Seven Years of Red-Tailed Hawks at Washington Square Park | HawkCam is Live (Updated)

Eggs may begin hatching around May 1st …
Is Secondary Rodenticide Poisoning Harming the Hawks? WSP does not use rodenticides, nearby properties do

The red-tailed hawks at Washington Square Park first appeared in 2011 with a male and female pair known as Bobby and Violet. They built a nest on the 12th floor of the Bobst Library across from the park outside then New York University President John Sexton’s office. The charismatic duo quickly garnered media attention: The New York Times City Room followed their story and arranged with NYU to train a camera on the nest, dubbed the HawkCam.

Seven years later, Bobby remains; there have been three female hawks, including Violet, who died sadly at the end of 2011, and, Rosie, who disappeared in fall of 2014. I admit to an attachment to Violet, the pioneer, who struggled due to a band placed on her leg by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) prior to arriving at the park from Baltimore; her death in December 2011 was so sad. Then came feisty Rosie with a bright red streak on her tail; she disappeared possibly due to secondary rodenticide poisoning, no one really knows. Now there is Aurora (or Sadie, depending who you ask), she arrived in early February 2015 and has been at the park for three years now.

The New York Times “HawkCam” streamed the nest live for the first two years, then NYU picked up a year; the cam was then discontinued. With the arrival of a new university President, Andrew Hamilton, the HawkCam returned last year in 2017 – now renamed the “NYU HawkCam.”

Aurora has laid three eggs; the first on March 24th, according to PonDove, HawkCam chat room moderator who told WSP Blog “it takes 38 to 42 days for an egg to hatch,” so that makes the soonest date for the first hatching: May 1st.

Watch the HawkCam to check in on their progress; the chat room is where people discuss the hawks.

In 2017, three eggs were laid at the Washington Square nest, [corrected:] one hatched and fledged who was named G1, one never hatched and two one eyasses (baby hawk) lived a brief time and then died in the nest.

In 2016, according to PonDove: “There were 3 eggs, only 1 hatched and we named  [him] after the new president, Andrew Hamilton … we named the baby hawk, Andy.”

Rodenticides Harm Hawks: WSP Removed Rodenticides, but NYU and surrounding properties still use them

Perhaps the second or third year in, the city Parks Department agreed to remove all rodenticide from Washington Square Park. However, NYU and surrounding buildings continue to use rodenticides on their properties and the hawks travel beyond the park.

Hawks and other wildlife can die from secondary poisoning after eaten poisoned prey. This has happened at Riverside Park and also Central Park. The rodenticides build up in their systems and can lead to their deaths; young hawks are particularly susceptible for more immediate deaths. In addition, fertility problems can be caused by these toxic chemicals.

Urban Hawks site addressed the connection to rodenticides in the surrounding environment:

… it brings into question the health of the environment around NYU. While the park has removed rodenticides, they are still used by the University and other building owners around the park. While many of us has focused on hawk deaths due to secondary rodenticides, fertility problems are also a major problem with these poisons. I’m afraid we might be seeing this issue at Washington Square Park.

This 2018 nest and hopefully successful hatching of the eggs with eyasses to juvenile hawks in our midst will be telling.

Rosie and the Arch

What Happened to Mama Hawk Rosie?

I have wondered about Rosie who was last seen in fall of 2014:

Rosie has not been seen at the park since early fall 2014 – it appears that sometime in October, possibly November was the last sighting.

Even if she died, somewhere – in a city, it is hard to miss a hawk. They are large, unless someone who discovered her dead body didn’t think it was something to bring attention to.

I asked Jeannie, host of the Washington Square hawk chat room, about the disappearance of Rosie. She wrote via email, “I wish we knew [what happened to her]. They mate for life so we know Rosie just didn’t leave. Maybe the rat poison got her. Pale Male has had 8 mates. Some were found poisoned and some just were never found.”

Many New York City parks put rat poison down, and, as a result, many hawks and other birds die from eating poisoned prey. This is called “secondary poisoning.” (There was a really sad story of three baby hawks dying at Riverside Park in 2008.)

2011. Rat poison no longer IN park but nearby at NYU buildings
2011. Rat poison no longer IN Wash Sq Park but nearby at NYU buildings

For awhile at Washington Square, rodenticide bait stations were removed during the nesting season and then placed back in the park again. This was still problematic.

Over the last two years, rodenticide was replaced with “snap traps” (I am not sure what I think of them – this sounds horrible for obvious reasons). There are over two dozen of them, seemingly everywhere (too many). Now there are also black traps which look like rodenticide bait stations but labeled: No Rodenticide. Trap Only.

Prior to the Parks Department decision to remove the rodenticide, NYU’s Sustainability office was urging the agency to do so at the park — while turning a blind eye to the fact that NYU properties surrounding WSP have rodenticide placed all around them. Rosie could have been exposed anywhere to rodenticide.

Truly, the real answer is proper trash maintenance. It sounds almost too simple but that is the solution – and also a certain level of acceptance. This combined is the most eco-friendly and holistic yet effective approach.

Looking Back, The Original Pair: Violet and Bobby

Hawks Set up Nest around the Park — “Violet & Bobby” VideoCam Watch (April 8, 2011)

The New York Times has the story, Watching Bobby and Violet:

Its stars are Violet (named for one of the university’s colors) and her mate, Bobby (named for Bobst Library, atop which Dr. Sexton’s office sits). And in a few weeks, if all goes well, their hatchlings.

I always thought it was pretty remarkable that the two hawks set up their nest outside (then NYU President – and controversial figure) John Sexton’s office.

What are/were the chances of that?

Previously, the hawk cam captured a slight view of the park; it now seems to be trained on Washington Square South and pedestrians.

Bobby and nest 2011
Bobby and nest 2011
Bobby & Violet
Bobby & Violet

Watch the HawkCam LIVE HERE.

Previously at Washington Square Park Blog:

So sad to hear WSP Resident Mama Hawk Violet has died December 30, 2011

Red-Tailed Mama Hawk Violet Rescued Christmas Eve at Washington Square – Recap of the Story Thus Far December 27, 2011

What happened to Rosie, Washington Square’s Beloved Red-Tailed Hawk? Missing Since Last Fall November 12, 2015

Image #1: via HawkCam

Photo #2: Jeremy Seto

Photo #3: Cathryn

Photos #4&5: Christopher James/NYU

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