gross, a newly minted Nobel Prize physicist, wondered if science would one day be able to measure the onset of consciousness in an infant.

He likened that shift to what physicists call a "phase change," a microscopic adjustment that makes a macroscopic difference, as when water freezes to ice, or the atoms in a magnet line up.

But I wonder if we could measure the onset of love. Surely that is a phase change, too, a physical shifting of the internal firmament.

Now you might say I have some nerve imputing feelings as ethereal and high-flown as love to a toothy spitting pile of fur and bone with a brain the size of walnut - rats with a bushy tails, as squirrels are often called out in the unromantic countryside. Surely this is just another example of the kind of egregious anthropomorphizing that makes us identify emotionally with animals, robots, the Mars rovers, our cars.

But tell me you've never been taken in by a smile. Human love, biochemists say, is a sort of oxytocin drunk, an addiction to the hormones our partners, real or desired, release in us.

We anthropomorphize ourselves, in other words. Why not a squirrel?

As far as I know, we are both testimony to the marvelous possibilities inherent in the assembly of myriads of atoms. Richard Feynman, the iconoclastic Caltech physicist, once said that if he could pass one piece of knowledge on to future generations it would be that everything is made of atoms. He meant not to diminish "everything," but rather to ennoble and make us appreciate the talents of atoms.

In another twist on the subject of love and physics, three-quarters of a century ago, in 1925 to be exact, Erwin Schrödinger, an Austrian physicist, went off to a Swiss resort with a mysterious woman friend, and came back with an equation that describes matter as a wave spreading throughout all space. Schrödinger's equation is now the basis of quantum mechanics, which is the foundation of modern physics.

In principle, physicists like to say, Schrödinger's equation explains all of chemistry and thus all of life, including squirrels.

But when they say it, they mean it as a joke. The equation hasn't been solved except by numerical approximations for anything more complicated than a hydrogen atom - one proton and one electron. As for life, Joel Cohen, a population biologist at Rockefeller University, wrote in an essay in the online journal Public Library of Science Biology that entirely new realms of mathematics would be needed to cope with the complexity of the living world, but I think he's being optimistic.

As a glance at any morning's headlines will tell you, we understand next to nothing.

Or as the refrain to "Albert Einstein Dreams" by Naked to the World put it:

Just because I'm Albert Einstein doesn't mean I understand

The ever-expanding universe between a woman and a man.

If I knew, or had half a clue, I'd be much more famous than I am.

So I'm willing to believe in squirrel love. As for human love, I used to wonder if I had it in me to chew down a house. Until my wife, Nancy, and I adopted our daughter, Mira.

A baby sitter, whom we did not know well, disappeared with her for a few hours, and I rampaged through every store and playground on the Upper West Side only to have them show up back at the apartment on time wondering what the fuss was about.

So now I know.

A report from the Monday Rally and some important addresses and phone numbers: [From Aimee Van Dyne]

To all Pale Male Supporters,

Thanks to all the die-hards who came out in the cold Monday night to continue our support for Pale Male. We had so many people honking horns and making noise--I think the drivers in the cars wanted to give us their support when they saw how COLD we were!

We will continue our Rally for Pale Male on Tuesday, December 21, from 4:30-7:30 P.M. @ the corner or 74th street and 5th Avenue. The schedule for the rest of the week is:

Tuesday-Friday, 4:30-7:30 P.M. @ the corner of 74th Street and 5th Avenue

If we see that no work has been done by Wednesday, we are going to be furious! At that point, we may need to schedule rallies into the weekend. Please continue to show your support for Pale Male by contacting these people:

Mayor Bloomberg 311

Richard Cohen (Co-op Board President) 212-980-0090
Paula Zahn 212-275-8161
Jack Cafferty @ CNN:

New York 1 News 212-691-6397
CBS News 212-975-5867
NBC News 212-664-4444
ABC News 212-456-3173

Jonathan Klein, President CNN 212-275-7800
Princell Harr, Sr. Programming, CNN 212-275-7800



I just had a very useful discussion with Dr. Tess Present, Acting Director of Science, Senior Scientist, Ecology & Conservation Science, of Audubon regarding what steps should be taken when the new nest-supporting device is installed. (I did not ask when this would happen, but apparently it will go up soon.)

First, the nest-supporting structure will not extend above the finished nest rim. That was a major concern of mine. The birds will now be able to land and take off unhindered by any structural contrivance. This is very, very good news.

The other question was what should be placed in the center of the new structure, if anything, to lure the birds back. All of the Audubon consultants apparently agreed that it would be best to place typical red-tail sticks in the center. I concurred and stated that they should be about a centimeter in diameter (thickness of ones little finger) and about 16-inches long or so.

I also strongly recommended that no attempt should be made to “reconstruct” the former nest, that no nest sculpting should be done in an attempt to restore the former nest bowl. The better maneuver would be to randomly place a flat pile of sticks in the center of the structure about 4 inches deep. This loose pile of sticks should not be compressed or secured in any way. That's what the birds will want to do on their own.

The only purpose of the new stick pile is to let the birds know that sticks are now supported there. That's all that's required. No one has the furniture delivery men decide how the living room will be arranged. Likewise, humans in a scaffold many stories over Fifth Avenue shouldn't try to decide how the Pale Male pair will want their nest furniture arranged. Like all couples with a New York flat, Pale Male and Lola will decide for themselves exactly how the sticks, the furniture, should be arranged.

And I pointed out that no one should be concerned if the pair is seen throwing out the new sticks. Frankly, the pair may have a biological urge to select, gather, and return its own twig collection. If I were to see the pair tossing out the new sticks in January, I’d be very positive about what's going on. That would mean that the pair has absolutely reclaimed the nest site and they are getting ready for the real activities which begin in February and March.

There was a question as to what kind of sticks should be used in this initial stick “seeding.” The old sticks from the removed nest are apparently available. But I strongly urged that these not be used, for these reasons. The sticks at the bottom of the old nest have been in the weather for years and are partially rotted and weak. I've watched my research redtails build nests, and they become extremely frustrated when they have to use partially decomposed sticks that break when they try to plunge them into the expanding nest structure. Don't use any of the old sticks. Some might be acceptable, but many would not be. Let the pair select their own new furniture. They aren't hurting for nest material. They've got all of Central Park's trees to select from. We know that nest building is a sexual and pair-bonding activity, so even though the pair will have to work harder getting the nest prepared this year, the pair will only be stronger for it. To borrow a domestic phrase, ”It's a good thing.”

I made one point to Audubon that all nest watchers should be aware of. I will not be surprised at all if the pair actually abandons all nest activity in January. The pair might be seen sitting on some distant building or corner of Central Park, apparently oblivious to the new nest. It might appear that the pair has abandoned the 927 site.

But that's because January is the depth of winter. Biological nesting prompts are not yet very strong. In most wild rural redtails, we seldom see nesting activity of any kind in January at New York city's latitude (the same as mine in northern Ohio). But as the day's begin to discernibly lengthen in February, the pair's sex hormones will flow profusely, resulting in all the proper nest-building and breeding behaviors seen before. This is a successful, experienced pair. They know exactly what to do, and when to do it. Building a nest in December or January isn't biologically important to redtails. In February and March it is.

So we must be patient. The nest-holding device that will go up is very good. No concerns about that. A few proper sticks will be placed up there by humans, to let our famous pair know with certainty that another breeding effort at this site is possible. But the pair will do things in its own time frame, not ours. I see nothing else that could or should be done now.

Nest watchers may want to keep track of the pair's nest refurbishment. Rural birds rebuild frequently, and the speed with which they build the major nest structure is remarkable. The bare crotch of a big tree can be vacant one day in February, and in just two or three days a bushel-basket sized nest frame appears.

Then, the birds will bring smaller leaves and twigs to line the nest. This is crucial, a process that young, inexperienced birds often fail at. The nest bottom must be tight and draft-free. First-year nests are often wide open, with winds easily blowing through the sticks and fatally cooling the eggs. But this pair will take great care in forming a tight nest bottom.

Lastly, watch for either of the pair (but the male most often) bringing a fresh green sprig of some evergreen to the nest. Virtually all redtails do this, even those in desert regions. We have no understanding of why. But don't be surprised to see Pale Male bringing a green twig of a Central Park evergreen to the nest during incubation and for a week or so after hatching. The only explanation is that the aromatic evergreen twigs tend to repel arthropod pests in the nest, but anyone who's ever been in a redtail's nest knows that this doesn't work. The evergreen sprigs are a mystery.

Altogether, I’m satisfied that all will go well, that the pair will resume successful breeding.
And even if it doesn't, I still wouldn't be overly concerned if they take a year off. Producing three eggs and feeding three eyasses to fledging requires an enormously draining effort. It is not uncommon for rural redtails to skip a breeding year every now and again, so don't lose heart of the pair decides to sit out this season. And a new male or female could show up in the following year. This happens frequently, too.

I commend everyone for their concerns and efforts in bringing all of this to the best possible resolution. You have focused the world's attention on your famous pair, which has brought recognition to red-tailed hawks across the continent. If redtails were as uncommon as peregrine falcons or bald eagles, many more would appreciate this regal and noble species. Sadly, out here in rural areas, where a redtail can be seen sitting on a utility pole every ten or twenty miles, the species is too often taken for granted, even dismissed. But New Yorkers, like they do to everything else so fine in the city, have regarded Pale Male and Lola as a special treasure. We commend all of you for the preservation of this nest site and wish everyone the best hawk-viewing possible. Your redtails now belong to all of us.

My best wishes to all, especially to Pale Male and Lola.

John A. Blakeman, falconer, raptor researcher
Northern Ohio

DAY 13 OF THE HAWK CRISIS and counting..

12/20 --- From Jo Miller:

I've just spoken with AP Television News. The man I spoke with said letters in support of Lincoln should go to:

AP Corporate Communications
450 West 33rd Street
New York, New York 10001-2603

He said that there were a number of people who would be reading them (including Laurie Morris, with whom I've spoken). I though I'd hand-deliver the ones we've received, so that I can see that they get into the right hands and can follow up with those individuals after a few days.

If people want to send their letters directly to that address, that's great. Copies should also go to Lincoln's attorney. (I have not spoken to him about this, but I assume these character references can only help the case. I left a message at his office, and if he calls back and says to do something else with the letters, I'll let you know.)

Dino J. Lombardi
52 Duane Street
7th Floor
New York, New York 10007

12/19/04 --5:30 pm
Here's the latest bulletin from the frontlines, sent by E.J. McAdams head of the New York City Audubon:

I was in the architect's office today and he said (and Frederic filmed it) that the structure would be up on Wednesday, Thursday at the latest. The structure is being built right now. Tuckpointing should take a half a day and it will be done tomorrow or Tuesday, depending on the cold. I will put this all up on the NYC Audubon website tomorrow. Today I am going to shop for something for my wife.


