Wednesday, May 17, 2023

RIP Pale Male, the one who started it all

I received word last night of the passing of Pale Male, the legendary red-tailed hawk who built his nest atop a luxury residence on 5th Avenue, across the street from Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His life has been documented over the last three decades by dedicated birders and photographers.

In a Facebook post (you don't need an account to view), hawk rehabber Bobby Horvath from WINORR writes:

"Pale Male was the inspiration for thousands not only in New York City but worldwide to begin birding or photography. . . He lived at least 30 years in a challenging environment that NYC poses and there will never be another hawk as well known and loved as he was. . . We feel it was better he was found and cared for than if he passed somewhere never to be found and unknown circumstances. Hopefully it was simply age related issues and it was just his time after an amazing unmatchable lifespan."

I was aware of Pale Male long before I came to New York. His story had spread across the country to the west coast, where I grew up, and brought a face and name to the ever-distant wild hawks I usually saw soaring high over the highways and fields. By the time I came to the city, he was already a long-established celebrity. He was the hawk who started it all, making a living in Central Park, the epicenter of the largest metropolitan area in the country. How amazing that a wild hawk could not only survive, but thrive in such an "unnatural" place. His legacy lives on in the numerous resident red-tailed hawks who, following his lead, now inhabit this city.

You can read up on the history of Pale Male on his wiki page, and I highly recommend watching the award-winning documentary, The Legend of Pale Male, which features many familiar faces in the local birding community. And, Pale Male inspired author Marie Winn to write the acclaimed book, Red-Tails in Love.

Credit must go to Lincoln Karim, who tirelessly dedicated his life to documenting Pale Male in his beautiful photos, as seen on (currently down). His last video of Pale Male in Central Park can be viewed here.

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