Feb

28

Hawk Stalking

Written by


Bwog’s resident ornithologist, Courtney Douds, spends inordinate amounts of her free time watching our unofficial campus mascot. Here’s what he’s been up to since he tore a pigeon to shreds during the greatest reading week entertainment since you got so sleepy you started seeing double.

You may have seen the large bird of prey around campus over the past few months; Bwog has dubbed him “Hawkmadinejad,” and as someone obsessed with raptors, I am one of his biggest fans. He is a juvenile red-tailed hawk. One can tell that he is still immature because he has not yet gotten the russet-red tail of his namesake, meaning that he is less than one year old. There is no way to tell the sex of red-tails from their feathers, but the males tend to be around 80% the size of the average female red-tailed hawk. Therefore the males are a bit faster and have a tighter turning radius, while the females have more bulk and power.

Immature red-tails are one of the two birds that apprentice falconers can use for hunting (the other is the American kestrel). They are incredibly hardy birds, and can survive in many different habitats. They catch prey from the size of beetles to jackrabbits, but ours gets mostly pigeons and squirrels. Though I haven’t seen him swoop down on any meals since he took out a pigeon in front of John Jay, I did find another kill zone. While loitering by Earl, I saw a large pile of pigeon feathers and a bloody bone in the center of the circle of feathers, a clear sign of our bird’s work.

While I have heard that Hawkmadinejad has been seen carrying around a squirrel carcass, I have only firsthand seen evidence of him eating pigeons. In fact, one sunny Sunday I watched him for two hours as he sat in the trees by Earl and Dodge in a prime position to snatch the squirrels scrambling below him. One squirrel chattered nervously on the tree opposite him, but Hawk kept still on his perch. You may have seen me that day. I was the crazy girl standing underneath him with my head craned back muttering at varying volumes, “Eat that! GET it! You can EAT that!” A falconer friend of mine proposed that he may not have been hungry, as there certainly is an abundance of prey on campus for him to have had his fill that day.

Another day, I saw him actually harassed by one of the squirrels. I know the little rodents are fairly bold with the students on the campus, but I was surprised when one faced him for a showdown on a thick branch of a tree by Dodge. Even more strangely, after the squirrel advanced threateningly towards Hawk, the bird stretched his wings out and backed up, then flew to a different perch. The squirrel won the standoff!

You may have heard the cacophony of crows cawing as they dive-bomb poor Hawkmadinejad. It is very common for crows and other smaller birds to harass red-tails to drive them out of their territory. In fact, sometimes falconers can use the din of the crows to find their bird if they cannot hear the bells attached to him.

Though the red-tailed hawk tends not to be aggressive, I did see it take a bolder stance defending its territory recently. While walking to Pupin, I saw two large birds perched in a tree by Havemeyer. The first was our Hawkmadinejad, and the other looked like a Cooper’s Hawk. Hawkmadinejad chased the impostor out of the first tree and it landed on another nearby, but our bird bullied him enough to drive him away from campus entirely. Fingers crossed that Hawkmadinejad’s namesake doesn’t take any lessons from this brave and bully bird.

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25 Comments

  1. Yeats  

    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world!

  2. Realy  

    God, I miss Animorphs.

  3. lovely  

    I wish I had time to watch hawks for two hours...(instead I do ornithology homework). Yay red-tails.

  4. stickler  

    it should actually be "hawkmadinejad"

    but good article anyway. i, too, miss animorphs. it's too bad tobias got stuck... i always thought he was a cutie.

  5. hawk w. bush  

    we cannot stand idly by while those pigeons are persecuted. hawkmadinejad must allow those pigeons the freedom they deserve, or face the consequences.

    i'm hawk w. bush, and i approve this message.

  6. yessss  

    Courtney you kick so much ass it makes me want to cry.

  7. no, marry me!  

    this is the best thing that has ever been published by the bwog. or, for that matter, by the blue and white. genius!

  8. Myth-starter  

    I propose we, the Class of '09, start a myth surrounding this hawk, since none of us appear to have seen the owl yet.

    If you see Hawkmadinejad, legend has it that you will not be named valedictorian of your class.

    Jk. Great article.

  9. what  

    hawkmadinejad is a BABY!?!?!?

    awwwww!

  10. The Dink

    He was perched outside st pauls next to avery this morning along a walkway about shoulder height on a gate. Everyone walking by would get about 10 feet away, notice his imposing presence and pretty much stop in awe/fear, and then backtrack and find a more safe pathway. That beautiful, huge raptor is terrifying up close. Certainly the coolest feathered herp around. He is also called Nathaniel, by the way, after DDLewis' character in LoTM.

  11. wait  

    has anyone else noticed that sometimes the squirrels sit in the trees and make baby sounds?

    there was one in the tree on the west side of butler and i almost peed myself when it started going "meep meep meeeep".

  12. Oops  

    I fucking love that we're talking about Andalites.

    Anyone else cry when Rachel died?

  13. Thaddeus  

    I have seen him eating squirrels on several occasions. Once he dropped one on top of a frisbee game in Low plaza and came back for it the next day.

    No rats yet though.

  14. rats

    I'm sure that rats comprise a large portion of his diet.

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