SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY RED-TAILED HAWK NEST CAM
This Red-tailed Hawk Nest Cam was donated to Syracuse University by Anne Marie Higgins in memory of her late husband, Thomas W. Higgins, Jr.
Our Red-Tailed Hawk Family
Syracuse University located in Central New York is the home to a devoted red-tailed hawk pair, Otto and SU-Sue who’ve been nesting on SU’s Lyman Hall since 2012. Their breeding and hunting territory covers over one square mile and includes Syracuse University (SU), adjacent SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), nearby Oakwood and Morningside cemeteries and Thornden Park as well as the neighborhoods close to SU.
Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) color patterns are highly variable but their basic appearance is consistent with a light chest and brown to cinnamon-colored bellyband across their mid-line. Their characteristic brick red-tail develops in their second year of life giving the species its name. Juvenile red-tailed hawks have brown to cinnamon barred patterns on their tails until their red feathers form. This occurs in a process called molting when new feathers form to replace the old ones. Molting usually starts in the early summer and lasts until fall.
The feather color patterns of the male Otto and female, SU-Sue are quite similar and it can be difficult to tell them apart. Each year, they molt into different patterns from the year before so it is interesting to see what each new molt will bring. This season, Otto’s head feathers are lighter than Sue’s and he has a larger patch of white feathers above his beak than Sue. Otto’s chest feathers have cinnamon colored streaks as compared to her pristine white chest. All of Sue’s tail feathers have dark subterminal bands, whereas Otto’s middle feather has a dotted subterminal band and his outer feather bands are dark like Sue’s. Female red-tailed hawks are usually up to 25 % larger than males but Sue is only slightly larger than Otto.
It is thought that Red-tails do not breed until their third year of life but in 2018, a one year old adult male successfully bred three chicks at Cornell University. We don’t know for sure how old each of our SU hawks is, but based upon the fact that they may have had a nest on Link Hall in 2011, Otto and SU-Sue could be at least 11 years old. Red-tailed hawks can live 20 years or more in the wild.
Normally red-tailed hawks mate for life and are monogamous, however, we had an uncommon situation in 2016 when the nest was tended by three adult red-tails, Otto, SU-Sue and a second female named SUNY (pronounced Soo-Nee). This unique trio successfully raised six chicks in one nest. Red-tailed hawks are not known to cooperatively nest like other species of hawks, i.e. Harris’s hawks. But our trio certainly seemed to be “cooperating” well. While there is no way to know for sure, the most likely scenario would have been that each female laid three eggs in the same nest, as it would be highly unusual for one female to produce six eggs. We have no photographic record of mating behavior with SUNY so we don’t know if another male was involved or all six are the progeny of our male, Otto.
An area hawk expert suggested that SUNY may have been an offspring of SU-Sue and Otto and her male partner died so she returned “home” to lay her eggs and raise her chicks with her parents help. We will never know, but all three worked together and SUNY stayed in the area near Otto and SU-Sue for another year before we lost track of her, hopefully to find a mate. Since then Otto and SU-Sue have been a monogamous, devoted pair.
Prior to 2016, eyewitness accounts of nesting on Lyman Hall from 2012-2015 confirm that Otto and SU-Sue had been a monogamous, devoted pair. There were no live hatches in 2012, one chick hatched in 2013, two chicks hatched in 2014 and 2015. In 2017 and 2018, the pair raised successive broods of three chicks to fledging witnessed on nest cams installed in 2017. We look forward to watching the 2019 season of nest refurbishing, egg laying, incubation, hatching, brooding and fledging from our newly installed, upgraded PTZ cams built and livestreamed by HDonTap.
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Syracuse University Red-Tailed Hawk History
- January 6, 2019 - Red-Tailed Hawk Tales Facebook page was created. Stories, photographs, videos and educational information about the SU hawks will be shared throughout the year.
- February 22, 2019 - New HD PTZ cameras with IR an audio were installed in both the North and South archways of Lyman Hall
- March 27, 2019 - First egg laid
- March 30, 2019 - Second egg laid
- April 2, 2019 - Third egg laid
- May 5, 2019 - First hatch @ 6:12 AM Eastern
- May 6, 2019 - Second hatch @ 1:10 PM Eastern
- January - February 2018 - Otto and SU-Sue return to the nest on Lyman Hall’s north archway, northern-most nest. It was used as an auxiliary nest last year by the parents to store prey and by the chicks as they grew and explored outside of their main nest
- March 11, 2018 - SU-Sue lays first egg
- March 14, 2018 - SU-Sue lays second egg
- March 17, 2018 - SU-Sue lays third egg
- April 17, 2018 - A18 hatches at 17:47 after 31 days of incubation
- April 18, 2018 - B18 hatches soon after midnight after 32 days of incubation
- April 19, 2018 - C18 hatches at 17:06 after 33 days of incubation
- June 2, 2018 - C18 fledges at 07:58 at age 45 days
- June 2, 2018 - B18 fledges at 08:28 at age 46 days
- June 4, 2018 - A18 fledges at 15:28 at age 49 days
- June 22, 2018 - C18 sustained a fracture of the coracoid bone in his right wing after he struck a window on Hinds Hall. He was treated at the Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Healthcare Center, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, NY
- June - July 2018 - Otto and SU-Sue continued to feed and teach the remaining chicks A18 and B18 how to hunt on the SU campus before “migrating” to nearby Oakwood cemetery
- August 2, 2018 - C18 was released in Oakwood cemetery after 41 days of treatment and rehabilitatation by Cindy Page, wildlife rehabilitator and Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Healthcare Center
- August 10, 2018 - A18 was found ill on the ground in Oakwood cemetery, was taken to the Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Healthcare Center and did not survive. A necropsy revealed the cause of death as West Nile Virus
- Fall 2018 - B18 and C18 are seen periodically in Oakwood cemetery before venturing to find their own territory
- January - February 2017 - Parents began replenishing twigs in the South nest of the North archway on Lyman Hall, and continued to build up the nest throughout February.
