Manhattan residents are mourning the loss of a beloved local hawk who died last month after ingesting rat poison. The female bird was known to nest atop an air conditioning unit on the Health Department building on Worth Street in Chinatown, and is believed to have been poisoned after eating a rat treated with the anticoagulant frequently used by the city to manage the rodent population, or perhaps by ingesting the rat bait herself. Following her death on March 31, community members are calling for the Parks Department to be more cautious about how dangerous pesticides are used in city parks.
Photographers and local wildlife fans witnessed the hawk fall ill and cling to a low branch while her mate gathered twigs. As she became more lethargic, he even tried to rouse her, pulling at her feathers. It was known that she had already laid one egg in their nest, but it rolled off the air conditioning unit and fell to the ground. A necropsy performed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation confirmed that the pesticide used to kill rats was the cause of her death and sadly also indicated that she was preparing to lay more eggs.
Local residents say that they will miss the red-tail hawk, and some say the birds helped foster connections between neighbors. “That was just so wrenching,” longtime resident Anne Baxter told NY Daily News. “People were just delighted to see them — workers from the court buildings and everyone. It was a community experience.”
Parks Department officials said rat poison isn’t used in areas where hawks are known to thrive during the nesting season, which runs February to August. However, this female hawk and her intrepid partner hunted near Collect Pond Park and Columbus Park, which were not on the department’s radar as hawk habitats. Signs at both parks indicate the rat poison was being actively used there. Now, in response to the hawk’s untimely death, citizens are calling on the city to employ other methods for controlling rodent populations, without posing a threat to other species.
The surviving male hawk has reportedly been spotted in the same parks, and may have taken up with a new mate.
Via NY Daily News
Images via Laura Goggin