Pale Male was a red-tailed hawk that resided in and near New York City’s Central Park from the 1990s until May 16, 2023.
Birdwatcher and author Marie Winn gave him his name because of the unusually light coloring of his head. Pale Male was one of the first red-tailed hawks known to have nested on a building rather than in a tree and is known for establishing a dynasty of urban-dwelling red-tailed hawks.
Each spring, bird watchers set up telescopes alongside Central Park’s Model Boat Pond to observe his nest and chicks at 927 Fifth Avenue.
Wildlife Rehabilitator Bobby Horvath announced the death of Pale Male, who arrived in Central Park in 1991.
On Monday, Horvath shared the news of his death on Twitter and Facebook, “Yesterday morning Urban Park Ranger Baisley rescued him while sick and grounded in Central Park. I was in North Queens at the time and picked him up and transported him directly to our vet, who did bloodwork and x-rays. I took him home after, where he remained extremely lethargic and weak, and unable to stand. We treated him with supportive care, he ate a small meal and received fluids and medication. We hoped for any improvement, but sadly it was not meant to be.
This morning, May 17, Horvath shared, “Our Vet reported the blood results came back revealing severe renal failure likely due to age. It was beyond treating or reversing the condition. I’m sorry to have to report the end of an era that Pale Male passed away tonight in our care.”
Pale Male was the inspiration for thousands—not only in New York City but worldwide—to begin birding or photography. Some were just amateurs others became professional photographers. Most were just local residents or tourists who just wanted an opportunity to get a glimpse of the famous hawk.
Pale Male flourished for at least 30 years in the challenging environment that NYC poses, and there will never be another hawk as well-known and adored as he was.
Pale Male and his mates were darlings of social media and popular culture as shown by these projects:
Pale Male, a one-hour documentary by filmmaker Frederic Lilien, aired on WNET’s Nature in 2004.
A feature documentary called The Legend of Pale Male by Frederic Lilien was completed in April 2009.
Singer Steve Earle references Pale Male in his song “Down Here Below” from the 2007 album Washington Square Serenade.
A puppet of Pale Male made several appearances on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, where he played various instruments with The Max Weinberg 7.
At least three children’s illustrated books about Pale Male have been published, including: The Tale of Pale Male: a True Story, by Jeanette Winter (Harcourt, 2007), City Hawk: the Story of Pale Male, by Meghan McCarthy (Simon & Schuster, 2007), and Pale Male: Citizen Hawk of New York City, by Janet Schulman (Knopf, 2008).
Pale Male is the mascot of PS 6, an elementary school on New York City’s Upper East Side.