BOOKS: Red Tails In Love

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1998:

Red Tails In Love:
A Wildlife Drama
in Central Park
by Marie Winn
Pantheon Books, 1998
305 pages. $24.00, hardcover.

Covering a span of about five
years, Red Tails In Love explores the lives
of two communities within Central Park.
The hawks as part of the greater wildlife
community are avidly monitored by another
community, the birdwatching Regulars.
Written as a play, in acts and scenes, the
book weaves their stories.

The central avian character, a
male redtail called Pale Male, surprises and
delights the Regulars with his arrival. Over
the next several years, he matures, mates,
and rears young in a decidedly nontraditional
environment for his species. The nest site
that eventually works is a twelfth floor window
ledge on an apartment building facing
the park. Although it is well known that
smaller raptors have adapted to life in many
American cities, Pale Male and his family
are the first redtails to nest successfully in
New York City.
The dangers of the urban environment
to wildlife are evident, as collisions
with buildings and motor vehicles and secondary
poisonings alter the pattern of the
hawks’ lives. Yet despite two tragic losses
of mates, baby hawks are raised, fledge,
and learn raptor life skills in the park.
Red Tails In Love includes several
appendices written by Regulars, indexing
bird species, butterfly activity, plant life,
and hawk migration data. Also included are
excerpts from The Bird Register, a handwritten
volume maintained by the Regulars,
which is stored in the park and is accessible
to the public. The Regulars should think
about publishing their Bird Register, as it
would be welcomed by those who enjoy Red
Tails In Love.

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