Humans and hawks on the island of Manhattan have an uneasy truce. We let them live in our trees and on our celebrities’ buildings, and they thin out the pigeon population for us. Occasionally, they do funny things like eat at our chicken restaurants. But the hawks do not appear to be part of the larger bird-human secret war we’ve been covering here on Daily Intel. As a result, we’ve become so comfortable with our birds that we’ve taken to naming them: Pale Male, Lola, and Henry and Katherine Hudson, for example. It’s kind of a strange practice, when you think about it.
Of course, the birds don’t respond to the names, and they don’t use them among themselves. In fact if they do have names, they’re probably like American Indian names — based on characteristics or stories. Like, Pale Male’s name in bird language is probably something like He Who Ate That Squirrel One Time and Almost Choked on the Undigested Cigarette Butts Inside. And really, naming birds is a terrible idea in the first place. Once, when Intel Chris was younger and his parents raised pheasants in a coop by the barn out back, he named some of his favorite, more recognizable birds. After “Shaq” didn’t make it through hunting season, he never named one again.
Still, we insist upon doing it, and the latest example is the red-tailed hawk that’s been spotted hanging around Gramercy Park. Local residents had a contest to name the birds, and they came up with all kinds of ideas. Like Duane, for example, after the family that used to own the farmland there. Or Booth, for Edwin Booth, whose memorial stands in the park. Or Jackson, as in Michael, who also had a red coat sometimes. In the end they went with Ruggles, which is kind of an adorable name for a bird, and also has a historical context — Samuel B. Ruggles bought the property from the heirs of James Duane. Still, it would have been nice to give him just a normal name like anybody else. Like Steve, for example. Or Robert. Ruggles, while cute, sort of sounds like a side character from Harry Potter who secretly has Lord Voldemort living on the back of his head.
Gramercy Park’s Amiable Hawk Gets a Name [City Room/NYT]
Related: Read about the pair of red-tailed hawks that captured — and broke — the heart of the Upper West Side in last year’s New York profile.