Wednesday, December 08, 2004

First Letter from John Blakeman

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 American innovation from newcomers for two centuries. The characteristic American traits of overcoming difficulties, seeing new personal opportunities, and following through with successes against all odds is what Pale Male and his consorts have done. Pale Male ain't just a bird. He's an American, sharing the traits of all of us, rural or urban. Thanks for telling his story, it's a portion of each of our own. Pale Male will be back!


John A. Blakeman
Ohio Falconry Association