For five weeks last spring, a family of red-tailed hawks captivated the campus when staff from MITs Academic Media Production Services produced a live-feed webcast of the birds nest. The adults, which have reportedly nested in various parts of campus in previous years, chose a pine tree outside a production studio in Building 9 this year.
Faculty and staff on the upper floors of the building started watching the nest in early March. Two chicks hatched on April 9 and were named Kitty and MITsi. At the end of April, Larry Gallagher, director of MITs video productions and digital-technologies office, decided to give others the chance to bird-watch, too, so he aired a live video feed of the nest on MITs cable station. Within days it went up on the Web.
Interest in the baby hawks swept the Institute. The question of when they would fly became a topic of conversation in offices, conference rooms, and corridors. This created a community at MIT like nothing Ive ever seen before, says Gallagher. On May 26, Kitty took its maiden flight, swooping across Mass. Ave. to a nearby bike rack. MIT police quickly cordoned off the area and put up signs about the hawk in training. MITsi tested its wings four days later. And then, seemingly overnight, the nest was empty.
Gallagher says the departure was so sudden that people had hawkcam withdrawal. Although the next nesting period is more than six months away, Gallagher is already thinking of an encore, possibly including an online classroom science project.
A video archive is at web.mit.edu/amps/spotlight/hawkcam.html.