Barry, the beloved barred owl who died last month in Central Park in a collision with a truck, carried a potentially fatal level of rat poison that could have interfered with his flight, according to an autopsy.
The 2-year-old feathered favorite of bird watchers inside Manhattan’s largest park died around 2:30 a.m. on August 6 after being struck by a Central Park Conservancy maintenance vehicle.
She died of blunt trauma, according to a report prepared by the State Department of Environmental Conservation in late August and handed over to THE CITY following a Freedom to Act request. information.
But vets who performed the autopsy also found high levels of rat poison in Barry’s bloodstream, which exposed him to “fatal bleeding” even without the collision, according to the report. Vets also detected traces of rat and fish scales inside his body weighing more than 2 pounds.
The report could not determine if Barry appeared to be under duress before the truck hit her.
“Bromadiolone [rat poison] the level is potentially fatal, but it is not known if it played a role in the death of this owl i.e. the anticoagulant affected the owl’s ability to avoid a collision with the vehicle ? Asks the report.
The autopsy also indicated that Barry had been exposed to “several anticoagulant rodenticides, including brodifacoum, chlorophacinone, difethialone, diphacinone and warfarin”.
It is not known where Barry was poisoned. the Central Park Conservancy nonprofit said it last used a rodenticide in the urban oasis in July, but residential and commercial buildings outside the park are using all kinds of chemicals to control infestations.
“The most important message to come out of this is that life is really hard because we made it hard for the city’s birds,” said Kaitlin Parkins, associate director of conservation and science at New York City. Audubon, a non-profit organization that advocates for the protection of wild birds and their habitats.
Flying while intoxicated
Bobby Horvath, a federally licensed wildlife rehabilitator who rescues animals at his home on Long Island, said he typically cared for birds that were impaired after eating poisoned rodents.
“The poison is so debilitating for all other animals that come in contact with it
it affects so many untargeted animals, âhe said.
âWe get a lot of birds of prey from New York, you might think their injury is one thing, but there might be a secondary or underlying issue,â Horvath added. “Barry may have been sick and compromised before.”
After the collision, the truck driver took Barry to 79th Street Yard for park rangers to identify later, according to the report. Just after 8 a.m., two rangers confirmed that the owl was Barry, according to the report.
Workers then took her to another location to be sent for autopsy at the DEC center in Delmar, where the agency works with Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
âPredatory birds have to hunt for food and often, like their prey, find food outside of park boundaries,â Parks Department spokesperson Crystal Howard said in a statement.
The agency does not allow the use of certain rodenticides that are listed as posing high and secondary risks to birds, and uses anticoagulant rodenticides like bromadiolone. The autopsy report revealed Barry had traces of more deadly chemicals not used by the Parks Department.
âNYC Parks is committed to integrated pest management because our parks are home to many birds of prey – which we have made a lot of progress on, especially in the parks where they nest,â Howard said.
A spokesperson for the Central Park Conservancy said the nonprofit uses bromadiolone “when there is significant rodent activity and pesticide-free interventions are not working.”
In an unsigned email, the Conservancy said it administered a rat poison “treatment” to control an infestation along Central Park South for about two weeks in July.
It has been widely reported that rat populations have increased this year. And Barry wouldn’t be the first owl found poisoned in the park.
A 2014 petition by environmental groups to ban toxic pesticides in the park failed.
A dangerous city
Poisoned rats and mice are often easy meals for birds because they slow down before they die, Parkins said.
âWe have sent birds of prey for autopsies, and the vast majority of them have traces of anticoagulant rodenticides in their bodies,â she said.
Barry could have eaten a poisoned rat from anywhere, she noted.
Death has rocked a united birding community, which follows the various owls, hawks and other birds that make Central Park their home.
âIt was terrible when Barry died,â said Kevin Cisco, a 62-year-old bird watcher from Manhattan who mimicked the sound the owl made as it charmed fans through the park.
But he wasn’t surprised that the bird had high levels of rat poison and thought she “might not have seen the truck coming.”
In 2012, a number of red-tailed hawks died in parks due to a rodenticide.
Pale Male, a red-tailed hawk who caught the city’s attention like Barry almost 20 years ago thanks to his park-edge romance with Fifth Avenue resident Lola, ended up poisoning some of his babies after unknowingly bringing rodenticides to the nest.