University removes hawk cam outside Bobst

March 31, 2014

courtesy of NYU

After a three-year run, NYU has shut off its hawk cam. The camera watched the nest of the two red-tailed hawks that is perched on the window ledge of NYU President John Sexton’s office in Bobst Library. The hawk cam provided a livestream of the hawks’ activities and was accessible from NYU’s website. Now, the site replays footage from last year.

NYU spokesman John Beckman said certain window modifications were made because the presence of people in the office had upset the birds — the hawks had previously shown defensive behavior in response. As a result of the new modifications, the camera could not produce a clear image.

“We applied a film to the window to make it a non-reflective, one-way window,” Beckman said. “That way … the presence of people in the office near the window would not upset the hawks or their offspring.”

Beckman said the decision was motivated by a desire to protect the hawks.

“The birds have an instinct to defend their nest, and the presence of people in the office can frighten them,” Beckman said.

Environmental studies professor Colin Jerolmack said wildlife cameras are crucial for connecting urban areas to the wildlife they support.

“The hawk cam and others like it are valuable tools for helping people realize that the city is an ecosystem,” Jerolmack said. “If these cameras make people feel more curious about and connected to the nature around them … then the cameras can actually become tools for fostering ecological concern.”

The NYU hawk cam was one of two urban hawk cams in the United States.

CAS sophomore Elise Traywick, an environmental studies major, said the hawk cams are a powerful tool to raise awareness and encourage conservation.

“They are important not only for scientific study of the species, but also to inform people and show that these creatures are real and living near us,” Traywick said. “In addition, [the cam] rallies support not only for these specific birds, but for the species and for animal protection in general.”

But Jerolmack said the removal of the camera will hardly alter the hawks’ visibility on campus.

“People who are interested in the hawks should take the opportunity to get to know them in real life,” Jerolmack said. “One can see them very well from Washington Square Park, including all of their ‘off-screen’ activities like hunting and mating.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 31  print edition. Claire Scimeca is a staff writer. Email her at 

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