Pale Male, a red-tailed hawk who brought a touch of the wild to swanky Manhattan as he nested above Fifth Avenue for three decades, has died. He was 33 years old and inspired many bird lovers and photographers.Embed from Getty Images
Pale Male died late Tuesday after being found ill and grounded in Central Park, wildlife rehabilitator Bobby Horvath posted on Facebook. The hawk was taken to a veterinarian, who did bloodwork and X-rays, but he remained weak and lethargic. “We hoped for any improvement, but sadly it was not meant to be,” Mr. Horvath said.
Pale Male, so named because of his whitish plumage, was first spotted in Central Park as a juvenile in 1991 and began nesting on Fifth Avenue across from the park in 1993. He and his succession of mates hatched and raised their young each spring, drawing crowds of admirers inside the park.
The birders were outraged in 2004 when Pale Male’s nest with then-mate Lola was ripped from its ledge on the 12th floor of a ritzy apartment building whose residents included actor Mary Tyler Moore and CNN anchor Paula Zahn. Ms. Moore publicly opposed the nest removal. The co-op board, which had voted to remove the nest as a hazard, quickly reversed itself and restored a row of anti-pigeon spikes that the hawks had used to anchor their nest, and even added a new metal “cradle” on the ledge. Pale Male and Lola rebuilt their nest.Embed from Getty Images
As his legend grew, Pale Male was the subject of a 2009 documentary, “The Legend of Pale Male,” and at least three illustrated children’s books. He also became a symbol of urban wildlife and conservation.
David Barrett, who runs birding Twitter accounts including Manhattan Bird Alert, said that for much of Pale Male’s life “he was not only the world’s most famous red-tailed hawk, but he was probably the world’s most famous bird, one that people knew by name.” Mr. Barrett said the hawk’s fame “shows that even in an intensely urban place like Manhattan, there are many people who have a fondness for wildlife and feel a connection to it.”
It is difficult to know with 100% certainty that the hawk that died Tuesday was Pale Male, since Pale Male was never banded. Some observers began wondering around 2021 if Pale Male had died and been replaced in the Fifth Avenue nest by another hawk who resembled him.
Mr. Horvath wrote in his post that Pale Male inspired bird lovers and photographers around the world. Some took up bird photography professionally, he wrote, but “most were just local residents or tourists who just wanted an opportunity to get a glimpse of this famous hawk.”
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- Pale Male, red-tailed hawk who nested above NYC’s Fifth Avenue for 30 years, dies at 33 | Phys.org | May 17, 2023