Friday, March 23, 2012

Cornell Lab's Red-tailed Hawk Nest Cam

Red-tailed Hawk
(Transcript of today's For the Birds)

Some of the most addictive websites in the world are nest cams. Tens of millions of people have watched just one pair of eagles raise their young in Decorah, Iowa, thanks to live-streaming video from a camera set in their nest. The eagle cam was put in by the Raptor Resource Project, the same people who constructed the Peregrine Falcon nest box in Duluth and who band our Peregrines every year. I wish they would get a streaming cam in our box, too, but they don’t have the necessary funding.

Nest cams have become all the rage, so you could spend all day every day watching them for all kinds of species--there are even some trained on hummingbird nests in California.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has been working with nest cams for all kinds of studies. They have a website with links to videos of nests from previous years. A few years ago they started a game called CamClickrs so people could tag various specific behaviors from years of archived nest cam photos to help scientists. I haven’t dared to start playing CamClickr--I’d become hopelessly addicted.

Last year Cornell followed nest cameras recording successful nestings of Barn and Barred Owls, Black Vultures, Chimney Swifts, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Wrens, Tree Swallows, Eastern Bluebirds, and even Pacific Loons. This year they rigged a high-definition camera into the nest of the Cornell campus Red-tailed Hawks.

Red-tailed Hawk

These particular birds are often seen at Sapsucker Woods from the Lab--I watched them a lot when I was working there. Now I can see these birds up close and personal whenever I want. The live-streaming is mesmerizing. It’s not too hard to distinguish the male from the female.

Male:

Red-tailed Hawk

Female (a.k.a.Big Red):

Red-tailed Hawk

I’ve seen both of them incubating the eggs

Red-tailed Hawk

turning the eggs

Red-tailed Hawk

rearranging nest materials while sitting on the eggs

Red-tailed Hawk

stepping off the eggs to preen

Red-tailed Hawk

and delivering food--it seems like both the male and the female offer dead mice to entice the other one off the nest so they can take a turn sitting on the eggs (but no pix of the mice yet).

Red-tailed Hawk

There were two eggs when I started watching on Monday

Red-tailed Hawk

and Thursday I got to see the female lay her third egg. Cornell archives video of the coolest moments so even though the archive isn’t live, you can watch a 10-minute video showing her laying the third egg.

Red-tailed Hawk

The male seems more high strung than the female--when he’s on the eggs, he watches every which way, his head darting up, down, to the left, back up again, the movements quick and restless. The female seems more laid back about it all. There’s something thrilling about being able to see exactly how hard the birds are working, and how tirelessly, and we get these views without disturbing the birds at all. In about a month the eggs will hatch, and before I’ve even seen chicks, I’m utterly invested in them.

If I’m excited about the Red-tailed Hawk nest cam, I’m thrilled about a nest cam that hasn’t started streaming yet. When I was working at Cornell, a pair of Great Blue Herons built a nest in a snag in the pond right outside the Lab. Day after day I’d be drawn to the window where I’d watch them and take hundreds of photos.

Great Blue Heron

Now I have a huge set of photos from every stage as their four chicks grew from tiny nestlings to fledgings.

This year the Lab set up a cam to follow the herons. The adults haven’t returned to the nest yet, but soon I’ll be tracking two pairs of Cornell birds.

View the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Red-tailed Hawk Nest Cam!!!
Red-tailed Hawk

2 comments:

  1. I had to go cold turkey from the Decorah eagle nest cam. I wasn't getting any work done!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I found an egg on the American River Bike Trail today near Sacramento and a hawk circling nearby. Looked up hawk egg in Google images which led me to your post. I'm near certain it was a Red-Tailed hawk egg (speckled, brown, and 3x the size of a normal egg). Thanks for the great images!

    ReplyDelete