By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — Riverside Park's beloved female red-tailed hawk was found dead of unknown causes on Friday, hawk watchers told DNAinfo.
It was the latest in a string of raptor deaths that started Feb. 26 when the body of Lima, the mate of Central Park's famed Pale Male, was discovered.
Since then three other red-tailed hawks, who delight city dwellers with displays of hunting and nesting usually seen only in nature shows, have also been found dead, the blog Urban Hawks reported.
The hawk's body, and the bodies of two other dead raptors whose bodies were found in city parks, was sent to the state Department of Environmental Conservation's pathology lab to determine the cause of death, said Parks Department spokesman Phil Abramson in an email. Results are expected in four to six weeks.
Riverside Park's female hawk didn't have a name, but her story of triumph over tragedy won her many ardent fans. After her male companion died, the widowed female won admiration from hawk watchers who saw her raise her hatchlings by herself. Recently, she found a new, younger mate. The two had been building a nest together.
Her nest in a tree just north of the Boat Basin Cafe attracted many regular visitors who made it a point to check in on the feathered mom every day.
Known for her light-colored beauty and skills as a predator, the female had raised several sets of babies. Many of those young ones had died as a result of the hazards of city living — some were hit by cars, others died from eating the meat of poisoned rats. Last year the mama hawk lost her partner when he too ingested toxin-laden rat meat.
The female hawk's heartbroken fans placed flowers and photos at the base of the nest this weekend. "R.I.P. mom. Thanks for blessing us with your beauty" read the caption on a photo of the raptor with her wings spread wide.
Though the cause of death hasn't been determined yet, some were already speculating that the wild creature may have succumbed to rat poison like her mate before her.
Residents who live near Riverside Park recently complained that rats seem to be taking over the park. They blamed the apparent rodent increase in part on the hawks, because the Parks Department cut back on its use of rat poison in Riverside Park after the deaths of other red-tailed hawks.
But the Parks Department isn't the only source of rat poison near the hawk's nest. Nearby apartment buildings use rat poison as well. Hawk watchers initially thought the female hawk's male mate died last year as a result of eating a rat poisoned by the Parks Department, but toxicology tests revealed that the poison that killed the male hawk wasn't the type the Parks Department uses.