At a Vigil for the Hawks,
the author of Red-Tails in Love
with Ciro, the young creator of a useful website --click on it here


They will forward them to the appropriate authorities, and to Lincoln's lawyer.


Someone with connections in high places told me that the Mayor wants the spikes back before Christmas. Hmmm.

The Rallies [as I call them; it's little more emphatic than Vigils] calling for a quick resolution of the Hawk Crisis will continue, but no longer under the aegis of the New York City Audubon. The new organizer explains:

"Although the Audubon Society is no longer going to be sponsoring or attending the vigils, they are still working extremely hard w/ the architects, co-op board, etc. to get this design pushed through. We are on our own in terms or organizing the vigils and keeping them going. Some people misinterpreted my last E-mail as saying that the Audubon Society is no longer involved, which is absolutely not true! The Audubon Society is still very much involved, just not with the vigils. I know they are truly trying to make this happen. I just think we need to keep the pressure on the building by continuing the vigils. Thanks.

Aimee Van Dyne"

Today 12/19] the Rally will be from Noon -4
Next Mon- ? [whenever the spikes are back] it will be from 4:30-7pm


12/18 FLASH!!!

YESTERDAY WE RECEIVED THIS ADVISORY - from Regina Alvarez of the Central Park Conservancy:

At approximately 8:45am this morning, a dead red-tailed hawk was found in Central Park near Pine Hill by a member of the public. The bird appears to have died of natural causes.

As per protocol, the bird was transported to a state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) pathologist nearAlbany, NY. The pathologist will identify the gender of the bird and the cause of death.


We have seen Pale Male and Lola since the
dead hawk was found. He and she are well.


At yesterday's rally, as I was expressing an opinion contrary to that of the rally's organizers, [see item below] one of the people in the circle around me exclaimed angrily "Are you going to harrass seven-year old boys too!!"

I was indignant at this comment. I realized that she, and many others there, had bought into the media's outcry about Lincoln Karim as a "stalker" and a "Child Harrasser". I know Lincoln well, and so do most of the people who were at the rally. His error, as he readily admits, was excessive zeal, of going too far in his passion for the hawks and inadvertantly frightening two children. Perhaps he needs a course in anger management. The idea that this man is a stalker and a child harrasser is absurd.

It is possible that the resident of 927 Fifth Ave. whose children were frightened by Lincoln's shouting and who pressed charges of stalking and harrassing, did not know him and was genuinely frightened [though I often wonder if the reaction would have been the same if Lincoln were not a large, dark-skinned man], but my fellow protesters at last night's rally should have known better.

I'd like to reprint here a letter from a teacher at the Nightingale Bamford School, an exclusive private school for girls in Manhattan where many Fifth Avenue residents, perhaps even some in the "Hawk Building" send their daughters:

December 17, 2004

This letter is in support of Lincoln Karim. Rather than put forth a set of opinions, I will just tell the story of my experiences with Lincoln.

I am a lower school science teacher at an upper east side girls’ school. I have been in my current position for seventeen years and, in that role, have had the good fortune to meet expert naturalists from time to time.

This fall, one of my student’s families suggested that I call Lincoln Karim in connection with our on-going studies in Central Park. We spoke several times resulting in a scheduled bird-watching outing.

I have never worked with a more generous, patient or thoughtful naturalist. The children responded to his kindness and expertise. He met us at school and walked us into the Ramble. As we came upon various animals (squirrels, ducks, sparrows), Lincoln pulled from his pockets the perfect food for that wild animals and showed the students how to feed them. We were having such fun that time got away from us. We wound up needing to cab back to school. Lincoln refused a reimbursement, explaining that it was his pleasure to help the students learn about the animals of the park.

Beyond that, Lincoln is an expert nature photographer. He gave each student a packet of 23 photographs of the animals they had seen. He also took a class picture that we have posted in our classroom. The look on the students’ faces explains without words the wonderful learning experience we had thanks to Lincoln’s patience and kindness. He is a natural teacher. We all learned so much that morning.

It was our good fortune to know Lincoln Karim. The animals of Central Park are much more fortunate than we.

Thank you,

Karen Dressner

Nightingale-Bamford School
20 East 92nd Street
New York, New York 10128

12/17/04 -- 6:30 pm

While most New Yorkers bustled around doing their last-minute Christmas shopping, a small group of disheartened birdwatchers and Pale Male admirers gathered at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 74th St., across the street from the building where Pale Male's nest once reposed, to take part in the New York City Audubon's daily Vigil. Though the media have been announcing for days that the Building has capitulated, that the spikes will be restored, that the little guys have won over the Billionaires, ten days have gone by since the nest and spikes were brutally removed, and the nest site is still bare.

No, not really bare. A scaffold [like the kind window-washers use] that had been put up two days ago to "take measurements for the guard rails and to make a template" is now positioned precisely at the old nest site. Why is it there, I couldn't help wondering, and not down at street level where I observed it on December 15?

Well, it's good PR for 927 Fifth Ave: "See, we're going to fix everything up! We've got the scaffold in place." But in fact, the platform up there with its ropes and hydraulic devices can do nothing but keep the hawks from perching there during the day, and from retaining some sense of ownership of the old nest site. It should be brought down to street level and left there until the time it is needed to restore the nest.

Ten days have gone by since the nest was removed. The endless procedures the building is demanding, for what I consider spurious safety and health reasons, seem too time consuming. The nest had been up there since 1993, and during those years it caused not the smallest bit of harm. The idea that the nest might fall down and hurt someone is outlandish. It is not like a super-sized robin's nest that is held together by mud. This nest is [or was] just a collection of individual twigs, each of which, if it were to fall, would slowly parachute to the ground. There is only the mild inconvenience of whitewash [i.e. hawk poop] falling on the building's spanking-clean awning. Guard rails? A catchment net for the negligible pieces of prey debris that might fall during the brief period there are young in the nest? These birds do not leave carcasses anywhere near their nest. They have evolved over the centuries to carry such debris a good distance away, in order not to attract predators to their nest site. What the building is demanding [and getting] doesn't make sense.

Now there are engineers who must approve the plans the architects are designing. And various experts to consult on whether these plans are suitable for the hawks. And of course the Landmarks Commission to be applied to for approval, since the building is in a landmarked Historic District. None of this would be necessary if the spikes were to be replaced in exactly the place they had been before their removal. It's so simple. That could and should have been done days ago, when everybody proclaimed that Victory is Ours.

Tonight the Audubon leaders [both of them my friends] sadly reported that the spikes would not be up until next Monday or Tuesday at the earliest because the building is "repointing the arch" or something like that. I didn't quite make it out. I clearly understood that the work would not begin until Monday.

The leaders begged those gathered there with their signs and candles to tone it down, to put away their Honk 4 Hawks signs. People in adjoining buildings were complaining about the noise. Most of the protesters complied. I'm afraid I did not feel like toning it down. I wanted to make so much noise that the Board members of 927 Fifth Avenue, sitting down to their elegant dinners, could not help but be reminded of what they had done. I felt like weeping and had to go home.

Here is my favorite article so far, and from Business Week, no less! Interesting to com pare it with the article directly below, another of my favorites, from the World Socialist Web.


DECEMBER 16, 2004

By Bruce Nussbaum

New Yorkers Hear the Call of the Wild

Let's hope the stormy saga of evicted Fifth Avenue hawk Pale Male reminds
city and country folk alike of nature's glories

Pale Male's New York saga appears to be coming to an end. The Fifth Avenue
co-op board that voted to remove the nest of this famous red-tailed hawk
from their building appears to have relented in the face of enormous public
pressure. It now says it will allow Pale Male and his mate, Lola, to
rebuild their digs.

I hope it isn't too late. The hawks have been desperately bringing twigs to
their cornice ledge for days, only to have the wind blow them away. The
building says it will replace the anti-pigeon spikes that anchored the
hawks' nest, and add a guardrail around the 12th floor window cornice to
prevent rat or bird carcasses from falling to the street. But after raising
23 chicks over 11 years at this fancy address, Pale Male may soon decide to
move on to more hospitable climes unless the building moves fast.

The saddest part of this whole spectacle is that the owners of these
multimillion-dollar apartments still don't get it. They may be Masters of
the Universe, but they can't see the beauty of the world. Red-tails are
fierce, free hunters, with wings that span four feet, tails that blaze in a
clear sky, and cries that pierce the air. Like bald eagles, red-tails
embody much of the spirit of America. Pale Male's decision to make the
cliff-dwellings of the Big Apple his home in 1993 was an awesome complement
to New Yorkers. He gave them a chance to observe a slice of raw nature up

CULTURE VULTURES. Many New Yorkers grew to love him. Birders, of course,
spotted Pale Male flying over Central Park, hunting for pigeons and other
small game. Children loved to line up at the many telescopes trained on the
nest to watch Pale Male and his mates raise their families year after year.
Watching small fledging hawks take that first jump and fly out of the nest
was awe-inspiring to these kids.

Yet for every wide-eyed child gaping in wonder at the hawks, many more
adults are blind to them. Urban Americans don't get nature. They see it as
messy, dirty, alien to them. City dwellers, historically, have been the
builders of high culture -- museums, symphony halls, libraries,
skyscrapers. They aren't taught very much about the wild in school, and
with the exception of summer camps, don't have much real contact with it.

But Eastern urbanites aren't alone in their ignorance of and even
antagonism toward nature. Go west to Texas and other states that have
frontier cultures and you find a similar desire to conquer the wild and
replace it with civilization. Westerners just put down ranches and farms
rather than put up skyscrapers.

You have energy people wanting to drill holes into every mesa, mountain
range, and canyon. You have loggers wanting to put roads into every
wilderness and cut down every big, old tree in every forest. And everywhere
developers are building on deserts or around lakes, on mountaintops and

RED, BLUE -- AND GREEN. The weird thing about the West is that, unlike
Eastern cities, it's full of hunters and people who love the outdoors. Yet
the urge to exploit nature rather than protect and enjoy it dominates
today's Western states. You could say that wanting to eradicate the wild is
one of the few things that blue- and red-state cultures have in common.

Yes, of course, this is an exaggeration. Plenty of birders, hunters, fisher
folks, hikers, skiers, runners, and others understand the majesty of
nature. Even in New York. The push-back against the titans of finance and
real estate who evicted Pale Male and Lola was surprisingly intense, and
perhaps successful.

