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Red-tailed Hawks

Location: Ithaca, NY

Camera Host: Cornell Lab

Find more about Weather in Ithaca, NY

July 11, 2014

DNA Results Revealed

The beloved fledgling Red-tailed Hawk known as “E3” currently being treated at the The Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Health Center is indeed a male! Steve Bogdanowicz from the Evolutionary Genetics Core Facility in Cornell's Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department determined the gender of the young bird using DNA analysis with a sample provided thanks to the Wildlife Health Center. Steve and his wife Christine Bogdanowicz (from Cornell's Shoals Marine Lab) are avid hawk cam followers, who also enjoy following the Big Red and Ezra hawk family from the ground. By creating online photo journals, Christine shares this enthusiasm with the ever-growing virtual hawk community. Working with Cornell Lab staff, the Bogdanowiczs hope to contribute to the Bird Cam learning experience by providing future reports about Big Red and Ezra’s family tree using DNA analysis from feathers collected off the ground. Thanks to Christine for the wonderful photo of E3 and Ezra from June 2014. 

July 10, 2014

Cornell Hawks Family Update

The veterinarians at the Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Health Center have been impressed with how well E3 has been healing. In one week there is stability at the fracture site and he is getting better every day. E3 has started physical therapy and as his healing and physical therapy continues, E3's doctors will slowly begin to get a better idea of his prognosis. Meanwhile, the family is doing well— Birders on the Ground: Karel and BOGette reported seeing Big Red, Ezra, E1, and E2 on campus yesterday morning! 

July 03, 2014

E3 Update

The veterinarians at the Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Health Center report that E3 has had a good week. Today they noticed the beginning signs of healing in the bones. There are no visible complications and E3's behavior suggests that he is comfortable. E3 continues to gain weight, has a great appetite, and is casting pellets regularly. In this picture you can see the “figure of 8” bandage around the wing and the body wrap under the feathers on his chest. This technique immobilizes the wing and keeps it in position. There is still a lot of healing to do at this point, making it difficult to predict the final outcome, but last week's setback does make it less likely that E3 will be releasable. As the healing process continues, we know that many of you will have questions about what will happen if E3 is unreleasable. The main consideration would be whether he is comfortable and otherwise healthy, and if so, we would seek the best options for him to be transferred from the Wildlife Health Center to a licensed facility for longer-term care. Thank you for your support and concern. We will keep you posted. Best wishes from us here at the Lab for a good Fourth of July weekend. 

June 14, 2014

All Three Hawks Fledge!

By lunchtime we had an empty #CornellHawks nest! All hawks fledged. E2 left the nest just after 6AM in the morning shortly followed by E1. Both juveniles spent time together on the Plant Sciences building. Male parent Ezra later made a prey drop to the fledglings. Soon after the prey drop E3 fledged with a confident flight to a nearby tree.  

June 12, 2014

E2 Returns to Nest After Fledging

Amazingly after spending the morning on Weill Hall, on a ledge just higher than the ledge E2 first landed on after fledging, E2 returns to the nest to join E1 and E3 who are both yet to fledge. This same event occurred in 2012. Thank to ncaerie for the video clip. 

June 10, 2014

More Prey Drops for E2

E2 starts the day on the lower edge corner of the Plant Sciences building and later flies to the roof of the covered greenhouse. Around lunchtime Ezra attempts to deliver a chipmunk to E2, but delivers it to the other juveniles instead. Later in the afternoon E2 flies to a nearby tree, then flies down to some scrub on the ground and spends some time on the ground before landing on a railing out of view of the camera. Later E2 returns to the roof of the greenhouse. At 5:05PM Big Red delivers a chipmunk to E2, who then tries to swallow it whole! A dedicated volunteer 'Birder on the Ground' captured the moment when Big Red delivers a second chipmunk to E2 who was still perched on the greenhouse roof. E2 was out of view of the CornellHawks cam. After delivering the chipmunk Big Red returned to the nest with E1 and E3 (who have yet to fledge). Big Red consumed half a chipmunk and then carried the remaining half to the greenhouse roof where E2 continued to eat the chipmunk delivered earlier. Parent and juvenile then eat together. After 7PM Big Red delivers another chipmunk to E2. Both Big Red and Ezra kept a close eye on their young throughout the day, including the very active E2.  

April 29

E3 Has Hatched

The final Red-tailed Hawk egg has hatched at 12:25PM, April 29, over 40 hours later than sibling E2. 

April 27

First Hawk Egg Has Hatched!

Early this morning the first sighting of E1 (the first egg to hatch in 2014) was seen via the infrared light. Welcome! 

April 26

The Hawk Hatch Has Begun!

The 2014 CornellHawks Hatch has begun! Earlier today the first "pip" or hole in an egg was spotted on cam, making it likely a downy nestling will emerge in the next 24 hours. 

Red-tailed Hawk


Nest Placement

Red-tailed Hawks typically put their nests in the crowns of tall trees where they have a commanding view of the landscape. They may also nest on a cliff ledge or on artificial structures such as window ledges and billboard platforms.

Nest Description

Both members build the nest, or simply refurbish one of the nests they’ve used in previous years. Nests are tall piles of dry sticks up to 6.5 feet high and 3 feet across. The inner cup is lined with bark strips, fresh foliage, and dry vegetation. Construction takes 4-7 days.

Clutch Size

1-5 eggs

Incubation Period

28-35 days

Nestling Period

42-46 days

Egg Description

White or buffy, blotched or speckled with buff, brown, or purple.

Condition at Hatching

Tiny and helpless, unable to raise head, and weighing about 2 ounces.

Small Animals


Mammals make up the bulk of most Red-tailed Hawk meals. Frequent victims include voles, mice, wood rats, rabbits, snowshoe hares, jackrabbits, and ground squirrels. The hawks also eat birds, including pheasants, bobwhite, starlings, and blackbirds; as well as snakes and carrion. Individual prey items can weigh anywhere from less than an ounce to more than 5 pounds.

Typical Voice

Adults make a hoarse, screaming kee-eeeee-arr. It lasts 2-3 seconds and is usually given while soaring. During courtship, they also make a shrill chwirk, sometimes giving several of these calls in a row.more sounds

See full Species Info at All About Birds

About the Nest

A Red-tailed Hawk pair has been nesting above Cornell University’s athletic fields for at least the past four years. In 2012, 2013 and again in 2014, we installed cameras to get a better look at these majestic birds as they raise their young amid the bustle of a busy campus. So far, we’ve seen the birds bringing prey such as voles, squirrels, and pigeons to the nest.

Big Red and Her Mate

BigRed-ThreeEggs-600x350The female, nicknamed “Big Red” in honor of her alma mater, is slightly larger, with a darker head, nape and throat, and is banded on her right leg. From banding records we know she was banded in nearby Brooktondale, New York, during her first autumn in 2003, making her nearly eleven years old.



The male, named Ezra after the co-founder of Cornell University, is banded on his left leg. He’s a bit smaller and has golden-tawny feathers on his face and head, and a paler neck than the female. He is at least nine years old and was first banded in 2006 as an adult bird on Judd Falls Road near the Cornell campus.