Kirkus Reviews QR Code
RED-TAILS IN LOVE by Marie Winn

RED-TAILS IN LOVE

A Wildlife Drama in Central Park

By Marie Winn

Pub Date: March 30th, 1998
ISBN: 0-679-43997-8
Publisher: Pantheon

 This story is for the birds--but even non-avians will applaud this winning narrative of romantic raptors and other feathered habituÇs of Manhattan's Central Park. Surprisingly, Central Park is one of the top birdwatching spots in America: The bird census in 1996 came to 275 separate species, counted by a dedicated cadre of birdwatchers and naturalists of which Winn (Unplogging the Plug-In Drug, 1987) is an early-rising member. While the eponymous hawks are the stars of this show, the dramatis personae include seed-stealing squirrels, chickadees, woodpeckers, the ubiquitous pigeon, the birdwatchers themselves, and two human celebs: Mary Tyler Moore, on whose Fifth Avenue building the red-tails construct their nest, and Woody Allen, whose penthouse is within easy binocular range one block north. Over the course of four breeding seasons, Winn and company anxiously observe Pale Male and two or perhaps three different females as they struggle to raise a family while beset by assorted man-made and natural perils. The birdwatchers protect the nest from workmen on scaffolds; they rescue Pale Male and his first mate when they are injured; they fret over the effects of the Pocahontas premiere on the park's Great Lawn (the hawks do not seem to mind). When chicks finally hatch, these enraptured raptor watchers keep vigil, readily sharing telescopes and binoculars with passers-by. Winn writes with great knowledge of the habits of the park's wildlife, but she is equally observant, slyly so, of the tendencies of the human species, particularly those inhabiting the Upper East Side; the best story here, perhaps, is that of the devoted core of amateur birdwatchers--Winn included--who forfeit sleep and frequently money to preserve a little wildness in the city. Written with warmth and modesty, a great book for birders and nature readers, as well as an interesting portrait of New Yorkers. Winn thoughtfully includes an informative ``Wildlife Almanac'' in the appendix.