I don't know if Goldman Sachs Chairman Hank Paulson, a birder on the board
of the Peregrine Fund, had a quiet word with Bruce Wasserstein, legendary
investment banker and resident of the Fifth Avenue building that took down
Pale Male's nest. But I hope he did. I do know that actress Mary Tyler
Moore and her doctor husband fought bravely against the eviction and led
the battle to get Pale Male and Lola back.

BIRD BY BIRD. Not much wilderness is left in America, not much of the
"wild" left to discover and enjoy. Easterners and Westerners alike are
destroying it. Pale Male reminds us all of what we're losing, what we'll
soon be missing. The fight for his nest is a battle worth having.

I've been birding in Central Park for a long time. I've seen Pale Male hunt
for game, court a mate, raise a brood, and dominate the sky on a cloudless
day. He is, in his way, a true Master of the Universe, and he should be
welcomed as one.

- - - - -

Bruce Nussbaum () is BusinessWeek's
editorial page editor .

ANOTHER FINE ARTICLE, this one from World Socialist Web
[This event may unite the most disparate groups! Both the Business Week article, and the WSW article see the event as a small part of larger social issues.

A New York City parable: Pale Male, the red-tailed hawk
By Clare Hurley
16 December 2004

In Aesop’s Fables and other parables, animal behavior serves as an instructive paradigm for human and social relations. The sly fox dies of thirst trying to reach the grapes, the overconfident hare loses out to the persistent tortoise, the shackled lion humbles himself to let the mouse gnaw through his ropes.

What lesson might be drawn from the story of Pale Male, the 10-year-old red-tailed hawk whose nest was removed last week from the façade of one of New York’s most fashionable Fifth Avenue addresses, touching off angry protests?

To the many hundreds of dedicated bird-lovers who come every year—not just from the local area, but from across the country and even around the world—to watch the hawk through their cameras and high-powered binoculars, Pale Male epitomizes the indomitable spirit of nature pitted against the urban environment.

They read human virtues into behavior that is for the most part instinctual—praising his unique personality, and exceptional parenting skills. One of Pale Male’s self-appointed guardians, Charles Kennedy, went as far as to say, “He is a good dad. He just is. He is the one we always wanted.”

The bird’s fans are undoubtedly moved by a wild animal’s mating and fledgling-raising rituals in the heart of the city, and they have made him famous. There is a best-selling novel about him, Red Tails in Love, by Marie Winn, under consideration to be made into a film by director Nora Ephron. Public television produced an award-winning documentary about him narrated by Joanne Woodward and based on Winn’s book. He even has own web site.

Whether they admit it or not, however, the subtext of Pale Male’s fame has as much to do with his audacious choice of an address as it does with his wildlife status. Apartments at 927 Fifth Avenue sell for as much as $18 million, and the building is home to some of New York’s richest and most famous. Among the select few residing there are actress Mary Tyler Moore (one of the hawk’s most ardent defenders), CNN newscaster Paula Zahn (who had a protester arrested for allegedly harassing her), and former Enron director Robert A. Belfer.

The bird lives there for free along with his mates and fledglings.

Or rather, lived, until the president of the co-op board and wealthy real estate developer Richard Cohen unilaterally ordered the nest removed last week. Residents had complained that the 8-by-3-foot nest overlooking the front entrance was too large, and that the hawks were swooping down on pigeons and rats, gobbling them up and hurling the remains on the sidewalk.

The irony seems lost upon most of these residents that what they find offensive in the hawks’ behavior bears a striking resemblance to their own social role. What about their oversized and well-feathered nests, which take up entire floors of the 5th Avenue building? As for unseemly predatory practices, the hawk doesn’t hold a candle to the likes of an Enron director or his fellow co-op owner Bruce Wasserstein, the Wall Street mergers-and-acquisitions mogul.

The hawks, at least, do their hunting to survive, whereas these multimillionaires carry out their socially destructive activities for the sole purpose of amassing ever-greater mountains of wealth.

Red-tailed hawks are rare enough to have been protected by a treaty signed in 1918 between several nations, including the US, Canada and Russia. A decade ago, an earlier attempt to evict the birds was blocked when their defenders invoked this international agreement.

Like the corporations that have been allowed to ride roughshod over environmental protection regulations in pursuit of profit, the multimillionaire co-op owners easily secured a “reinterpretation” of the treaty from the federal Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency ruled that the nest could be removed as long as it contained no eggs or chicks, giving the co-op board the green light to finally get rid of what it saw as a long-standing nuisance.

Now protesters dressed as birds and waving placards saying “Honk 4 Hawks” have mounted a vigil across the street from the elegant building. In an attempt to broker a resolution to the conflict, a meeting was organized between government officials representing another multimillionaire, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, environmental groups such as the New York City Audubon Society, and members of the co-op board.

The birders are insisting that the nest be restored to its original spot, 12 stories above the canopied entrance. In an effort to appease them, the building management is offering to spend $100,000 to build a platform and relocate the nest on the roof.

There is something obscene in all of this brouhaha. It contrasts starkly with the prevailing social indifference toward 36,000 people sleeping in New York City homeless shelters every night—while thousands of others make their own rather pathetic nests of cardboard boxes on the sidewalks until they are rousted by the police. No treaty protects them, and there are no protests when they are thrown out of their homes for not being able to pay the rent.

Not just individuals, but whole neighborhoods can be summarily evicted to build multimillion-dollar sports complexes and other high-profit developments. In one instance among many, a new arena for the Nets of the National Basketball Association, proposed in a lower-income Brooklyn neighborhood by developer Bruce Ratner, will most likely be built despite the protest of residents, who face the destruction of their homes.

So while the birders may see in Pale Male a model parent or a defiant force of nature, the controversy over his eviction tells another story. It is one in which a powerful and rapacious elite preys mercilessly on the poor and defenseless, indifferently casting their remains away when they’ve extracted all they could. That is the true parable of Pale Male and New York City, the capital of capital.

See Also:
The Scott Peterson case: a new American tragedy
[11 December 2004]

Top of page

The WSWS invites your comments.

Copyright 1998-2004
World Socialist Web Site


In a message dated 12/16/2004 22:01:47, a loyal friend, Jo Miller [] writes:

<< I spoke to Lincoln this evening. He's spending some time in quiet
reflection, he says, and is just as glad to be away from his job in
television for now (he's been suspended). He thanks everyone for
their continuing efforts on behalf of the hawks and for their well
wishes. He'll stay in touch but obviously can't be with us in person.

Anyone who knows Lincoln and wants to write a personal character
reference can send it to or
With the press painting a distorted picture of Lincoln as some
deranged stalker, it will help for his employer (and his attorney) to
have firsthand accounts of what the real Lincoln Karim is like.
Illustrative stories are a plus. Thanks.

Once again, either of the following will forward your letters, pictures, stories etc to Lincoln's lawyer and to AP officials:


12/16/04 -- Update On Lincoln and a personal note from me

Here's an item from this morning's New York Times, in a section called Metro Briefings
[This is a daily catchall of local news items in brief. The hawk story is no longer big time, now that they've announced a successful agreement that the spikes will be restored. Hmmm]:

MANHATTAN: HAWK PROTESTER IS RELEASED A man who was accused of harassing and stalking the television newscaster Paula Zahn and her family over her husband's role in the removal of a nest for two red-tailed hawks from an Upper East Side apartment house was released yesterday on order of a Manhattan Criminal Court judge. The man, Lincoln Karim, 43, was released on the condition that he not approach Ms. Zahn or her family and that he stay at least 1,000 feet away from their apartment house on Fifth Avenue. Richard Cohen, Ms. Zahn's husband, is the president of the building's co-op board, which decided to remove the nest, touching off a nationwide furor. Prosecutors said that Mr. Karim, a video engineer for The Associated Press who had made a documentary film about the hawks, apologized for yelling at Ms. Zahn and her children.
by Sabrina Tavernise (NYT)

Personal Note by MW: I spoke to Lincoln twice since his release. He is a bit subdued, but basically sounded philosophical. He said that throughout the ordeal he kept reminding himself that his lot was still better than that of the horses that pull carriages for tourists through Central Park.
But his job is in jeopardy at the AP. For now he has been suspended. For those of you who have any friends high up at the AP, now is the time to write letters vouching for Lincoln's character and stating your opinion that he meant no harm. That is certainly my opinion.

Now AN APOLOGY: I've got a pretty stringent deadline for a new Afterward for a new edition of Red-tails in Love that is coming out in April. When this crisis began I scrapped the version I had almost completed. I plan to tell this story instead.

But I have to get to work and stop running around Fifth Avenue flapping my red wings as a "Red Hawk" nee Cardinal. I hope someone comes along to spearhead a letter-writing campaign for Lincoln. And perhaps someone will help organize a Legal Defense Fund.

Meanwhile I hope everyone keeps coming to the Vigils until we see the spikes in place. I am turning off my e-mail connection for most of the day, finding a red-hawk replacement and going back to my quiet life as a writer. [I'll check my e-mail at the end of each day. If you want to take charge of any initiative to help Lincoln, please e-mail me and put I VOLUNTEER in the subject line.]

I'll be back soon, and if something exciting happens, I'll post it immediately.

Warm regards to all supporters and thanks to the hundreds of you who have written me. I've tried to answer all mail, if only with a word or two.

Yours, Marie

PS Pale Male and Lola are still sighted in the park every day.

News Catch-up on the Nest-Removal crisis:

LINCOLN KARIM: Yesterday at about 4 pm, just a few minutes before I arrived at the rally to flap around in the red bird suit, two plain-clothes officer arrested a beloved member of our hawkwatcher community, Lincoln Karim. They handcuffed him and took him off in an unmarked black car.

Lincoln is the guy with the huge, the humongous black telescope with video-screen many of you have seen at the model-boat pond. For the last three years he has been following the comings and goings of Pale Male and his various true loves, taking fantastic photographs many of which appear on this website.

Lincoln gives out pictures of the hawks to children, and answers the endless questions people see fit to ask. [Why are you doing this? How much does this telescope cost?etc.] In fact, the answer to the first question is easy: Lincoln loves these birds, especially Pale Male. He considers the light hawk to be "the perfect creature on earth."

Lincoln takes groups of kids from local schools for walks in the park, pointing out birds and always keeping an eye out for Pale Male. He also protects the ducks and ducklings that live in the model-boat pond. If you saw a specially built platform in the south west part of the pond where the ducklings took refuge every day shortly after they hatched, that was built for them by Lincoln.

