Famous Central Park Hawk ‘Pale Male’ Dies. Or Did He?

If you lived in New York City for the past 30 years, you certainly knew of ‘Pale Male.’ He was the inspiration to get out and make nice with nature—-LWH.

“The end of an era,” a wildlife rehabilitator wrote, saying the red-tailed hawk died Tuesday. Others say the raptor actually died years ago.

Famous red-tailed hawk Pale Male perches on a neighboring balcony overlooking Central Park after having his nest removed by building management Dec. 13, 2004 in New York City.
Famous red-tailed hawk Pale Male perches on a neighboring balcony overlooking Central Park after having his nest removed by building management Dec. 13, 2004 in New York City.

CENTRAL PARK, NEW YORK — Pale Male, a red-tailed hawk whose exploits in Central Park captured the imagination of New York City and beyond, died Tuesday.

Then again, maybe he didn’t. 

Let us explain the Uptown raptor uproar.

A Facebook post Tuesday by Bobby Horvath, a wildlife rehabilitation expert, ruffled feathers when he announced that Pale Male was found sick and grounded in Central Park.

“I’m sorry to have to report the end of an era that Pale Male passed away tonight in our care,” Horvath wrote.

“Our Vet reported the blood results came back revealing severe renal failure likely due to age.”

The post drew attention from far and wide, as Pale Male had staked an avian claim as Central Park’s first celebrity bird.

Before “quackarazzi” stalked a Mandarin duck and Flaco the “freedom owl” ate rats in Central Park, Pale Male’s flights near the park Avenue inspired books and birdwatchers.

The height of Pale Male’s fame came in 2004, when a co-op board evicted the nest he and his mate Lola built on the perch of a Fifth Avenue building. The birds’ plight drew protests and support from actress Mary Tyler Moore, who lived in the building, and the hawks returned.

But Pale Male stuck around Central Park and continued to inspire nature lovers and photographers until his passing at more than 30 years old, Horvath wrote in his tribute.

While Horvath believes the red-tailed hawk that died this week was Pale Male, others aren’t so sure.

As Hell Gate and the New York Times first reported, many experts believe Pale Male likely died years ago. Wild red-tailed hawks typically live 20 years, they said, which would make Pale Male perhaps the oldest known.

The hawk that ceased to be this week was likely one of Pale Male’s many descendants, one expert told the Times.

Horvath, however, maintains Pale Male defied the odds.

“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,” Horvath wrote.

“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.”

Regardless, New Yorkers can raise a glass — or a dead rat — in honor of Pale Male, a bird that hit it big in the Big Apple.

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