The Canadian Peregrine Foundation

Hawks' eviction ruffles feathers in New York
From: Agence France Presse
December 14, 2004

NEW YORK (AFP) - In a city which is no stranger to the problem of homelessness, the eviction of two hawks from their perch on a swank apartment building has whipped New York into a state of outraged frenzy.

Noisy protests have been held, sermonising editorials penned and lawyers summoned in the struggle over the fate of Pale Male and Lola -- a pair of red tailed hawks who have nested on a ledge of one of Manhattan's most fashionable addresses for more than 10 years.

The avian couple were unceremoniously booted out last week when the ultra-wealthy residents' board at 927 Fifth Avenue voted to remove their 200-pound (90-kilo) nest.

The move triggered a passionate public backlash, with the hawks' plight benefitting from an attractive David and Goliath dimension.

This being New York, there was even the requisite celebrity angle with actress Mary Tyler Moore and star CNN anchor Paula Zahn among the residents of the building in question.

Staring permanent infamy in the face, the residents' board appeared to blink on Monday when it offered a tentative agreement -- subject to architectural approval -- to allow the birds back.

"A good discussion is underway and we are very hopeful that it will end with Pale Male and Lola returning to rebuild their nest in the same location," said John Flicker, president of the National Audubon Society, a wildlife pressure group that has entered into negotiations with the board.

Pale Male and Lola are celebrities in their own right, having inspired a bestselling book, as well as a well-received documentary by filmmaker Frederic Lilien.

Lilien said he was "devastated" when he learned of the birds' eviction and flew straight to New York from his home in Spa, Belgium, to join the protests calling for their return.

"I got a lot from Pale Male. He made my career. Now we have to fight for him," Lilien told AFP.

Since the bird's nest was destroyed, several hundred protestors have gathered every evening opposite the entrance to 927 Fifth Avenue, heckling residents as they come and go and chanting "Bring Back the Nest."

The media was quick to pick up the story, with the New York Times devoting a front page and an editorial to Pale Male and his mate.

"The hawks have gone out of their way to learn to live with us," the newspaper said. "The least the wealthy residents of 927 Fifth Avenue could have done was learn to live with the hawks."

Not only did the residents' board evict the birds, they also removed the anti-pigeon spikes that had enabled Pale Male to anchor his nest above a 12th-story cornice on the face of the building.

Public sympathy has been fuelled by television footage of the hawks's futile attempts to rebuild their nest, only to see the twigs and branches fall to the ground.

In its defence, the board said the heavy nest -- positioned high above the building's main entrance -- posed a threat, as well as a health hazard because parts of the birds' diet of mice, rats and small birds often ended up on the sidewalk.

Others suggested residents were more put out by the battery of high-powered bird-watcher telescopes that, for the past several years, had been trained daily on the nest when the couple were raising their chicks.

Monday's tentative agreement has not satisfied many of the hawks' champions, who say action needs to be taken immediately before the birds' breeding cycle is broken and they give up on the old nest site forever.

"As far as I am concerned nothing fruitful happened," said Lincoln Karim, an engineer who has observed the nest for years with a telescope from Central Park.

"Politicians met politicians and our two birds are still without their nest," Karim said.

SOURCE: Yahoo! News: Agence France Presse
Copyright © 2004 Agence France Presse

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