Lincoln was especially distressed by the destruction of Pale Male's nest on December 7 [a date that shall live in infamy]. He held every resident of the building [except Mary Tyler Moore, his friend and an indefatigable defender of the Fifth Ave. Hawks] responsible for the nest's removal Often he would shout "BRING BACK THE NEST" whenever he saw people emerge from 927 Fifth Ave. In fact, all of us shouted the same many many times. But Lincoln shouted louder, more angrily. And on several occasions came too close to one of the building's famous residents, Paula Zahn, as she was walking with one of her kids. The child was frightened by the angry tone of voice, something I know Lincoln never intended. He only wanted the nest restored. But a complaint was filed, leading to the arrest yesterday

I went down to the 19th Precinct stationhouse nearby [on 67th St bet. 3rd and Lex. with another very famous resident of the building, Mary Tyler Moore. I have come to know her over the years, thanks to the Fifth Avenue hawks. I once appealed to her in desperation when the nest was threatened, and she has always been an ally and a stauch defender of Pale Male.

She and I and her husband Robert Levine [a cardiologist] thought we could see Lincoln and let him know that his friends were supporting him. Unfortunately they didn't let us in to see him, but an officer, last name Lynch, promised to deliver Lincoln the message. I could see that many of the policemen clustering around recognized Mary Tyler Moore, and I hoped this would help Lincoln in some way.

He was photographed, fingerprinted, etc. at the 19th precinct, kept there for a few hours, and then sent down to 100 Centre Street, near City Hall, where he would be arraigned before a judge and then released on bail. That was supposed to happen at 10 am this morning. It was postponed until 2 pm.

Filmaker [Pale Male] Frederic Lilien, another friend of Lincoln's, is down there at this moment with bail money, He will help Lincoln get home. Lee Stinchcomb, and other friends are there too.It is now 2:30 pm and I know cell phones are not allowed in the courthouse. So I'm still waiting to hear. We hope this story has a happy outcome. In the meanwhile, there will be a LINCOLN KARIM DEFENSE FUND people can contribute to. This will be announced soon on this website.


An agreement was made yesterday between the building management and the various Audubon Societies assuring that the spikes will be restored. [LOUD CHEERS.]It is now a matter of time. We want to make sure that the spikes are restored WITHOUT DELAY. Indeed, ropes and a scaffold are already in place at the building, and it looks like action is imminent. However, the platform went up today for the purpose of measuring--it appears that the building insists that a guard rail and some catchment device for keeping debris from falling from the nest. [LOUD SIGHS-- VERY LITTLE DEBRIS FALLS FROM THE NEST]

Maybe the spikes will finally go up tomorrow, But until that moment, in spite of big headlines proclaiming victory for Pale Male and Lola, our vigils across the street from the Hawk Building will go on.

Keep tuned.

PICTURES FROM RALLIES BELOW [Including an author you know in a "hawk costume"]

12/14/04 -- Below, today's story in the New York Times.

I'm a bit sorry I sounded so cynical when I was quoted. Yet I'm sincerely afraid that people who could do such a heartless and arrogant thing as take down an active hawk nest [Believe me, they knew it was active!]can't really be trusted to do what they say they'll do. But public pressure like the rallies might do the trick that reasonable negotiations will not:

Birds' Nest Will Be Saved, if Co-op Architect Says Yes

December 14, 2004

A baronial Fifth Avenue co-op building at the center of an
uproar over its destruction of a red-tailed hawks' nest
last week agreed yesterday to try to help the hawks rebuild
in the same spot overlooking Central Park - if an architect

"We had a very constructive meeting," said John Flicker,
president of the National Audubon Society, who, along with
three Audubon colleagues and city and state officials, met
for 90 minutes with the president of the co-op's board, its
management agent and a building engineer.

"It's a much better situation today than it was yesterday,"
said Mary Tyler Moore, a resident of the co-op, at 927
Fifth Avenue, who has joined bird lovers and naturalists
from across the nation in protesting the hawks' eviction.

Still, the negotiations yesterday, part of which took place
on the roof of the 74th Street co-op as the most famous of
the Fifth Avenue hawks, Pale Male, circled overhead,
provided only a first step toward ending a conflict that
some say requires speedy resolution.

"Good progress doesn't sound good enough to me," said Marie
Winn, a Manhattan author whose 1998 book on Pale Male and
his offspring was the basis of a public television
documentary. (Channel 13 in Manhattan said yesterday that
it had scheduled a rebroadcast of the film tonight at 8.)

Ms. Winn was among more than 100 protesters who gathered
opposite the co-op building yesterday afternoon, as they
have for days - chanting, encouraging drivers to honk their
horns and creating a ruckus rarely seen along one of
Manhattan's most elegant residential streets.

"I have suspected all along that what the co-op wants is to
stall just long enough so the hawks will leave," she said.
"And that could happen any day."

The saga of Pale Male and his mate, Lola, who have fed
happily on pigeons and rats in Central Park, reproduced
prodigiously from their roost above a 12th-story cornice,
and ultimately captivated the attention of much of the
city, came amid unavoidable questions of what the hawks
themselves will choose to do.

"We haven't been able to talk to the hawks, and they may
have their own plans," said Adrian Benepe, the city's
commissioner of parks, who attended the meeting yesterday
at 927 Fifth Avenue. Nonetheless, he said the negotiations
had yielded "good progress from the point of view that the
building really isn't legally obligated to do anything."

Besides Ms. Moore, residents of the co-op include the
newscaster Paula Zahn, whose husband, Richard Cohen, is
president of the board; Bruce Wasserstein, the Wall Street
dealmaker; and several other executives at the highest
levels of finance.

Before the hawks' nest was taken down last Tuesday, some
residents had complained that the birds left the bloody
carcasses of their prey on the roof and sidewalk, and their
nest created a safety hazard as parts of it fell to the
sidewalk, threatening pedestrians.

The nest was built in 1993 by Pale Male, who foraged twigs
and small branches from Central Park and assembled them on
a network of metal spikes that had been placed on the
12th-floor cornice to discourage pigeons. The spikes, which
were also removed last week, had the unintended effect of
holding a red-tailed hawk nest measuring eight feet across
in place for a decade.

Mr. Flicker said a central question addressed at the
meeting yesterday was whether the spikes would be restored
so Pale Male and Lola could rebuild in the same place, or
whether a new platform or box would be constructed and
provide a sturdy base for a new nest on the co-op's roof.

The Audubon Society officials insisted that the spikes be
restored, and that anything else would be inadequate. Their
position on the arcane question of how to provide a safe
habitat for red-tailed hawks at the center of large city
was buttressed by experts.

The neoclassical 12th-floor cornice adopted by Pale Male,
despite its ornate acanthus leaf detailing, made it "a
classic red-tail cliff site," which resembled the hawks'
habitat in the Western states and was far more attractive
than tree limbs or a wood platform, said John A. Blakeman,
an Ohio biologist who has researched the habitats of hawks
and falcons.

"They will absolutely reject a box," he said.

to Mr. Benepe and Mr. Flicker, Mr. Cohen seemed agreeable
to returning the metal spikes to the cornice. They said
participants in the meeting saw clearly that the hawks were
trying to rebuild, since they had left several twigs and
branches on the cornice, even though the foraged material
would be blown away in a strong wind.

But they said Mr. Cohen insisted on consulting the co-op's
architect before making any commitment. No deadline was
set, and no follow-up meeting was scheduled.

"This needs to be done promptly," Mr. Flicker said. "The
longer you wait, the longer the risk to the birds."

"We wanted them to say the spikes will go up," Mr. Flicker
said, adding that he hoped hear the co-op's decision in the
matter today.

Yesterday, Pale Male and Lola were a clear presence over
the east side of Central Park, circling above the co-op and
the park's picturesque model-boat pond and, in Lola's case,
casually devouring a pigeon on a tree limb as dozens of
bird enthusiasts looked on.

Ms. Moore, who has shed the retinue of agents, public
relations specialists and others who normally surround
celebrities in proclaiming her support for the hawks,
emerged from 927 Fifth Avenue to answer questions from

"I just want to make sure that they take into consideration
what the birds' instincts are going to be," she said.

"I don't object to anything," Ms. Moore added. "I don't
care if they hang a nest from my living room window, that's

"I just want those hawks to be back in their natural
habitat and be peaceful."

Janon Fisher contributed reporting for this article.


Come to the Vigil tonight, 12/14,from 4:30 to 7:30. and for the rest of the week,

Come whenever you can. E-mail your friends to come. We need big crowds to show the building we're never going to give up.

As soon as they restore the spikes and allow Pale Male and Lola to proceed with their re-building of the nest, we'll be gone. We promise. [That bird suit is hot and heavy! -- see below].

This photo was taken at the Noon-5 Rally across the street from the Hawk Building on Dec 11th.
I'm the red "hawk" on the left in front. [OK, OK, I know it's a cardinal but that's all the costume shop had for rent.] And introducing a new character to my website, Allan Miller, my husband. He's holding up the big HONK 4 HAWKS sign behind the other bird, my friend Rebekah Creshkoff. [She's appears in Red-tails in Love too. Look her up in the index].

You can get an idea of the extent of Saturday's [12/11] rally here. I'd say there were 300 people there.

Here's today's [12/11/04 story from the front page of the Daily News:

A word before reading the article because the situation is more complicated than it seems. Most of us are opposed to the idea of putting up a nesting box on the roof. For one thing, the building's super, Hugo Navarette, lives in a small penthouse on the roof, and having the hawks coexit on the same level with a human is dangerous for both, but especially the human.

We believe there is absolutely no advantage, either to the hawks or the building, to provide any other nesting site than the one they originally chose, the one above the middle 12th floor window, and under the great cornice protecting the nest from storms coming from the northeast --the prevailing storms that hit New York City.

The nest in its former location has posed no hazard whatsoever to passerbys below. That is an obfuscation -- a smoke-screen sent up by the building management. No one has ever been hit by sticks falling from the nest --- sticks dont really fall out of the nest; they are tightly wedged in. They have long wanted to get rid of the nest --we know this from Mary Tyler Moore and other building sources.

According to a conversation a few hours ago with E.J. McAdams, president of New York City Audubon Society [NYCAS], he now agrees that the restoration of spikes to the original nest site is the only plan NYCAS will support. If the spikes are restored, we are confident the hawks will rebuild.

There is a meeting planned tomorrow between various Audubon Society officers, park officials, a representative of the Department of Environmental Protection [DEP] and the management of 927 Fifth Avenue. There is talk that Richard Cohen, head of the building's Board of Directors, will also attend. This meeting is what the News article mentions. We are more than eager to hear the outcome of that meeting. If the building is merely stalling for time, hoping that if the process takes long enough the hawks will relocate, that should become quickly apparent.

