Perched in the window outside NYU President Hamilton’s office on the 12th floor of Bobst is a pair of red-tailed hawks overlooking Washington Square Park. The pair nested on the windowsill back in 2011 when John Sexton was NYU’s president. The Hawk Cam recently returned last month and people have been flocking to the site to see the hawk as she nests with a fresh set of eggs.
CAS professor Colin Jerolmack studies urban wildlife in NYU’s animal studies department and was first to unofficially name the hawks after spotting their nest from his apartment window a few years ago when he lived on the park’s perimeter.
“I named the male, Bobby, after Bobst library, and his original mate Violet, after the school colors,” Jerolmack said. “Bobby’s new mate is Rosie, who was named by hawkwatcher Roger Paw.”
Despite Jerolmack’s nicknames for them, NYU has stated that it refuses to officially name the birds in attempt against anthropomorphizing them.
In the height of the hawks’ popularity, birdwatchers would whip out their binoculars and cameras and watch them from afar. Jerolmack said a few dozen birdwatchers would meet up to compare hawk sightings.
The New York Times also caught on to the hawk craze and used to write and host a webcam on their website. President Sexton approved the webcam, and soon after the New York Times set up a camera hidden in the folds of the president’s office curtains.
When the hawks were first found, they had a big following watching them daily on the live Hawk Cam. Students would head over to Bobst to see the hawks in person. In the lobby, screens were put up to stream the livecam. Soon, Violet laid three eggs, drawing even more viewers. But suddenly Violet became ill, which caused the eggs to hatch late and brought more attention to the hawks. Many of the students who were part of the bird following have now graduated from NYU, which made the interest in the Hawk Cam feather away.
The Hawk Cam was eventually taken down due to lack of interest and the birds being scared of movement from inside the window. However, when Hamilton came to NYU last semester, he got the previous Hawk Cam back up and running very soon.
CAS sophomore Lourania Oliver enjoys watching the Hawk Cam, and loves how birds can get creative with where they nest when trees are lacking in the city.
“It’s funny how it’s outside the president’s office, like he’s watching us all like a hawk as we play in the park and avoid homework,” Oliver said.
Many people have shown interest in the hawks, most choosing to watch from their homes on the Hawk Cam, whereas some people hope Jerolmack and the rest of his department will intervene in the hawks’ lives to make sure their eggs safely hatch.
“People talk about how it’s great opportunity to see ‘wild nature,’” Jerolmack said. “Many viewers have suggested we intervene more in the lives of the hawks by protecting them from a storm or removing trash. We have romantic conceptions of what ‘wild’ is, yet we grow so attached that we want to intervene even if it means corrupting the wild ideal.”
Tandon graduate student Devon Powell agrees that he loves being able to watch the full extent of nature so close to campus.
“It’s awesome that we’re supporting nature in this urban forest and it’s good that the footage is raw,” Powell said.
Currently, the female hawk presides over the nest, while the male makes an appearance from time to time to visit their three soon-to-be hawks. The first baby hawk made an appearance on Sunday and all three eggs will soon be fully hatched. With spring upon us, the Hawk Cam is in full bloom. Migrate over to watch this ruffling hatching unfold.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 17 print edition. Email Pamela Jew at [email protected]