School’s out for the summer, but college campuses are far from empty. Budding raptor families, like the Cornell University bell-tower hawks, are bringing new life to universities around the country—and folks far and near are following along with 24-hour live streams.
These nest-peeping cams serve a number of uses: They can educate students, entertain the public, and in general, draw conservation attention to urban birds of prey. Mary Malec, a volunteer raptor monitor with the East Bay Regional Park District in California, knows this firsthand. In 2017, her group installed a gravel tray on one of the UC Berkeley buildings for a new pair of nesting peregrines. The mates have returned each spring, allowing Malec to set up a scope on the sidewalk below so campus residents and visitors could watch the chicks’ flight lessons. Earlier this year, the university, park district, and other partners crowdfunded two web cams to help expand the fan base.
On the opposite coast, Colin Jerolmack, a professor of sociology and environmental studies at NYU in Manhattan, works the neighborhood Red-tailed Hawks into his coursework. Like Malec, he lobbied the school for a nest cam, mainly to challenge his students to flip their script on the city as a nature-deficient place.
Thanks to Malec, Jerolmack, and other local bird advocates, you, too, can check out the nesting action on campus. Here are four free streams to tune in to this breeding season.
NYU, New York; Red-tailed Hawk
What better way to show school pride than by adopting a pair of fierce birds as mascots? When two Red-tailed Hawks set up shop on the campus library ledge in 2011, Jerolmack and his students dubbed them Bob and Violet in honor of a local philanthropist and the university's official color. “Our thinking behind the names was that we wanted NYU to embrace the hawks and see them as something to celebrate, and so we came up with this idea of naming them after themed things to get ‘buy in’,” Jerolmack says. To the disappointment of the class and area birders, Violet died soon after, and Bobby is presumed dead after disappearing this spring. His latest mate is now solo parenting three eyasses, who are spending a fair amount of time exploring off the nest.
UC Berkeley, California; Peregrine Falcon
The queen and king of UC Berkeley, Annie and Grinnell, hatched their first chicks on the Campanile clock tower two summers ago. The babies were named Fiat and Lux as a nod to the university’s motto, “Let there be light.” Last year the pair fledged three more chicks—a number that Annie matched again this season. Viewers on the live stream, however, noticed that one of the eggs weren‘t viable. But happy endings are in store: The other two young have fledged and make regular appearances on camera.
University of Buffalo, New York ; Peregrine Falcon
Unlike most of the birds on this list, Dixie and Yankee chose a humble spot for their nest: the Mackay Heating Plant on the University of Buffalo’s south campus. With permission from the school, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation installed a web cam in 2009 to monitor the state-endangered falcons. Since then, Dixie and Yankee have fledged 17 of their 28 eggs, with three more fluffballs making their debut this year.
University of Oregon, Oregon; Osprey
Back on the West Coast, an Osprey pair has hunkered down on a lamp post on the University of Oregon Law School’s campus. The fish-hunting birds are a familiar sight around town, but they didn’t go big until 2018, when the Professor Emerita Margie Paris web cam was set up to honor the first female dean at the school. Viewers have so far met Ruth Bader Ginsbird and Sandra Day O’sprey. Will Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor get their namesakes in this year’s clutch of three?