Backyard Chirper

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‘Hawk Cam’ Gives Look Into World of Man and Bird

In what initially set out to be a way for people to marvel at the impossibility, a pair of hawks raising babies in the shadow of skyscrapers, has turned into the microcosm of man’s clumsy interaction with nature.

Today, The New York Times featured a great piece documenting the strange relationship between people and the stars of the Hawk Cam I previously posted about.

The City Room Blog from the NY Times originally mounted a webcam to give people insight into the life of two Red-Tailed Hawks named Violet and Bobby (in honor of NYU where the hawks had set up the nest). But, since the webcam was first set up more than a month ago, there’s been plenty of discussion and controversy over the protection and handling of the birds.

First, the eggs didn’t appear to be hatching and scientists said it was far too late for anything to survive that long of an incubation period. Then, surprisingly an eyass emerged from the egg. Soon after, the wildlife-identification band squeezed Violet’s leg so tight it swelled up. Rescue teams came close to capturing the bird for rehabilitation, but decided not to.

Finally, many items in the nest are unnatural or garbage, and at one point, Violet tried feeding the eyass a plastic bag.

All of these examples illustrate the clumsy relationship we have with birds and nature in general. In a way, we want to become closer and more connected with birds, but there has to be a limit on how much we interact with them. While it’s fine to want to save an injured bird, there’s also a tradeoff between pampering them and letting nature take its course.

A while ago, I wrote about the grim reality of the wild and how a lot of times things don’t always work out as magically as expected. With the placement of webcams at more and more nests (in fact, you can also have your own backyard bird webcam), there’s going to be a bigger realization that nature isn’t always nice.

A fine line between appreciating nature and overstepping boundaries will always exist and it’s not always a bad thing. But, for better or worse, the placement of webcams will not only allow us to see into the delicate world of birds, but will also let us see into our own clumsiness with nature.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.