It’s Hawk O’Clock at Havemeyer Hall

A family of red-tailed hawks have moved into a nest on the clock at Havemeyer Hall.

Editor's note:

This story was updated with new information and pictures on May 26, 2023, after baby hawks were spotted in the nest.

April 14, 2023

A family of red-tailed hawks have built a nest on the clock on the upper story of Havemeyer Hall, the historic building on Columbia’s Morningside campus, home to Columbia’s chemistry department, and a popular filming location for Hollywood movies like Ghostbusters, Spider-Man, and Mona Lisa Smile.

And this month, they’ve welcomed baby hawks to their family. Joseph Goddu, a private dealer in American art who audits courses at Columbia, has been following red-tailed hawks as a volunteer with the raptor nest monitoring project conducted by the New York City Parks Department's wildlife unit.

This week, Goddu sent Columbia News the image of a newborn hawk and said he has spotted at least two or perhaps three newborn youngsters while on campus patrol. One of the hatchlings is shown above.

The parents' nest was first discovered in mid-April after the university’s facilities department put up scaffolding to begin repair work on the building. At the National Audubon Society’s recommendation, those repairs were temporarily suspended.

Around two weeks after that initial sighting, on April 28, Goddu contacted Columbia News with new pictures, including one featuring two hawks together (shown below).

So, what can we tell about our new hawk friends from these photos? A spokesperson for the Wild Bird Fund, citing information from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, said that the initial photos definitely appear to be of parents who are incubating eggs.

A pair of hawks have made their nest on the clock at Havemeyer Hall.

It is difficult to tell from the photos which parent is male and which is female, they said. Both parents incubate eggs, though the female sits on them more, while the male spends more time hunting for food. Hawks usually lay 2 to 3 eggs that incubate for about a month before they hatch. It’s another 42 to 46 days before the birds fledge, or take flight from the nest. Spring is the standard nesting season for hawks, but there’s no way to precisely pinpoint when the eggs were laid based on the photographs.

A hawk on the clock face of Havemeyer hall.

“From a hawk's point of view, this is an excellent nest location because it's high off the ground and tucked into the clockface. From here, they'll have a great view of the surrounding landscape to watch for both predators and prey while also being somewhat protected from above,” Catherine Quayle, the social media director for the Wild Bird Fund wrote in an email, adding: “It's a fine-looking nest!”

A red-tailed hawk close to the Columbia campus.

Goddu also provided a photo of a bird that he believes might be a young red-tail born on campus after its parents made their nest on Columbia's John Jay Hall last year. The bird has been haunting the western edge of campus since last summer, he said, particularly along Riverside Drive between 112 and 114th street. He cited the hawk’s yellow eyes and banded tail as evidence of its youth (older hawks have dark eyes and red tails). The spokesperson for the Wild Bird Fund was not ready to draw conclusions, writing that, based on the photo, “it's impossible to know who the handsome stranger is.”