“Once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough” John Steinbeck famously once said. Consequently, once you are known in such a place, you are remembered forever.
Today, East Side Feed would like to pay tribute to a New York City legend, a red-tailed hawk named “Pale Male” who caught the attention of Mary Tyler Moore, and the world in 2004. The famous hawk was never tagged, so his identity can’t be confirmed, but many want to believe.
Beginning in 1991 when he first arrived and built a nest on the 12th floor pediment statue of a cherubim, the majestic bird of prey and his mate Lola were well known to residents of 927 Fifth Avenue, an upscale pre-war building at the corner of East 74th Street, where Mary Tyler Moore lived.
The mating pair had by then become famous to bird watchers far and wide, and when the building’s co-op voted to remove their nest in 2003, it caused quite a stir. “I am so outraged that they would do this without so much as a by-your-leave,” Moore told reporters at the time. “This was something we like to talk about: a kinder, gentler world, and now it’s gone.”
The New York Times reported he was found by a park ranger on Monday afternoon in Central Park near East 79th Street and Fifth Avenue, and wildlife rehabilitation expert Bobby Horvath was contacted to transport Pale Male to a veterinarian for blood work.
The next evening at 10:42 p.m., Bobby shared an update on his Facebook page. He said that Male had “severe renal failure likely due to age” – if this was in fact him, he would have been 33 – and “was extremely lethargic and weak and unable to stand, and was treated with supportive care, ate a small meal and received fluids and medication.” Unfortunately, he passed away in their care. “We hoped for any improvement,” Horvath said, “but sadly, it was not meant to be.
Tributes poured in from bird lovers online, like the NYC Audubon Society, which quoted local bird lover D. Bruce Yolton. “He taught New Yorkers, that despite man’s efforts to control the landscape of the city, nature still thrives here and needs to be respected and nurtured.”
The Legend of Pale Male, the documentary film from 2009, chronicled the life of one of NYC’s favorite feathered residents. “He’s like Spartacus,” the narrator says in the trailer. “He’s strong and faithful, everything human beings wish they were.”
Gabriel Willow, who leads bird walks in Central Park, ultimately concurs with that assessment. “I think what’s meaningful about Pale Male is the way he captured the public imagination,” he told the Times. “And as such, it doesn’t matter if it was Pale Male or not at the end of the day.”