Building the NYC Audubon Hawkcam
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Building the NYC Audubon HawkCam

By Jeff Kollbrunner and Yigal Gelb

My wife, Anna, and I try our best to observe our hawk family in Queens, NY daily.
Over the last 12 years we have become very familiar with the territory and habits
of the hawks we named Mama and Papa.

Late in December 2006, we noticed that Mama and Papa had placed some fresh
twigs on a large window air conditioner of a tall building belonging to a City agency
just a few hundred yards from last season’s nest. In mid January 2007 Mama and
Papa were comfortable with this nest location, completing their nest by early
March. On March 7th Mama laid the first of three eggs.

During the early stages of nest construction I brought this nest site to the attention
of Yigal Gelb, Program Director of NYC Audubon. Mr. Gelb was very excited about
the opportunity of recording the nesting behavior of the red-tail hawks, providing a
budget to purchase the proper equipment. Working together, we began
discussions with the City agency to which the building belonged.

We conducted a visit to the site in early spring to inspect the nest location and to
determine where we could place the webcam. Present at the meeting were Tom
Veltre, wildlife photographer, and numerous staff and official representatives. We
settled on a nearby window that was both close enough to the nest to provide
excellent viewing opportunities of the nesting birds and far enough to avoid
disturbing the birds.

Approval to install the webcam was granted by City government, and I completed
the installation of the webcam on Tuesday April 10th, working with a great bunch
of people from the building where the nest is located. The camera equipment
came from EarthCam, and the DSL connection was provided free of charge by the
City agency. The enthusiasm and support of the Facilities Management for the
project and each person’s efforts during the installation process were a true

An additional benefit for us curious humans is the fact that the nest location the
hawks selected also included a floodlight that illuminates the part of the building
located above the nest. This light is always on throughout the night. This chance
occurrence combined with a camera sensitive to low light provides us an
opportunity to view the nest at night.

Today, thanks to NYC Audubon and the wonderful people involved at the nest
location, we are all privileged to witness the rearing and development of the red-
tail hawk family we affectionately know as Mama and Papa.

The exact location of the nest is not being disclosed in order to protect the safety
of the hawks and their young.