New York Daily News -
Wing and a prayer

Saturday, December 11th, 2004

Pale Male soon could be flying home on the wings of victory.

A deal is in the works to return the red-tailed hawk and his mate to their posh perch overlooking Central Park, the Daily News has learned.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other bird protectors expect to meet with the managers of 927 Fifth Ave. next week to discuss building a sturdy rooftop roost for the hawks.

The co-op board tore down Pale Male and galpal Lola's nest from a 12th-floor cornice on Tuesday, claiming it posed a safety hazard.

But now building bigwigs admit they may have mishandled the eviction of the longtime tenants.

"We did not fully appreciate the importance of these birds to the people in the city," said co-op board president Richard Cohen, a developer married to CNN newswoman Paula Zahn.

The decision to dismantle the nest was made at the building's annual meeting - which Zahn did not attend - after an engineer reported it had gotten too large and could fall.

Managers got permission from the feds to take down the aerie, since there were no hatchlings in it, but feathers still flew over the avian eviction.

Bird watchers have been holding nightly protests in front of the building, and actress Mary Tyler Moore, who owns an apartment there, has pledged her support.

Meanwhile, Cohen, Zahn and other residents are feeling the heat.

"There have been death threats," Cohen complained. "I have a 7-year-old son, and people were running up to him and threatening him and yelling at him, 'Bring back the nest!'

"There's enough angry, mean people out there who are making it miserable," he added.

Cohen said he's open to letting the celebrated birds take up residence at the building again, as long as it does not compromise safety.

The city's bird experts believe they have a solution: a rooftop tower, set back from the edge of the building so there's no danger of falling debris.

But they need to act fast.

"You need to do it early enough in the winter to allow them time to attach to the nest before courtship and nesting," said Chris Nadareski, a research scientist with the city Department of Environmental Protection.

Even if a rooftop enclosure is built, there's no guarantee Pale Male and Lola will flock to it, but their fans are hopeful.

"He's very territorial," New York City Audubon Society Director E.J. McAdams said yesterday. "He's going to stay in this area."

That was certainly the case yesterday, when Pale Male roosted on the 12th floor of 920 Fifth Ave. and Lola settled in atop 930 Fifth Ave.

Those who have heard about the homeless hawks' plight stopped by Central Park to peer through binoculars at the city's most famous birds.

"It's really sad," said Sylvia LeBlancq, a consultant who lives in lower Manhattan. "I wish Pale Male would move by us. Any building should be proud to have him as a resident."

LOLA LEAVING THE FIFTH AVENUE NEST [a few months before its destruction]
Photo by Lincoln Karim

TODAY AND TOMORROW, [12/11 AND 12/12, THERE WILL BE A RALLY IN SUPPORT OF OUR CAUSE:to impel the management of 927 Fifth Ave to restore the spikes on the building, so that the birds can rebuild their nest. Pale Male and Lola are trying to rebuild, bringing sticks to the former nest site,but without the spikes the twigs blow away.]


FROM 4:30 - 7:00 PM


No Fighting the Co-op Board, Even With Talons

December 11, 2004

They gathered on Oct. 19 for a ritual known to thousands of
New York co-op owners, the annual meeting. The board
president, Richard Cohen, and his wife, the newscaster
Paula Zahn, threw open their second-floor apartment
overlooking Central Park for the occasion. Quickly, the
discussion focused on a huge and untidy red-tailed hawk,
known famously as Pale Male, which had been nesting on the
building's facade for a decade.

The building, 927 Fifth Avenue, is among the city's most
sumptuous - apartments behind the neo-Italian renaissance
facade occupy entire floors, or two, and are worth well
over $10 million. The roughly 10 people at the meeting
included Robert A. Belfer, the founder of Belco Oil & Gas
and a former director of the Enron Corporation; Dr. Robert
Schwager, a plastic surgeon with offices on the ground
floor; and Dr. Robert Levine, a Manhattan cardiologist who
is married to Mary Tyler Moore.

Some shareholders had long complained about Pale Male and
his mate, Lola, whose nest of twigs and small branches had
grown to eight feet across a cornice outside the building's
12th floor.

The hawks were hardly hygienic, preying on pigeons and
rats, sometimes dropping bloody carcasses on the roof or
sidewalk. And bird watchers were constantly looking up with
their cameras and high-powered binoculars.

The nest, board members said, had to go. There would be no
vote among shareholders. Several people familiar with the
discussions said it was Mr. Cohen who had headed the
effort, even though his wife had once proclaimed her
affection for the birds on television.

The building's management company, Brown Harris Stevens
Property Management, had warned of a public backlash. "We
told Richard it would be extremely controversial," said
Noreen McKenna, a Brown Harris Stevens agent who serves as
secretary to the board.

The story of Pale Male, how he came to live at one of
Manhattan's most exclusive addresses and then was sent
away, is one of wealth and fame meeting nature and
instinct, of an obscure international treaty researched and
clarified, and of anger among those who live in an elegant
building where, Ms. Moore now says, relations have become

Pale Male had adopted Central Park as his home and feeding
ground, had prospered for 11 years, siring 23 hawks, and no
one knows whether he will rebuild a nest and stay, or
simply fly away.

At the very least, his predicament serves as a reminder of
an immutable force, perhaps peculiar to New York City: the
power of a co-op board.

At the meeting, Dr. Levine stood up to object, but not on
his own behalf.

"Dr. Levine was vocal," recalled Dr. Schwager, who
described the Oct. 19 meeting. Neither he nor Dr. Levine is
on the board. "He said, 'I can tell you categorically that
Mary Tyler Moore is opposed to this.' "

Dr. Schwager joined in: "I said 'This will cause a major
commotion in New York if you do this.' "

Both doctors were right.

Since workers removed the nest
on Tuesday, dangling on a window-washing platform and
shoving Pale Male's carefully foraged twigs into garbage
bags, the building has been the focus of searing anger from
those around the city and nation who saw the hawk as an
emblem of raw nature and perseverance in a densely
populated urban setting. Bird lovers have camped outside,
held vigils and chanted in anger, occasionally joined by
Ms. Moore.

Both Pale Male and Lola have been observed circling their
cornice, and landing with bits of twigs and tree branches
in what appeared to experts on the ground as a futile
attempt to rebuild. Their nest-building may be stymied
because metal spikes that held their previous nest in place
have also been removed.

Mr. Cohen, a real estate developer, spoke publicly about
the matter for the first time yesterday and defended the
co-op, on the corner of East 74th Street. "Every year this
became more problematic," he said of the nest, calling the
decision the result of a consensus and flatly denying he
had railroaded it through.

He called the eviction a "last resort" and said that board
members believed the birds would thrive elsewhere, and
quickly. "It takes a week to 10 days to rebuild a nest.
Trees fall in nature. They lose nests. They are resilient

Also yesterday, Maureen Wren, a spokeswoman for the state
Department of Environmental Conservation, said the agency
was working with the New York City Audubon Society to
protect the hawks and determining whether any state laws
had been violated.

The Audubon Society said that the co-op board has agreed to
meet with it on Monday to discuss options. Possibilities
include replacement of the spikes on the ledge or the
construction of a platform elsewhere on the building's

Last night, about 40 hawk supporters gathered in the rain
bearing photographs of the hawks and a placard that read
"Honk 4 Hawks." Ms. Moore, whose apartment is for sale for
$18.5 million, was skeptical about the prospects for an
amicable resolution. "These are not reversible type
people," she said of her fellow apartment owners. "They
just don't want the birds here."

Said Dr. Schwager, "This building is unbelievably
conservative and reserved. I think, should we all buy
lottery tickets, there is a better chance we would win."

The eviction of Pale Male was long in coming, and had been
tried once before. The hawk's longevity in his co-op nest
was due primarily to a federal environmental treaty, signed
by the United States, Canada, Russia, and other nations in
1918, that was intended to protect the habitats of several
species of migratory birds, including red-tailed hawks,
from poachers who sought birds for food or for their

The treaty, administered by the federal Fish and Wildlife
Service, was invoked in 1993 when the board of 927 Fifth
Avenue removed Pale Male's nest for the first time. The
removal came only months after the hawk had built the nest
on his 12th-floor cornice, and his mate at the time had
tried unsuccessfully to hatch eggs.

Marie Winn, a bird watcher and author, whose 1998 book
about Pale Male and his offspring, "Red-Tails in Love,"
became the basis for a public television documentary, was
one of those who jumped to the hawks' defense in 1993.
"They put up a scaffolding and took the nest down in a
plastic bag," she said. "I got the workers to hand it over
to me. I put in my bicycle basket, and took it to a secret
place in the park."

Then, she said, she contacted officials of the Fish and
Wildlife Service, who concluded that removing the nest
violated the 1918 treaty.

The federal agency "put fear and trembling into their
hearts" at 927 Fifth Avenue, Ms. Winn said. Board members
at the co-op "promised to never remove it again, although
they have always wanted to," she said.

Their opportunity arrived in April 2003, when the federal
agency issued what it called a "clarification" to the
migratory bird treaty. Instead of a complete ban on the
removal or destruction of nests, it said the nests were
protected only when they were being used to hatch or raise

The law "does not contain any prohibitions that applies to
the destruction of a migratory bird nest alone (without
birds or eggs)," said a memorandum spelling out the rule.

Federal officials said this week that the clarification was
intended to ensure that different species are treated
uniformly, and some of the birds, like robins, simply
abandon their nests after their chicks are raised.

On Dec. 9, 2003, Ms. McKenna submitted an application, with
photographs, to the Fish and Wildlife Service to remove
Pale Male's nest. "The nest has caused deterioration of the
building's canopy from bird droppings," she wrote. "In
addition, the hawks bring live prey to the nest where it is
killed and torn for feeding." She said the result was a
danger of contamination, Lyme disease and West Nile virus.

The application included a report by James E. McCosker, a
building engineer who inspected the building. He described
the nest as "massive," and said it posed a danger to
pedestrians because it was directly above the building's

"This ain't a regular nest," Mr. McCosker said in an
interview. "How would you like to have a bird's nest 8 feet
long and 3 feet wide overhanging the edge of the building
by a foot?"

On April 30, Fish and Wildlife Service officials responding
in writing, saying that no permit was needed to remove the

"We had no knowledge that this was a famous pair of birds,"
said Diane Pence, the chief of the agency's division of
migratory birds for the northeastern states, in an
interview on Thursday.

"It was just an address in New York City to us," she said,
but added that the position of the agency would not have
been different if the nest was in a less prominent

Then came the October meeting, and finally, on Tuesday,
workers came to take the nest down.