- March 2, 2017 - PTZ camera was installed on the 4th floor of the Life Sciences Complex
- March 3, 2017 - Hawk nest cams were installed in both the North and South archways of Lyman Hall.
- March 19, 2017 - SU-Sue lays her first egg. For the first time ever, SU-Sue's egg laying was viewed LIVE via the newly installed hawk nest cam
- March 22, 2017 - SU-Sue laid her second egg at 1:31:52pm--2 days 20 hours and 43 minutes after egg #1 (March 19, 4:04:32pm)
- March 25, 2017 - SU-Sue laid her third egg at 8:58:58--2 days, 20 hours and 12 minutes after egg #2.
- April 26, 2017 - The first chick, A17 hatched at 05:48 and the second chick, B17 hatched at 13:25, only seven hours and 37 minutes after A17. Usually chicks hatch 1-2 days apart but hatching on the same day happens on occasion.
- April 28, 2017 - The third chick, C17 hatched at 08:35.
- June 9, 2017 - The first chick, A17 “accidentally” fledged at 17:45. It was flapping its wings, hopping and fell backwards out of the nest. It quickly turned and flew to a railing across the street next to the Life Sciences Center.
- June 11, 2017 - The second chick, B17 fledged beautifully at 13:10. It flew toward the Life Sciences Center roof railing and missed then gently glided down to the ground unharmed. Unfortunately, B17 disappeared and was never found despite several people searching for it.
- June 15, 2017 - The third chick, C17 fledged at 14:08. It flew to a railing across the street next to the Life Sciences Center, the same flight path as A17.
- August 27, 2017 - Juvenile C17 was spotted at Oakwood cemetery. This was the last juvenile sighting in 2017. All juveniles are fed and cared for by their parents, usually through the summer and into the fall when they must find their own territory.
- Spring 2016 - Otto and SU-Sue and another adult female red-tail (named SUNY) were observed together through the winter and into the spring. In preparation for the chicks, the adults refurbished the nest on the North side of the South archway of Lyman Hall. Six chicks hatched in late April or early May and were raised by the three adults. As the chicks began to grow too large for one nest, they walked across the archway ledge to the Southern nest. This ledge was used as a training platform for the chicks to flap their wings in preparation for fledging.
- June 11, 2016 - The first chick fledged. First, it landed on a fence railing near a fraternity house, and then flew to a tree, after which one of the parents delivered its first meal outside the nest.
- June 14 - 21, 2016 - The remaining five chicks fledged, and the three parents began their busy season of "prey drops" and teaching the juveniles how to live outside the nest.
- June 29, 2016 - One of the six juveniles (named "Beau") was found injured on the ground in the parking lot near Smith Hall. He was transported to the Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Health Center at Cornell University, where vets determined that he had sustained severe head trauma and eye damage after presumably flying into a window. He was admitted to their intensive care unit.
- July 11, 2016 - A Facebook page—Syracuse Hawk Chatters—was started for observers to post photographs and daily accounts of the activities of the SU red-tailed hawks.
- July 18, 2016 - Another juvenile (named "Aurora") was found injured near a tree in front of the Hall of Languages. She was able to walk, but she could not fly and her right wing was drooped. She was taken to local wildlife rehabilitator, Cynthia Page for evaluation.
- August 11, 2016 - After spending 24 days recovering from a bruised right wing, Aurora was released back to the SU campus on the Quad, and her parents resumed caring for her.
- August 22, 2016 - Fifty-four days after sustaining a life-threatening head injury, through the expert care of the vets at the Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Health Center at Cornell University, and local wildlife rehabilitator Cynthia Page, Beau was released back to the SU campus on the Quad.
- August 23, 2016 - After spending the night in a tree next to Machinery Hall, Beau flew back to the SU Quad and into the reflective window of the Physics Building. He did not survive the collision.
- September 8, 2016 - Beau was buried on the SU campus and a memorial service was held.
- Fall - Winter 2016 - Observers continued to monitor the three adults and their offspring. Photographs and reports of sightings were posted regularly on the Syracuse Hawk Chatters Facebook page.
- December 27, 2016 - Two juveniles from the 2016 brood were seen in Oakwood Cemetery. SU-Sue was seen nearby with prey. It is very rare to see a parent "food drop" this late after fledging.
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This Red-tailed Hawk Nest Cam was donated to Syracuse University by Anne Marie Higgins.