Protect Birds of Prey from Rodenticide Poisoning

Use Alternative Methods to Control Rodent Populations That Do Not Harm New York City's Hawks, Falcons, Owls, and Other Birds of Prey

[b]Red-tailed Hawk with Brown Rat[/b][br]© Laura Goggin[br][br][br]Red-tailed Hawk with Brown Rat
© Laura Goggin

The methods we use to control rodents can have a devastating impact on our birds of prey. Rodenticides, also called rat poisons, are commonly used to control rodent populations. One type, called anticoagulant rodenticides, cause death by stopping normal blood clotting. Anticoagulant rodenticides pose a serious risk to rodent predators such as hawks and owls: Rodents that eat the poison bait take several days to die, and during that time become slow and sick, easy targets for predators. When birds of prey eat these rodents, they become poisoned themselves. If the bird is small enough, like a nestling, or has eaten enough poisoned prey, the toxin can be lethal. 

In one study, rat poisons (anticoagulant rodenticides) were detected in 84% of dead birds of prey found in New York City. 

Anticoagulant Rodenticides Can Cause:

Rodents Thrive Everywhere, Not Just in Parks

[b]Red-tailed Hawk[/b][br]© Laura GogginRed-tailed Hawk
© Laura Goggin
It's the ultimate goal of NYC Audubon to have rodenticides banned in City parks. We are in close communication with the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation Wildlife Unit, encouraging and supporting them to stop using rodenticides during hawk breeding season in areas where birds of prey are nesting. While we work closely with NYC Parks & Recreation to limit rodenticide use, word needs to spread beyond the parks. Landscaped grounds and gardens outside of buildings, as well as basement and trash areas in buildings, attract rodents. It is legal for building managers to hire pest removal professionals who use rodenticides, but there are better ways of controlling rodent populations that do not harm birds.

The Best Method of Rodent Control Is Prevention

Trapping and exclusion are the first lines of defense against rodents! Take preventative measures by removing what rodents need: food, water, and shelter.

  • Keep all garbage and food in tightly sealed containers. Locking bins are best, as rats can easily tear through plastic trash bags.
  • Do not leave food for pets or other animals outside. 
  • Remove standing water—fix leaky pipes and holes where water pools.
  • Remove dense vegetation from around and on buildings. It provides ideal rat habitat.
  • Seal openings to the building that are ½ inch or larger with stainless steel mesh and cement or products designed specifically to exclude rodents.
  • If you still have rats, use non-chemical methods of control such as snap or electric traps. We do not recommend the use of glue traps.


Advocate for Non-poison Methods of Rodent Control

[b]Red-tailed Hawks in Tree at Tompkins Square Park[/b][br]© Laura GogginRed-tailed Hawks in Tree at Tompkins Square Park
© Laura Goggin
Ask your landlord or building manager about the use of rodenticides in your building. Be an advocate for the use of non-poison methods of rodent control and safe use of rodenticides.

If you need to hire a pest management professional, ask for and choose one that has experience with Integrated Pest Management (IPM) services. IPM is a prevention-based pest control method that is less harmful to animals and people.

NYC Audubon has published two new pamphlets on responsible rodent control: a brochure aimed at building tenants, and a rack card for rodent control professionals. Print out the pamphlets here and give it to your friends, neighbors, rodent control professionals, and building managers. Educate them about the dangers of rodenticides and how they can responsibly control rodent populations without harming our birds of prey.

View the "Rodenticides and Birds of Prey" brochure for tenants here.

View the "Rodenticides and Birds of Prey" rack card for rodent control professionals here.



What To Do If You Find a Poisoned Bird of Prey

[b]Red-tailed Hawk Being Treated for Rodenticide Poisoning at the Wild Bird Fund in Manhattan[/b][br]© Wild Bird FundRed-tailed Hawk Being Treated for Rodenticide Poisoning at the Wild Bird Fund in Manhattan
© Wild Bird Fund
A poisoned bird of prey requires immediate professional medical care if it is to survive. Be on the lookout for any birds of prey that are exhibiting symptoms of rodenticide poisoning. The most obvious symptom of a poisoned bird is bleeding from the mouth. A poisoned bird of prey will also exhibit lethargic behavior, such as not attempting to move when approached.

If you find a possibly poisoned bird of prey in New York City, please call NYC Audubon at 212-691-7483. Our organization will provide guidance over the phone and alert professional bird of prey rehabilitators to check on the bird.



Responsible Rodent Control Resources

NYC Rodent Academy

NYC Rat Information Portal

Safe Rodent Control Resource Center

National Pesticide Information Center

EPA Rodenticide Resources



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