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Red-tailed Hawks

Location: Ithaca, NY

Camera Host: Cornell Lab

Find more about Weather in Ithaca, NY

February 13, 2018

Male Hawk Stares At Camera During Nest Building

The Red-tailed Hawks have been busy getting their nest built up at the Fernow nest site this morning. In this long clip, the male stops construction duties to give some serious face time to the camera. 

February 01, 2018

Red-tailed Hawks Shape Nest Bowl, Bring In Greenery During Long Visit

Big Red and her new companion make a long visit to the Fernow site to conduct some nest maintenance on the Red-tailed Hawk cam. The pair seems to be visiting more frequently now that the start of the breeding season is mere weeks away.  

January 31, 2018

Male Makes Morning Nest Maintenance Visit

The male Red-tailed Hawk was back at the Fernow nest site this morning, working to shape the nest bowl and rearrange nest substrate.  

February 13, 2018

Male Hawk Stares At Camera During Nest Building

The Red-tailed Hawks have been busy getting their nest built up at the Fernow nest site this morning. In this long clip, the male stops construction duties to give some serious face time to the camera. 

February 01, 2018

Red-tailed Hawks Shape Nest Bowl, Bring In Greenery During Long Visit

Big Red and her new companion make a long visit to the Fernow site to conduct some nest maintenance on the Red-tailed Hawk cam. The pair seems to be visiting more frequently now that the start of the breeding season is mere weeks away.  

January 31, 2018

Male Makes Morning Nest Maintenance Visit

The male Red-tailed Hawk was back at the Fernow nest site this morning, working to shape the nest bowl and rearrange nest substrate.  

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.  

Red-tailed Hawk

Tree

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

Food

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.

 

20130315-EzraOnNest

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.