Lincoln Karim, a 43-year-old engineer who has been among
the most diligent bird watchers in tracking Pale Male and
his offspring (at the Web site, said he
saw it happen at 2:30 p.m.

After workers hung a window-washing style rigging from the
roof of 927 Fifth Avenue, "I thought maybe they were
checking masonry." he said. "Then I saw they were taking
the nest down and putting it into garbage bags."

He added, "I thought, 'I'm going to climb up ropes. I'm
going to stop them.' But I looked up and saw the nest was
gone. It was just gone."

Other than Ms. Moore and Dr. Schwager, residents of the 11
apartments in the building have declined to be interviewed,
among them Bruce Wasserstein, the Wall Street deal maker,
and Ms. Zahn, who had referred to Pale Male in a 2001
segment of "The Edge with Paula Zahn," on Fox News Channel.
She was interviewing two naturalists, one of whom commented
on the problems associated with people feeding wild
animals, and Ms. Zahn seemed eager to offer a glimpse of
her personal life. "Well, guess what lives on my building,
you two, a red-tailed hawk," she said. "It eats rats and
pigeons on our block."

"I like the hawk," she said. "I am just not going to feed

But these days Pale Male is a sore subject among the
residents of 927 Fifth Avenue. Mr. Cohen said Ms. Moore had
not even mentioned the hawk when they had a friendly
conversation at a recent party. She said she had been too
upset to talk about it. The topic is largely off-limits
when residents cross paths, she said. "We are playing the
game of the elephant in the middle of the living room."

Janon Fisher contributed reporting for this article.



The following url [YOU CAN'T CLICK ON IT. PLEASE COPY AND PASTE}is available to anyone wishing to send comments to
Paula Zahn at CNN. Those reading newspaper stories regarding the
destruction of the Pale Male nest will recall that Zahn's husband,
Richard Cohen, is the head of the co-op board at 927 Fifth Avenue.
Mary Tyler Moore has been quoted to blame Cohen primarily for the
removal of the nest.

COMING SOON: What you can do, who you can write in protest, etc. I'll keep you posted about what's going on in NYC.

For the moment, here's one thing: if you live nearby, come to our vigils across the street from the Hawk Bldg., at 5th Ave. and 74th St.
Tomorrow and Sunday, noon to 5pm
Monday and Tuesday, 12/13 and 14: 4:30pm -7:00pm

12/10/04 -- A great article and Summary of articles from former NYC Parks Commissioner Henry Stern
[Note: The links did not come through here, somehow. But you can easily find the articles by going to each newspaper's or magazine's website.]

The following is Henry Stern's newsletter:

The Arrogance of Wealth:
5 Ave Coop Evicts Hawks
After 11 Years on Ledge;
Pres. Cohen Won't Talk

By Henry J. Stern
December 10, 2004

Most of you know by now of the destruction of the nest of the red-tailed hawk,
Pale Male, and his mate, Lola.

For eleven years, the hawks had nested on a ledge on the 12th floor of 927
Fifth Avenue (near 74th Street). They raised their offspring there, bringing
food to their chicks until the young ones were able to go out on their own.

The hawks became popular figures. The idea of wild birds surviving in a most
urban environment captured the imagination of adults and children all over
the world. Books and articles were written about the hawks, a film, "Pale
Male," was made, and another movie is on the way. Sightseers traveled long
distances to get a glimpse of the striking birds and their unusual habitat.

A few days ago, all this was destroyed by a contractor at the order of the co-op
board. The pigeon-repelling spikes that had secured the nest were removed.
After finding their home gone, the two adult hawks circled the wreckage,
bringing twigs to try to rebuild it. But without the protective spikes, the twigs
were blown away.

To put it mildly, the public and the press were distressed. A New York
Times editorial sums up the case for the red-tails in persuasive prose. We cite
its closing lines: "The hawks have gone out of their way to learn to live with us.
The least the wealthy residents of 927 Fifth Avenue could have done was
learn to live with the hawks."

The Daily News' editorial (scroll to third editorial) came in the form of a letter
from Pale Male. Link to it to get a bird's eye view of the problem.

"We have heard all sorts of explanations as to why we were forced into the
ranks of the homeless. We suspect it was simply that our snooty neighbors on
Fifth Ave. were offended by our bodily functions and the occasional pigeon
tartare that would fall to the sidewalks."

Here are links to this week's stories, editorials and columns about the birds'
plight. It is interesting that everyone who has written on the subject appears to
be on the side of the red-tails. No one stuck up for the board's action.
* Times: "New York Celebrities Evicted on Fifth Ave., Feathers and All," by
Thomas J. Lueck, 12/8, ppB1, 3; "Newly Homeless Above 5th Ave., Hawks
Have Little to Build On," by Thomas J. Lueck, 12/9, ppB1, 11; "Squatting
Rights," editorial (cited above), 12/9, pA40

* Post: "5th Ave. roost roust," by Gersh Kuntzman, Braden Keil and Letitia
Rowlands, 12/9, p2; "Poultry 'in motion'," by Mark Bulliet, Braden Keil and
Heidi Singer, 12/10, p10; "Pale Male dealt a nesty blow," by Dr. Keith L.
Bildstein, 12/10, p11; "Flip the bird to Paula and the rest of those hoity-toity
residents," column by Andrea Peyser, 12/10, p11. Her column is exquisite; far
more pointed than what we have written.

* News: "Homeless hawks: Booted from 5th Ave. nest," by Austin Fenner and
Tracy Connor, 12/9, p3; "Beyond the pale," editorial (cited above - scroll to
third editorial), 12/9, p54; "Suite Revenge," by Austin Fenner and Tracy
Connor 12/10, p6

* Sun: "Fifth Avenue Hawk Loses Nest," New York Desk, 12/8, p5; "Bird
Lovers Chant For the Return Of Hawks' Nest," by Richard Pyle (AP), 12/10, p2

* Newsday: "City Hawks evicted from Fifth Avenue nest," by Richard Pyle
(AP), 12/7, not published, on website; "NYC Hawks Seek Nest Workers Took
Down," by Verena Dobnik (AP), 12/8, not published, on website

Our feelings on this matter are strong. The people who live in this luxurious
co-operative are among the most privileged in the city. They should thank
God for their wealth and good fortune. They should not destroy the home of a
living family of another species.

A sad aspect of this case is the absence of any sense of shame by the co-op
residents or board. Their chairman, Richard Cohen, refuses to speak to the
media. Even though his wife, Paula Zahn, is a television reporter, he holds
himself above the press, and feels no need to explain his board's action. His
distinguished surname, Cohen, signifies descent from a priestly caste. He
does not live up to that fine name by his apparent disregard for living
creatures. Fortunately there is still time to correct the problem, and we
urgently hope for peace for both the hawks and the tenants.

The co-op's lawyer, Aaron Schmulewitz, said that the co-op's engineers found
the nest was "a hazard that probably violated city regulations." No city agency,
however, appears to have complained about it.

The charge against the hawks is that, after they finish eating, they drop pigeon
carcasses on Fifth Avenue (heaven forbid). The building is well-staffed with
doormen — can't they remove the dead pigeons?

Technically, the building's action is within the law. It would have been against
federal law if it had been taken while the chicks or eggs were within the nest.
But late fall is not the season for reproduction, so there was a window of
opportunity for the unscrupulous board to destroy the nest.

Nonetheless, it is against a moral law — that we should care for less fortunate
creatures and have reasonable regard for other forms of life. And moral law
does not change with the seasons. In the case of Pale Male and his mate,
the two red-tailed hawks have brought pleasure and pride to so many New
Yorkers and visitors from around the world, that the wanton destruction of their
home by a bunch of selfish millionaires is a disgraceful act. (We know they
are millionaires because of the value of their apartments, not counting their
other real estate, stocks, bonds, fine furniture, jewelry and cosmetics.) These
people have been blessed in life. For their representatives on the board to
display the selfishness and insensitivity we have seen this week is living proof
that material wealth and kindness to others are qualities that are often poles

A well-known tenant in the building, Mary Tyler Moore, has spoken out
against the board's action. "I can't imagine the lack of empathy that exists in
these people's hearts," she said.

We call on city officials and people of conscience to express themselves on
this matter. We believe that most New Yorkers feel that what has happened
here is a sin, or at least a trespass, against nature. Anyone who wants to go
on record with those sentiments, or the opposite viewpoint, is invited to e-mail
us, and we will report on how you feel.

Our hope is that, in this holiday season, the directors of the co-op will soften
their hearts and allow these distinguished residents of 927 Fifth Avenue to
resume their peaceable occupancy. Let their fine building be a shining
example of peace between species. Let 927 symbolize kindness, not cruelty.


“On December 7, 2004, at about 3 pm, Brown Harris Stephens, the building management of the Hawk Building, [927 Fifth Avenue] removed Pale Male’s nest from its twelfth floor ledge. They also removed the spikes once put there to deter pigeons, the spikes that were crucial for keeping the nest’s twigs in place.

“The nest has been there since the spring of 1993, although it was removed once before, in August 1993. At that time the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service informed the building that removing a nest of any native American bird was a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and that the building’s owners could be fined or jailed.

The spikes were left in place when the nest was removed that time. The hawks rebuilt the nest in 1994. In 1995 they raised their first chicks. To date they have raised 26 babies in that nest; all but three of them fledged successfully. For 11 years he Migratory Bird Treaty Act protected the nest from depredation.

But today the U.S. F&WS interprets the law differently. In a memorandum [MBPM-2] issued on 4/15/2003, they now declare that a nest can be legally removed without a permit just so long as it is inactive, when there are no eggs or birds in it.
For most songbirds that would cause no harm. Their nests are not reused. But everybody knows that the Fifth Avenue hawk nest was still active in the winter of 2004, though it was too early for eggs or chicks. The hawks had nested there for eleven straight years, and were often seen checking it out and bringing an occasional new twig.

We must fight to right this terrible wrong. Surely the removal of the nest was illegal under the law, even with the new interpretation! But if we can't condemn these heartless people in a court of law, at least we can shame them in the court of public opinion. We’re hoping we can do both.”


As you're casting your eye around Pale Male's known hangouts on Fifth Avenue rooftops -- the Nest Bldg, of course, the Octagonal Bldg, the Stovepipe Bldg, Linda's balconies 1 through 6, even the Carlyle tower, you may be missing one of his favorite spots -- immortalized in the picture above by Pale Male's greatest fan, Lincoln Karim. [He's the owner of the huge black telescope with a video screen you'll often see at the Model Boat-Pond.] The new hangout: a super-tall crane behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Our hero is the gleaming white shape at the top of the criss-cross beams, a bit obscure in the reducted picture to the left. In the real photo --ask to see it when you run into Lincoln, or click on the link to Lincoln's website below -- the hawk is spectacularly visible!

