Unexpected Guests: Pair Of Red-Tailed Hawks Nest In LIU Brooklyn Athletic Lights

Unexpected Guests: Pair Of Red-Tailed Hawks Nest In LIU Brooklyn Athletic Lights
Photos by Gerri Hernández.
Photos by Gerri Hernández.


Gerri Hernández knows what it’s like to be kicked to the curb. Last year, the long-time downtown Brooklyn resident was forced out of fourth-story walk-up near Albee Square that she had lived in for 14 years.

That is why she doesn’t want to see a pair of red-tailed hawks nesting on Long Island University (LIU) Brooklyn’s property to lose their home.

“I hope LIU leaves them alone,” said Hernández, who now lives at University Towers, a large cooperative in Fort Greene. “If they ever got thrown out of there, we wouldn’t get to see them every day.”

There’s no word yet from LIU as to what, if anything, they plan to do with the nest. However, while replacing lights this past Saturday, workers did take care to not disturb it.

red tailed hawk on air conditioner

Hernández first noticed the hawk last month (February) while gazing out of her 12th floor window, and she was startled at the sight of it circling outside. “It scared the living daylights out of me,” Hernández said. “It flew towards our window and I had no idea what it was.”

A quick Internet search identified the bird as a red-tailed hawk, which the Cornell Lab of Ornithology‘s website describes as one of North America’s most common hawks.

More surprising than seeing a bird of prey with a wingspan that extends as much as four feet is that the bird and its mate are nesting in one of five 75-foot-tall light towers ringing LIU Brooklyn’s athletic fields at Ashland Place and Willoughby Street.

Now the freelance photographer spends much of her days monitoring the nest or scanning the skies to see just where the hawks might be perched. “I watch for them all the time,” Hernández admits. “It’s become a bigger time-eater than Facebook.”

Other University Towers residents have also become avid bird watchers. Belinda Gonzales noticed the hawks building their nest “three or four weeks ago” right outside her 15th floor window.

“I think she may have already laid her eggs because she’s been in her nest everyday for the past week,” said Gonzales.

The winged pair are perched so high they are likely oblivious to a riot of athletic activity below. LIU’s 2-1/2 acre field hosts five NCAA Division I sports, including baseball, lacrosse, soccer and softball, and is in constant use.

Perhaps because of her own experiences with Brooklyn real estate, Hernández cannot help but have a protective attitude towards the hawks. Even in her photos of the birds on Facebook, she has limited her privacy settings to allow only trusted friends to see them.

“I wasn’t sure who sees that and whether or not they’re gonna climb up there to see if they can get a better view of them,” she said, “or if LIU would see them and then they’d go and clean out the nest.”

red tailed hawk in flight with building in background