Eye in the Sky: New Webcam Tracks SJU’s Nesting Hawks
Monday, April 21, 2014
by Amanda Sapio ’13
PHILADELPHIA (April 21, 2014) – Two nesting red-tailed hawks have made their home on Saint Joseph’s University’s Lower Merion Campus. While the University has long been known for the raptors that soar above the aptly named Hawk Hill, and the Hawk mascot is one of the most famous mascots in college sports history, it’s rare for students to have an opportunity to view hawks up close. Now, with the recent installation of SJU’s Hawkcam, which provides a live stream of the pair living in the large pine tree next to the McShain pedestrian bridge, hawks are part of the academic experience.
“This live video stream will help students understand the importance of habitat, even in urbanized areas,” says Michael McCann, Ph.D., professor of biology and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who was instrumental in implementing Hawkcam. “Although these hawks are located within close proximity to Philadelphia, on Hawk Hill they have green space with diverse vegetation and prey, which makes it possible for these predators to survive and breed in this environment.”
John Blakeman, an Ohio-based hawk expert who serves as a resource to the Franklin Institute and SJU, believes that the Saint Joseph’s Hawkcam could be the first to provide a live stream of a tree nest built by red-tailed hawks. New York University, Cornell University and the Franklin Institute each have successful Hawkcams, but their cameras monitor hawks that built nests on man-made ledge structures, as opposed to streaming a natural nest, Blakeman notes.
“Viewers should note how behaviors differ between hawks that live in ledge-type nests and those that live in a typical tree nest, which is found at SJU,” Blakeman added.
Campus hawk-watchers are thrilled about Hawkcam. Julie McDonald, Ph.D., assistant professor of philosophy, who developed the idea for an on-campus Hawkcam, created a Facebook group where fans can post photos of and information about hawk sightings at SJU.
“Many people are unaware of the real red-tailed hawks that live in our midst,” says McDonald. “The Facebook group helps the SJU community learn about these beautiful, graceful creatures that fly over our campus.”
Blakeman says it’s possible there could be hawk babies in the near future. “If a hawk sits on the nest for a few days, just as this hawk has, there will most likely be an egg soon,” he says.
Chris Dixon, research librarian at Drexel Library, located the nest after tracking hawks and following them to their hideaway. “About seven years ago, I saw a hawk land on the doorway of Barbelin Hall,” says Dixon. “Since then, I’ve been fascinated with photographing and observing these majestic birds. I first saw the two hawks that are now nesting on the Lower Merion Campus several weeks ago next to Post Learning Commons. It’s very exciting to see them together now, possibly creating a family.”
All current SJU students, employees and alumni are invited to submit name suggestions for the male and female hawks. Contest rules and submission instructions can be found here. Entries must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Fri., May 2, to be considered. The two winning entrants will receive a $50 gift card.