Red-tailed Hawks

Location: Ithaca, NY

Camera Host: Cornell Lab

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September 20, 2017

Cornell Hawks Cams Back Online!

After a summer of troubleshooting and downtime, we are happy to announce that the cams are now connected to campus via a fiber optic link, and everything is back up and working. We know that the audio is scratchy at the Fernow nest and are planning a replacement this Fall, and the new PTZ cam on the Weill Hall nest is 1080p, so check it out! 

September 15, 2017

Join Us For Bird Cams Appreciation Night!

Whether you’re here in Ithaca, New York, or around the world, join the Bird Cams team this Saturday, September 16, as we celebrate the birds, the community, and insights from watching the cams—and anticipate what's yet to come. Join us in person for a reception from 6:00 to 7:00 P.M. and presentation and Q&A from 7:00 to 8:30 at the auditorium in B25 Warren Hall on Cornell campus, or tune in to the live stream from 7:00 to 8:30 P.M., U.S. Eastern Time by clicking on the "More" link.  More...

July 06, 2017

Big Red's New Friend Is Growing Up

The immature Red-tailed Hawk that has been sharing Big Red's territory over the past few months is beginning the transformation into adulthood. Keen-eyed BOG Suzanne Horning reports that the young bird is starting to grow his red tail (with pictures to prove it)! Juvenile Red-tailed Hawks of all subspecies lack red tails throughout their first year of life. They begin replacing their brown tail feathers with the brick red feathers of an adult starting in late spring. 

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. 

September 20

Cornell Hawks Cams Back Online!

After a summer of troubleshooting and downtime, we are happy to announce that the cams are now connected to campus via a fiber optic link, and everything is back up and working. We know that the audio is scratchy at the Fernow nest and are planning a replacement this Fall, and the new PTZ cam on the Weill Hall nest is 1080p, so check it out! 

June 15

Necropsy Confirms Collision Trauma was the Cause of Ezra’s Injury

Following Ezra’s death, the Animal Health Diagnostic Center has completed a necropsy, including a toxicology screening. The necropsy confirmed that a high-impact trauma resulted in a massive fracture to the wing and shoulder, as well as damaging the liver. The toxicology screening found an absence of lead but trace amounts of rodenticides. Rodenticide exposure is not believed to be a factor in Ezra’s death. Observations by birders on the ground suggested normal, healthy behaviors until the time of the collision, and there was no evidence of excessive bleeding as would be expected if exposure to anticoagulant rodenticides was the cause of death. Exposure to rodenticides is common: studies in New York, New England, and Canada have shown that 49-86% of raptors found dead from a variety of causes may have anticoagulant rodenticides in their system and that rodenticides were deemed to be the cause of death in 5-15% of cases. Although small exposures are not always lethal, these results are a reminder of the many hazards that hawks face in the landscapes that they share with humans.  

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! 

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.