By Gabriela Resto-Montero
CENTRAL PARK — One of the Upper East Side's most high-profile couples — the famous red-tailed hawks Pale Male and Lola — appears to have broken up, with watchers fearing that the female has died.
Legendary hawk Pale Male and his partner of nine years, Lola, haven't been seen together for a month after years of watching over Central Park from their nest atop a Fifth Avenue Co-Op, the Urban Hawks blog reported.
Lola was last seen Dec. 18, leading some bird experts to believe that she is now dead.
"Lola hasn't been seen since mid-December and is unfortunately presumed dead," wrote bird-watcher Bruce Youlton on the site.
Pale Male has already found a new partner, reportedly pairing up with a new hawk that was recently spotted at Pilgrim Hill in Central Park, Youlton said.
Pale Male was first spotted patrolling Central Park in 1991 and has fathered at least 26 baby Hawks since then, creating what fans on the Pale Male and Lola Facebook page call a "dynasty of urban dwelling raptors".
Since news of Lola's disappearance broke, bird watchers around New York, New Jersey and as far away as Atlanta, Georgia have reported seeing hawks that could fit her description.
Some bird watchers hold out hope that Lola will return in the spring.
But biologist Robert DeCandido, who leads bird watching tours through Central Park, said it's unlikely.
"It’s unusual not to see (a hawk) for a couple of weeks. They’re not tied to a nest, they’re tied to a habitat where their food is. If that food source is diminished they’ll move. They’re not so much tied to the nest or defending that area right now as much as securing a new food source," DeCandido explained.
"I would say give it a few more weeks before they start nesting. Then you’ll know for sure," he added.
DeCandido said hawk deaths are "not unusual," and added that Pale Male's reign — he's currently on his fifth mate — is a source of amazement.
"It’s kind of a miracle that Pale Male has lasted as long as he has. What it does show is that there are a lot of Red-Tailed Hawks in New York City. Because there are enough that if Lola died she was replaced very quickly."
DeCandido said he understands why Pale Male's seeming heartlesness might upset some birdwatchers, but said it's actually an evolutionary plus.
"For people who follow this as a soap opera this is a significant thing but as a scientist this is a very positive thing."