Avian Wildlife Center Dec 29, 2011

A letter to the Avian Wildlife Center. The facility which banded the Washington Square red tailed hawk. The hawk's leg condition was ignored by authorities since the problem was first observed in October 2010. When it was finally addressed it was too late and the hawk is now dead.
This is not just 'one' hawk as the authorities would like to trivialize the situation. It represents thousands more like her that are needlessly banded. Her suffering must bring about some healthy changes in the way the Bird Banding Lab and other agencies do things, or else all her years of torture would have been in vain.



Avian Wildlife Center
146 Neilson Road
Wantage, NJ 07461
(973) 702-1957


December 29, 2011



Dear Ms Giselle Chazotte Smisko:

I found our conversation on December 28, 2011 6:52PM to be quite fruitless. I also do not appreciate your bringing my call to you to such a discourteous and premature end. However I do sympathize with you for not being able to cope with my questions on the phone, so hopefully you may be able to answer a few of them without having to tolerate my voice. I must apologize for my unyielding tone to you but you may now gather that I, unlike most of the people you are accustomed to speaking to, do not accept unsubstantiated words from anyone.

I would like to know the name of your facility's 'study program' which permitted you to install band #1177-60335 on the Washington Square female red tailed hawk.

I confirmed with the head of the Bird Banding Lab Bruce Peterjohn that a 'study program' must be a program documented and approved by the state in which the program is being conducted. It cannot be some off the cuff whimsical 'study'.

I need to know the proper name of your red tailed hawk study program including objectives, duration, number of studiers etc. You told me the name of your study program is called 'kittatinny Mountains'. I do not feel that this is an actual study program, however I will make an attempt to research it through a FOIL request at your governing state agency the NJ Fish & Wildlife Service.

From our conversation you remained adamant that the band installed under your supervision may not be responsible for the swelling and eventual loss of the hawk's leg and that the hawk may have had some other injury or incident which caused the swelling. Nevertheless you did agree that the band certainly aggravated any possible injury the hawk may have contracted other than an infliction by the band itself.

It can be reasonably concluded therefore that in general, red tailed hawks are apt to incur leg injuries during its normal life and as such installing a leg band will only serve to compound these injuries.

You claimed that the actual person who installed this band under your authority is an undisclosed male with at least 20 years experience at the time of his banding the Washington Square hawk. He has since suffered a stroke. I hope that the stroke he has suffered has sufficiently incapacitated him from any further interaction with wild animals and more importantly would prevent him from any possible future banding of red tailed hawks, so his affliction would save me the trouble of taking steps to make sure that he doesn‘t touch another red tailed hawk.

You told me that the purpose of placing a unique numbered band on the hawks’ leg is for identifying the particular bird not just after its death but during the course of its life to learn flight paths etc. I do not understand how a band on a bird’s leg can determine flight path unless the same red tailed hawks is encountered and it’s band number observed on numerous points along it’s path.
On encountering a banded bird the leg band number can be obtained by any of the following methods;

1. plain sight.

2. using binoculars or other optical devices.

3. by photography.

Would it not be reasonable to have the band oriented right side up to accommodate at least the first two methods of reading the band. Even if it is very easy to change the orientation of a photograph, it still involves a few extra steps. The band has a nine digit number along with text and a phone number. Wouldn't it be standard practice to install the band properly oriented to make reading it as easy as possible. Because of the circular shape of the band the number may not be possible to be read on a single sighting or a single vantage point. For example someone with binoculars attempting to read the band from at least two or three different angles who has to mentally record the fragments of digits while straining to read the band--would it not be sensible to have the band placed right side up? Unless death is the only time when the band is really necessary to be recorded.

I am attempting to establish that the band was placed upside down which may give an indication that the person installing the band may quite possibly not have been in the best frame of mind and or physical aptitude to correctly install the band.

Have you at any point after being informed through letters, interviews and photographs/video about the predicament of the Washington Square hawk's leg considered any sort of reform of your banding practices including a moratorium on all bird banding by your facility.

Based on data you received as a result of bands which you have placed on red tailed hawks during the tenure of your banding practice, can you provide me with any evidence that you have effectively implemented this data for the purposes for which you originally set out to band these red tailed hawks.

Please note that I am not looking for a general answer to what bird banding is used for, I am asking what you and your facility have done personally with this data and what has come out of it which would not have come out should there be no bands placed on the red tailed hawks.

Can you provide me with any evidence that data arising from red tail hawks which you have banded contributed to any improvement of their life?

I am anxious to hear from you to help me better understand your facility’s actions.



Lincoln Karim