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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

NYC Heron

Air Date: Week of

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CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. To the surprise and delight of New York City bird-watchers a few years ago, a pair of red-tailed hawks took up residence on the ledge of an apartment building overlooking Central Park. Now the park has another unexpected feathered guest: a great blue heron is making his winter home there. Joining me to talk about this bird is Henry Stern, New York City's Parks Commissioner. Hello, sir.

STERN: Hi. We're very flattered that this bird has chosen to spend the winter with us rather than continuing south, as most blue herons do at the fall migration time.

CURWOOD: Now, have you actually seen this bird yourself?

STERN: No, I haven't, but I've heard tell of him. And, well, our rangers have seen him and he's been photographed. So we know he's there.

CURWOOD: And it's a guy, you think.

STERN: We think so.

CURWOOD: Why do you suppose that this bird decided to winter in The Big Apple?

STERN: Well, they only go as far as they have to, so it's possible that he found it warm enough or comfortable to survive. It's possible he had an illness or an affliction which prevented him from traveling south with the flock. It might be that he just lost his bearings.

CURWOOD: Mmm hm. Do you think that aside from temperature or the prospect of illness, that habitat in New York City has improved for these birds?

STERN: Oh, it has. Central Park is 843 acres, and this is a nice woodland and forest and full of plains and lakes. And there are fish in those lakes, which blue herons like to eat. So, there's no question that he could survive here. The only risk is that it would become very cold. But it seems to be a relatively normal to mild winter, and we're already going into February.

CURWOOD: Now, I'm wondering what kind of attention this bird is drawing there, and how that might affect attendance down at Central Park.

STERN: Well, it's getting some heron watchers, and word spreads. We don't want to make too much of it, because we don't want anyone coming there to bother the heron. So far, no one has. And people respect the bird. We trust that will continue, because New Yorkers are basically decent.

CURWOOD: One last thing before we go.

STERN: Sure.

CURWOOD: Does this bird have a name?

STERN: No. The bird does not have a name, and I'll tell you why. The tradition is that birds in captivity or other animals in zoos are given names. But birds or animals that are in the wild are not supposed to be named. And this bird is in the wild, not in captivity.

CURWOOD: Well, I want to thank you for taking this time with us today. Henry Stern is New York City's Parks Commissioner.

STERN: Thank you.

(Music up and under: Delirium, "Daylight")



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