Help Us Name John Jay’s Family of Red-Tailed Hawks

A pair of raptors have moved into a Columbia student’s balcony and their eggs are about to hatch. Tweet us your ideas for naming the family!

Kim Martineau
April 08, 2022

Central Park has Pale Male, possibly the most famous red-tailed hawk in the world. Now Columbia has its own set of raptors, and they’ve chosen Columbia’s tallest undergraduate dorm to hatch their young. Given the long history of naming buildings on campus, we thought we’d start a new tradition and name John Jay Hall’s avian residents. 

Tweet us your ideas @Columbia. Watch the Columbia College Live Hawk Cam.

John Drotos (CC’25) noticed the empty nest after moving in last fall. No sooner had he dropped his bags than the pile of twigs outside his window caught his eye. It was clearly a nest, and it looked as if its previous inhabitants had flown off in a hurry. He suspected the birds were hawks, from his long walks last winter around Van Cortlandt Park near his parent’s home in the Bronx. Then a high-school senior, he had picked up birding as a pandemic hobby.

Now at Columbia, he couldn’t believe his good fortune. A single, with its own nest!

“I told my friends, ‘Wouldn’t it be crazy if some hawks moved in?’ ”

First-year Columbia College student John Drotos (Photo: Ayana Santos)

A few months ago, the nest started to grow. Day by day, he watched as a pair of red-tailed hawks swooped down to add a stick here, a surgical mask there, slowly padding their home with leaves and other detritus until the structure had doubled in size. “You could tell they were getting ready to move in,” he said.

Drotos left for Spring Break, and by the time he got back, the birds had, in fact, moved in. There was one more surprise. They were expecting, each taking turns guarding their newly remodeled nest. Their eggs were white and speckled, and larger than the jumbo-size eggs at the grocery. He counted three. In the beginning, “Mr.” and “Mrs.,” as he and his girlfriend, Ayana Santos (CC'25) call them, shrieked if he got too close. A few weeks later, the couple now seems bored by his presence, even occasionally leaving their nest unattended. 

“I told my friends, ‘Wouldn’t it be crazy if some hawks moved in?’ ”

John Drotos (CC'25)

“I guess they trust me not to steal their eggs,” he said.

Last week, the residence hall director at John Jay knocked on Drotos’ door. An eagle-eyed neighbor on West 108th Street had alerted Columbia administrators to the hawks, including a snapshot and an apologetic ask in his email: “It would be wonderful if the student(s) whose window is within a foot or two of the nest could be gently enlisted to create as little disturbance as possible (an utterly unreasonable request, I will be the first to admit.),” he wrote.

Drotos not only agreed to stay out of the birds’ way, he offered to let Columbia College set up a web-cam to allow the rest of campus to meet his feathered roommates. (The camera ended up on a neighbor’s window which offered a better viewing angle). From consulting various birding sites, Drotos says he expects the eggs to hatch sometime in the next week or two. “I can’t wait to see them feeding their baby chicks,” he said.