Parks officials set free a once-injured hawk in Prospect Park on Thursday, trumpeting the release as a symbol that the city aims to make parks “friendlier” to urban wildlife.
Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe — who called Prospect Park “the greatest park in the country, maybe the world” — unleashed a juvenile red-tailed hawk, who soared from the Audubon Center into a tree as dozens elementary schoolers gasped.
“It’s a reminder that people aren’t the only ones who use parks,” Benepe said, citing a city initiative to plant more trees along with the importance of ditching bug-spray chemicals that disturb birds.
At the event, wildlife rehabilitator Bobby Horvath — who rescued the hawk — explained the bird had fallen out of a tree when it was a baby and couldn’t fly. He then nursed it back to health at his Long Island home.
Horvath also showed off a barn owl (which are moonfaced and cartoonish), a peregrine falcon (which are the fastest creatures on the planet) and a Eurasian eagle-owl (which have glowing orange eyeballs) as fifth graders from St. Saviour Elementary School squirmed excitedly. Some of those birds will also be showcased at the park’s 14th annual Raptor Fest on Oct. 2, an event that features dozens of different species.
That’s part of why Brooklyn’s Parks Commissioner Kevin Jeffery said getting young people excited about wildlife is a smart move for environmentalist who want to bolster their movement.
“Parks provide a context the classroom doesn’t,” he said, gesturing toward students, who he likened to soon-to-be voters. “It’s important to nurture future environmental stewards.”
Prospect Park Alliance President Emily Lloyd echoed the importance of using ecosystems and clean air to attract wildlife, saying, “These parks are the lungs of Brooklyn.”
Raptor Fest at Prospect Park (meet at Nethermead Meadow, just inside the Lincoln Road entrance in Prospect Lefferts Gardens), Oct. 2, noon-3 pm. Free.