GRAMERCY PARK — A red-tailed hawk who has visited Gramercy Park over the past two years has been spotted again — chowing down on rats in the park, according to neighbors.
Arlene Harrison, president of the Gramercy Park Block Association and a park trustee known as the 'mayor' of Gramercy Park, said she spotted a hawk Tuesday that looked like Ruggles, a regular at the park who also frequents Union Square Park and Stuyvesant Square Park.
"He does have the markings that look like Ruggles," Harrison said Tuesday. Ruggles was the name chosen through a local competition in 2009 from some 80 suggestions. The bird has been in Gramercy Park consistently since Saturday, according to Harrison.
She said the bird has likely been drawn by the availability of live rats in the park, coupled with the mild winter and the high likelihood of an early spring. The rats pose no risk to the hawks because Gramercy Park is a rat-poison-free park space, she said.
"We have a feeling it's because he's probably going after whatever he can get to eat here," Harrison said.
Photos taken Monday March 5 and posted to the Nearsay website show a red-tailed hawk that locals believe is Ruggles.
"Our neighbors, particularly the children, are delighted to have Ruggles back, because when he has previously visited the park, his perch has been on the head of the Edwin Booth statue," she said.
Parks spokesman Philip Abramson said that the Parks Department had had more reports of rodent sightings than in prior winters.
The Parks Department was using an integrated approach to deal with rodents and other pests, Abramson said.
"This approach includes eliminating food sources and garbage, eliminating habitable areas, and employing targeted use of appropriate pesticides and mechanical controls," within the departments various parks, which does not include Gramercy Park.
"We encourage the public to help keep parks clean to assist us with these efforts. We also value our wildlife and work diligently to create the necessary balance between public health and safety, and wildlife health and safety," he said.