Red-tailed Hawks

Location: Ithaca, NY

Camera Host: Cornell Lab

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May 26, 2017

Big Red Makes Quick Visit to Fernow Nest

Big Red was back on the Fernow nest this morning. She continues to spend time with her juvenile companion on campus. The two have even been seen bringing sticks to a third light tower at the university's athletic fields.  

May 04, 2017

BR Update: Teaming Up

It's been reported by BOGs Karel & Bogette that BR has been spending extended periods with the new juvenile hawk that was recently spotted in her territory. Over the past week, the two birds have been seen soaring together, spending time in the trees, and moving to new locations with one another. According to Karel and Bogette and BOG Suzanne Horning, the pair has also been observed delivering sticks to multiple light towers near the athletic fields—including both the Fernow and Weill nest locations. While these two seem getting along, or at least tolerating one another, the window for breeding this year has likely come and passed; however, it's promising to know that BR is spending time with another male and actively adding to potential nest locations. 

April 28, 2017

Ezra Tribute in the Works

Many members of the community have expressed interest in donating to the legacy of Ezra. As a tribute to the beloved Red-tail, we have been working with campus colleagues on an educational panel that we hope to install near the Cornell Botanical Gardens, one of Ezra's favorite hunting grounds. Click to learn more about the planned tribute and donate--> More...

May 26, 2017

Big Red Makes Quick Visit to Fernow Nest

Big Red was back on the Fernow nest this morning. She continues to spend time with her juvenile companion on campus. The two have even been seen bringing sticks to a third light tower at the university's athletic fields.  

March 28, 2017

Big Red glides into Fernow Nest from Stadium Lights

BR has been back and forth to the nest all morning, spending time perching around campus on trees and the stadium lights. 

March 27, 2017

Big Red Update: Stranger on the Nest

After a quiet weekend on the Fernow nest, it was a surprise to see an unknown Red-tail make a visit to the cam site just before midday. The unknown visitor only hung around for about 20 minutes before leaving the nest (see the clip), and the bird's stay was shortly followed up by a stint from Big Red. Thanks to an on-the-scene account from BOGs Karel and Bogette, we know that BR was joined by at least two other Red-tailed Hawks in the vicinity for about an hour. During this time, BR made trips to both the Fernow and Weill nest sites and participated in separate, seemingly non-aggressive, soaring events with each of the visiting Red-tails. BR has since been back to the Fernow nest on multiple occasions this morning (March 27). We will continue to provide updates on BR and the nest, as only time will tell what the future holds. 

April 05

Big Red Update: Adding Sticks and Taking a Trip

Thanks to an update from BOGs Karel and BOGette, we know that Big Red has been keeping herself busy over the past few days. After spending this past Saturday industriously adding sticks to the Fernow Nest, Big Red was spotted taking multiple trips around Cornell grounds that were beyond her usual territory. The BOGs report that she surveyed multiple other Red-tailed Hawk territories in the vicinity and even had a few short, but seemingly nonaggressive, interactions with other hawks. According to the BOGs, these long flights are an interesting but unusual behavior for Big Red. After a quiet day on Monday, BR was spotted taking some bark to the nest yesterday on Tuesday, April 4 – likely the first of the season! We're still waiting to see how the 2017 breeding season will end up for Big Red, but it is interesting to know that she seems to remain committed to building up the nest and scouting the surrounding areas. A big thanks to Karel and BOGette for their continued updates on BR! 

March 21

Sad News about Ezra.

As some of you may know, Ezra has not been seen on the Cornell Hawks cam or on the Cornell campus for the past several days, and worries have been mounting. We are extremely sad to have to share the news with you that we learned this evening that Ezra has died. Please click "More" to read the full story and share your thoughts and memories of Ezra in pictures or words in the enhanced commenting section. More...

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 since at least the 2012, making use of two different light towers for their nest sites. In 2012 and 2015, they used a tower near Fernow Hall, and in 2013, 2014, and 2016, they used the tower nearest Weill Hall. We installed cameras at both of these sites to get a better look at the intimate behavior of these well-known birds as they raise their young amid the bustle of a busy campus.

Big Red and Her Former 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.



Big Red’s former mate, named Ezra after the co-founder of Cornell University, died in March 2017 (read about his legacy here). He and Big Red had raised successful broods every year from 2012–2016. He was a bit smaller and had golden-tawny feathers on his face and head. He also had a paler neck than the female. He was first banded in 2006 as an adult bird on Judd Falls Road near the Cornell campus.