Thursday, February 25, 2010

Franklin Institute Hawks

A pair of Red-tailed Hawks appear ready to return to their nest at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

Their webcam is officially up and running. Last year, it gave thousands of viewers a peek-a-boo view of a red-tailed-hawk couple nesting on a ledge of the Franklin Institute. They hatched three young that flapped their way into the hearts of fans worldwide.

More than 300,000 people clicked in to one of two Web sites, some again and again. Some people - occasionally a dozen or more at a time - lined up on the sidewalk below to watch, waving at their friends through the webcam.

The birds were a hit not because they are rare - red-tailed hawks are common - but because the webcam offered such an intimate view. The camera was less than two feet away, inside a window.

Over the last month or so, the adults have brought new material to the nest, making it bigger and redefining the bowl in which the female can lay her eggs.

If the hawks follow roughly the same timetable, eggs could appear within two weeks. Last year, the female laid them March 9, and the chicks hatched April 16 and 17.

Institute president and chief executive officer Dennis Wint said there was no guarantee the birds would nest there again, of course, but "their behavior would indicate that they are likely to do so."
It helps the birds' popularity that their nest is in such a prominent location. The average Red-tailed Hawk nest is more concealed than a window ledge in the downtown of a major city. The best way to follow the breeding season's progress is at the Hawkwatch blog and, of course, the nest webcam. It is wonderful that we have the opportunity for such an intimate view of nesting activities while causing minimal disturbance.