Hawk Happenings Field Guide

Use this guide to become more familiar with the hawks and the behaviors you will be tagging for the investigation.

Who’s who


As their common name, “Red-tailed Hawks,” suggests, the adults have red tails.

Big Red

The female was named after the nickname given to Cornell University’s sports teams. She is slightly larger and darker in color than her mate. She also has a band on her right leg.


The male was named in honor of the founder of the Cornell Lab, Arthur A. Allen. He is slightly smaller, has a paler chest, and does not have a band on either leg.


The three nestlings are fluff balls after they hatch, but they grow quickly! Their flight and body feathers will come in and they’ll be the same size as the adults before you know it.


1. Prey delivery

Both adults, Arthur and Big Red, will deliver prey to the nest.
If you see prey delivered, you’ll click one of the three buttons to indicate if it was delivered by the male, the female, or “unsure” (if you weren’t able to tell which one). In the video below the female adult, Big Red, makes a prey delivery.

2. Chick(s) eating 

When the chicks are young they are primarily fed by the adults. As the chicks get older they will start feeding themselves. For either type of feeding, click the “Chick(s) eating” button. Once a chick starts eating, you don’t need to keep clicking every time it eats a piece of prey during that bout of feeding, but you can click the button every time a new chick gets fed. When you see feeding stop, click “Chick(s) stop eating.”


3. Nestling Activity

As the young nestlings develop, they’ll start to defend their food, flap their wings, and walk around the nest. When you see any of the nestlings flap their wings, click “Flapping.” Only click the button once, you don’t need to click for every “flap.”When you see any of the nestlings talk a couple steps or more around the nest, click “Walking.”

When you see the nestlings defending food by covering it with their wings (also known as mantling), click “Food defense/mantling.” The video below shows one of the nestlings defending food brought in by Arthur, the adult male.


4. Vocalizations

The adult and nestling hawks make a variety of calls. Click the button “Hawk vocalizes” whenever you hear one of them make a vocalization, clicking the button once when you first hear the vocalization. Sometimes the vocalizations are hard to hear or figure out if they are coming from the hawks. See the videos below for examples of what you should be listening for.