Lincoln Karim's great website
Just in case you thought Pale Male's fans were all bipedal, a photo taken on 12/3/04 by LINCOLN KARIM, the owner of the gigantic telescope seen almost every day at the Model-boat Pond, proves otherwise.


The following essay was written as a class exercise by one of the students I took to see the feeders being filled on Tuesday, November 9. [See report below]. I wanted to include it on my website not only because it says such nice things about me [Though of course I liked hearing them] but because his reaction to the park moved me. Here's what I wrote to him:

Dear Sang Hyuk,

I liked your paper "Returning to Childhood Once Again" very much. It is so informative and accurate and so filled with enthusiasm and genuine emotion. The ending brought tears to my eyes. That is one of my goals as a writer, to restore in my readers, even for a brief moment, some of the wonder and curiosity of childhood. Thank you for writing such a fine paper. With your permission, I would like to put it on my website.

Yes yes yes, he replied by e-mail. So here is Sang Hyuk's paper:

Sang Hyuk, between teacher Naomi Machado, and me, is second from the left

Returning to Childhood Once Again

by Sang Hyuk Kim

November 9th, Tuesday, we went to Central Park with Marie Winn, who is a journalist and the author of the book, Red-Tails in Love. It was great that I could spend time with a person who has had an impact on other people in New York though her writing. Marie Winn was such a kind and warm person. And also I learned a lot of things from her enthusiasm and love of birds and Central Park.

I met Marie Winn about ten minutes earlier than my other classmates. Even though I had not intended to arrive earlier, certainly it was an advantage for me because I was able to talk with Marie Winn and the regulars who come to Central Park every Tuesday to feed birds in the Ramble. The regulars comprise mostly elderly people who have retired from their work and seemed to find fun volunteering such as feeding birds in the park. Commonly, young people such as students can’t come to Central Park at eleven in the morning. The regulars gave me a big smile, and asked me about our class. They were especially interested in the fact that all my classmates were reading the book Red-Tails in Love. Their attitude was so amiable, so that’s why I felt comfortable with the regulars although I only met them for the first time when Marie introduced me to them. And also Marie looked very excited about meeting our class and having a chance to share her knowledge about what goes on in Central Park. Then, when the class arrived, she fulfilled her expectation of meeting with our class through greeting the students one by one. After she listened to all of our names, we were able to move into Central Park.

When we were moving toward the Ramble, all of a sudden, Marie pointed out one of the trees that was planted right beside the path. She said that the tree would be the sanctuary of a long-eared owl soon. Marie said that one day she saw the owl that had really long ears like a rabbit. Actually, they are not ears even though they look like ears. They are feathers. She said on weekends, a lot of Bird-Watchers and photographers hang around there to see the long-eared owl, and Marie imitated what the long-eared owl did last time. She closed her eyes, and then half opened her right eye, and moved her head from right to left and from left to right very slowly. I could not help myself and I burst out laughing when I saw long-eared owl Marie. In addition, she mentioned her next book, about Central park in the night. Of course, the long-eared owl’s story will be one of most important parts in the book. I’m already looking forward to reading her new story about what is happening at night in Central Park.

Both Marie and we were very talkative while we were going to the Ramble. We continued asking questions curiously, and she continued explaining willingly. Near the Ramble I could see a group of people who were talking to each other and were busy doing something. They were the Regulars who I had met before my class arrived. They were preparing to feed the birds in the Ramble. At that time, when I saw that each person held plastic bags, I didn’t realize what they were for. However, I understood as soon as I met them again at the feeding station in the Ramble even though I was surprised by what they brought. The bags were for the birds. The regulars carry the birds’ lunch to the Ramble every week. After we exchanged short greetings with the Regulars, we made our way into the Ramble.

The Ramble is a kind of mysterious place. Everyone says that it’s very easy to get lost in the Ramble, and that is obviously true. I have been to the Ramble several times but still I was not used to recognizing a direction there. I fact, I failed one hundred percent trying to find the right direction in the Ramble. I always came out from the Ramble where I did not want to be. I wanted to go to the northern side through the Ramble, but I always found myself next to the Boat House. What a tricky place. There are both possibilities; one is that I have really bad sense of direction and the other is that the person who made the Ramble is a really smart person. There is another funny joke about the Ramble that Marie told: there are a lot of gay people in the Ramble, especially, at night. So at night, that area is very dangerous especially for males, and usually women say that they can protect straight men because at least gay men are not interested in females, so it is safe for women. I was laughing, but I determined not to come to the Ramble again by myself.

When we arrived at the feeding station, there were some people milling around there. Some were taking pictures, and some were preparing to feed the birds. They brought three or four kinds of seeds, and fat. “Is that fat? For birds?” was my reaction. In fact, I was really surprised by what they brought. Because giving fat to birds seemed totally weird for me. What kinds of birds like to eat fat? Even though one of the regulars said that woodpeckers like eating fat, I was half in doubt about that fact. But it was true. Over and over, woodpeckers’ coming to have some fresh fat for lunch convinced me that the regulars never told a lie. The regulars started to work filling up the feeding bags with seeds, and putting the fat in the knitted baskets. I was impressed with the tools such as a pole that is for taking the feeding bags off the trees and putting them back up, and feeding bags that are made of many different materials, such as empty plastic containers, and netted narrow bags. The amateur inventors made all that equipment to feed birds with love. I was able to watch many kinds of birds that didn’t care how many people were at the feeding station. The feeding station was a convention center for representatives of humanocratic and bird-blican parties.

Something happened in the Ramble that hadn’t happened for 25 years. I had never seen a woodpecker in the wild before I saw one in the Ramble. When we went to find the old feeding Station, unbelievably, the woodpecker appeared right under my nose. It had a really clear red-color head, and it was much bigger than I had imagined. Marie said that that was a Red-bellied Woodpecker and she complimented me on my good vision. It was a big event for me. I couldn’t believe how many kinds of birds we can see in this big city. The Ramble is such a Treasure Island for New Yorkers, and that forced me to determine to keep the park in great condition so the birds will never want to leave this place.

The climax happened around the Boat Pond. Nobody doubts that we desired to see the famous Red-tailed Hawk, Pale Male. Tenzin had been singing a serenade to Pale Male all day. When we talked with Marie about a Blue Jay and its singing, our dream came true. A Red-Tailed Hawk flew over the Boat Pond. It was white, and it was obviously Pale Male. We shouted with elation. Lucky us! What an amazing moment that was. Actually, I had seen the hawks before in Central Park but not at close distance. I believe that Pale Male has a really special ability that makes people happy. Even Marie said she hadn’t seen Pale Male for a while at close distance, so we were really lucky and so was she. Even though Pale Male showed us his tremendous appearance for few seconds, it was great enough to adorn our trip with a dramatic finale.

I really appreciate Naomi making a great opportunity for us to enjoy birds in the microcosmic nature, and Marie Winn explaining what goes on Central Park and sharing her respected knowledge about birds, even though it was a chilly day. I learned a lot of things from Naomi and Marie. Also our time in Central Park reminded me when I was interested in everything in my childhood. I hope to always keep my eyes on Central Park with love. Forever.


This photo and the two following are the most recent shots of the Fifth Avenue Hawks. Here we see Lola, great hawk Mom of recent years, flying with legs extended downward, a typical pose as breeding season approaches. The photo was taken on Thanksgiving day, November 25, 2004.

11/26/04 - Lola on the Stovepipe #2 Building

THANKSGIVING, 2004, Pale Male, Lola, [with legs extended] and one of the 2004 kids

11/26/04 -- As Tom Fiore [well-known to readers of Red-tails in Love] stopped to check out the birds at the Evodia Field feeding station, he noticed an unexpected passenger on the rear fender of his bike. Sharp-eyed photographer [and regular birdwatcher] Ardith Bondi, captured the moment.

Naomi Machado, me, and other Early Birders at the Stone Arch on 11/17,04, at 7:15 a.m. Photo by Sang Hyuk Kim
A few weeks ago I received an intriguing e-mail:

Dear Marie Winn,

My class in the Language Immersion Program at the Borough of Manhattan Community College has just started to read your wonderful book, Red-Tails in Love. We are all fascinated by your writing about the birds and Central Park in general, and I wondered if you could recommend a birder who would be able to take us birdwatching; we cannot possibly read your book without exploring the park and the Rambles first-hand.

There are 24 adult immigrants from all over the world in my class, ranging from 18 to 40+ years in age. Our program helps them to improve their academic skills so that they will be prepared to take courses in their major in a CUNY college. They speak and understand English, their second or third language, very well. The class meets from 9:00 am to 2:30 pm Monday through Friday, and I would prefer, if possible, to go to Central Park during class time.

I would really appreciate it if you could recommend someone who could take us birdwatching. And thanks again for writing such an engaging and exciting book.

Naomi Machado

How could I resist such a letter? If this class was devoting their entire time to my book, the least I could do was take them birdwatching myself! I sent them the following response:

Dear Naomi., I have an idea. Starting in November, every Tuesday at noon a small group of birders [I'm one of them] fill the feeders in the park. That might be fun for your class to come and see. There are always quite a few birds there and the feeding station is in the Ramble. Does that sound like a possibility to you? Cheers, Marie Winn

She answered almost immediately:

Dear Marie,

My class was thrilled to hear about your generous suggestion - yes please, we would love to come to see you fill the feeders in the Ramble.

And so it happened that Naomi Machado and almost all of her students [those that weren't in bed with the flu] arrived at the Evodia Field Feeding Station on Tuesday, November 9th at noon, just as the feeding squad was beginning to fill the feeders.

The students came from 15 different countries: Colombia, Egypt, Tibet, Ivory Coast, Haiti, Korea, Hong Kong [Is that a separate country?]Poland, Dominican Republic, Hungary, Mexico, Vietnam, Japan, Honduras, China -- an awesomely diverse group. And amazingly, they all arrived with binoculars for their birdwatching expedition. [Their teacher, Naomi Machado, had stopped at the Dana Center and borrowed them from the Central Park Conservancy].

Most exciting of all [at least for me] was the teacher's and students' enthusiasm for and detailed knowledge of a subject that is understandably close to my heart: my book. They had devoted 25 hours a week during a three-week period to studies of the stories and characters and places depicted in Red-tails in Love. They studied vocabulary found in the book, they had dictation exercises from the book. Indeed, I soon discovered that they knew my book a lot better than I did! [Well, it has been almost ten years since I began writing it--and seven years since its publication.]

Every few days they had a quiz about different aspects of the book. Sample question: "What predicament did Tom Fiore find himself in, and how did the birdwatchers help him get out of it?" I would have flunked that quiz, for I had completely forgotten [repressed the memory of?] the terrible episode that had traumatized Tom's family and friends in the the Central Park birdwatching community a few years earlier: when Tom and three other birdwatchers who had gone on a birding trip to Colombia were kidnapped by a group of notorious guerillas. Since the guerrillas accused the birding foursome of being American spies [after all they had spying equipment, binoculars and recording devices [for capturing bird song],in their possession] the Central Park birders sent evidence to the kidnappers that Tom and his friends really were birdwatchers. My book describing Tom's birding prowess was one of the important pieces of evidence.

What excitement set in when Tom Fiore himself arrived at the Evodia Field Feeding station. The kids clustered around him, asking questions. Alexandra, a young woman from Colombia, made a moving apology to Tom for his treatment by some of her countrymen. He assured her that he bore the country and its citizens no ill will.

At the Feeding Station the students were also excited to meet Norma Collin, another important Regular in my book. They questioned George Muller, the man who built the feeders, about how he puts them together. They were eager to meet other people there who had appeared in the book -- Elliot, Lee, Murray, and others.

Without a doubt the students were most interested in catching a glimpse of the hero of my tale, the now-legendary Pale Male. Tenzin, a beautiful young woman from Tibet, was more than eager. "I'm in love with Pale Male," she declared.

After spending some time watching Lloyd Spitalnik and his loyal feeder squad put up the home made feeders, we set off to hunt for the hawk pair. I was not optimistic. While it is easy to get a sighting of the Fifth Avenue Redtails during the breeding season when they spend most of their time near the nest, by November they could be almost anywhere in the park. The odds of our being in the right place at the right time were slim.

We wandered around the Ramble, keeping our ears tuned for sounds of noisy bluejays or crows that might indicate a nearby hawk. But the park was strangely quiet. After visiting the Azalea Pond, Willow Rock, the Swampy Pin Oak, and the Rustic Summerhouse, all places the students knew well and had been quizzed about, we arrived at the end of our tour, the Model-boat Pond. From there the students and teacher were taking a Madison Avenue Bus back to their classroom at the Adam Clayton Powell State Office Building at 125th Street.

As we were looking at the empty nest with binoculars luck smiled upon us. A flock of pigeons came flying in from the north, and began frantically circling and wheeling around the pond just above where we were standing. And who should be herding the pigeons from above but Pale Male. He was flying low. The sun was shining on his white breast and red tail, and though the group only had a minute or two to feast their eyes on him before the flock and predator flew out of sight, it was long enough. We all jumped up and down and screamed and shouted. We had seen Pale Male. The day was complete

PS. A week later Naomi Machado and the remaining members of her class who hadn't been able to come the last time, as well as one repeat student, Sang Hyuk [who took the photograph above] showed up at 7 a.m at Strawberry Fields to join the Early Birders on their weekly bird walk. Now I REALLY believed they had become birdwatchers. I hope they
come again and again.

11/12/04 -- I received the following letter from Starr Saphir, one of Central Park's best birders, a few days ago:

Thought you'd like to know that on my Tues. N. End Central Park walk yesterday we had approx. 225 Am. White Pelicans glide over us, flying South!!! We were near the NE corner of the Great Hill at about 10:10 am when I saw a V of white birds coming over us. I expected Snow Geese, of course, but when I raised my binoculars, Dorothy poole and I shouted "white pelicans!" at the same moment. They were visible for several minutes, and you could see bill shape and color, as well as the almost complete wide black trailing edge to the wings. Actually, it looked complete at that distance. Ten or twelve minutes later we spotted a much larger (about 200 birds) flock of white birds in the sky. Although these were higher than the first flock, they were still identifiable as Am. White Pelicans. This is possibly the most exciting thing I've ever seen in Central Park! Eleven people were with me, including Dorothy and Lenore Swenson. If you want to post this information on your website, that would be great. If I don't see you, have a great winter.
Cheers! Starr





If you want to know what's going on in the Central Park birdwatching world, straight from the park's best birders, check out a new website called The NYC Bird Report. It provides amazingly up-to-the-minute reports on bird sightings in Central Park.

New York City Bird Report


The Mulberry Wing is the website of the New York and North Jersey Butterfly Clubs. It includes great photos of moths, dragonflies and other insects, as well as up-to-date info about where to find the critters. Click below for link.

The Mulberry Wing



Photographer Lincoln Karim's site, featuring remarkable photos of the Fifth Avenue Redtails, and other Central Park wildlife

Lincoln Karim's website


Photographer Cal Vornberger spends a lot of time in Central Park taking pictures of its various wildlife. Here's a link to his website:



Ed Lam is an artist and photographer who includes birds, butterflies,and dragonflies among the subjects of his web site. He has illustrated the Butterfly and Dragonfly Lists distributed by the Central Park Conservancy. His superb book, Damselflies: A Comprehensive Identification Guide to the Damselflies of the Northeast from Canada to Virgina, published in 2003 by Biodiversity Books, may be ordered from this website.

Ed Lam's Web-site



TV-Turnoff Network

Red-Tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park. Click on image to order.

And don't forget: a new edition with a new essay giving news of the last 5 years, will be out in April.

12/18/04 Here is an e-mail I received this morning from some British stockbroker, followed by my reply: Lewis, Tristan (Exchange) wrote: >Hello, > >Do you find it at all ironic that the name "Pale Male" is so close to the "Pall Mall" of London? Pale Male occupies a very ritzy 5th Ave. abode just as the Pall Mall in London is a famously ritzy/glamorous street of London's St. James district. Has the connection ever been made? I mean, let's be honest, this bird certainly comes from the upper-class! It may be a stretch, but I find it to be quite an interesting coincidence. > >Happy Holidays, > >Tristan Lewis

My reply:
Since I'm the one who named the bird, back in 1992, I'll admit that I was not unaware of the connection.



Glad to see that positive steps are being made to reinstall the pigeon spikes.

I’m a bit concerned about the proposed guard rail or fence, or whatever it is called. The device, as I read the piecemeal news, is being developed by an architect and it is intended to keep carcasses and sticks from plunging off the ledge.

My concern is this. If this structure extends above the finished level of the nest, above its finished rim, the birds won’t like it. If it extends six inches or more above the rim, this will mean that the birds will have to land on the new artificial rim, then drop down onto the real nest. This is not behavior the birds will want to do. This is a real issue when eggs are being laid and incubated. Because of the delicate nature of the eggs and newly-hatched young, the adults instinctively curl their talons under their feet when the land on the nest's rim. If they are forced to first land on some elevated pipe or fence, they will not be able to easily drop down onto the nest with their retracted talons.

Secondly, this new rim must extend away from the edge of the nest. The birds are sensitive to any structure that interferes with the folding and extending of wings when landing and taking off. If new spikes or prongs extend more than 4-6 inches above the cornice, they will protrude above the new nest and can injure the soft developing wings of the eyasses when they start to flap their wings.

Lastly, I’m concerned about the design of the new carcass-catching device, what ever it might be. If the ejected food items merely accumulate in the device, it's only a matter of time before the device becomes overwhelmed. Sooner or later, the carcass-catcher will become filled. Do the designers understand the nature and quantity of rejected items?

The device, ideally, will be below the rim of the nest, but I’m a landscape designer and understand the aesthetic considerations the architect is likely to address in his solution. If appropriate, I’d be delighted to quickly review the proposed design, if possible. A CAD design could be emailed to me as an email attachment. My professional CAD program can open any drawing used by architectural professionals.

I wouldn't want all of what's happened go for naught, to have the proposed solution turn out to be rejected by the birds. If everything stays low and below the nest rim, all should be well (except for possible carcass accumulation problems). But nest-holding rim devices could cause nest site rejection by the pair. Or, they might elect to stay at the same site, but attempt to pile up enough sticks so the rim rises above whatever new structures are installed. That's the kind of nest that could, indeed, fall off and create a problem. The normal flat, bushel-basket sized and shaped nest presents no problems. A tall columnar one built to get the rim high in uncontaminated airspace could be a problem.

I hope that all of these concerns are immaterial.


John A. Blakeman


A letter from Texas received 12/9/04 > > Dear Marie, > I live in the Texas Panhandle. > I am from Native American descent. > To say I was outraged over the removal of the nest in New York is a PALE description. > I stand with all who protest this seemingly uncalled for act of destruction. > Thank you for your site and to Lincoln for his. > I have never been to New York, but the Hawks are very revered in my part of the world. > We consider them brothers. > > Paulyne Taylor

A Letter from an Ohio Falconer:

Dear Ms. Winn,

I am a licensed falconer and raptor biologist with over 30 years of personal experiences with the majestic red-tailed hawk. Please understand the shared concerns Ohio falconers (all 40 of us) have concerning the destruction of the famous Central Park nest. Because each of us knows these birds personally, because we care, train, and feed them daily, and even accompany them on their hunts – that's what falconry is all about – we grieve as much as anyone about the loss of a well-used nest site.

It's bad enough that any active redtail nest would be so cavalierly struck down. But for all of us, Pale Male's nest was special. For you NYC folks, it was especially valued because big, glorious redtails aren't supposed to be able to either live nor breed in NYC. As a redtail biologist I recognize both the pair's urban rarity and unique success. The fact that the pair fledged a trio of eyasses (the proper name for baby hawks) testifies that the pair was extremely successful. Three eyasses is the maximum the species can possibly raise in a year, and it can only be done under the most ideal circumstances. The primary restriction is the availability of sufficient food to feed three hungry eyasses. Frankly, as a redtail professional, I would never have predicted such success. Countryside redtails, the ones I care for and study, require ample populations of field voles, lemming-like rodents that abound in meadows and ditches. There are few voles in Central Park – certainly not enough to raise three eyasses.

And urban rats don't so often expose themselves during the day when redtails hunt, so although there are lots of rats in NYC, that prey species, too, could not account for the pair's success. Your close watchers would know this better than I, but I presume that the pair has learned to prey upon abundant urban squabs, nesting and newly-fledged pigeons.

Out here in the distant countryside, we especially delight that urban New Yorkers can now merely step into Central Park with a pair of binoculars and see this great redtail spectacle. Formerly, these delights were reserved to those of us out in wild redtail country. Now, these great birds have come into New York for everyone to enjoy.

. . .

I regard Pale Male as a typically-representative new American. New York City has been the fertile ground of