In addition to the NYU hawks, I’ve been checking out extraordinary live feeds from nests all over, including a family of bald eagles in Iowa and a close-up view of nesting hummingbirds in California. They’re famous for stoking obsession: Marie Winn’s charming book Red-Tails in Love chronicles the Central Park birdwatchers’ fixation on Pale Male, the red-tailed hawk who made headlines more than a decade ago as the first of his kind to roost in New York City.At any given moment, according to the ticker at the bottom of the Hawk Cam, about 1,500 people around the world (recently the chat room included a viewer in China) are watching.These days there’s not much to see again, as the restless eyas spends much of its time wandering around on the ledge, beyond the camera’s view.More and more often when I pull up the screen, the nest is empty.At first Pip, as the eyas was named by its fans, was fed by one or the other parent.
But birds, unlike irrational humans, have solid evolutionary reasons for the way that they choose their mates.
On The New York Times site, hawk experts debated whether any signs of life could be seen in the eggs and finally decreed that time had run out for them to hatch.
But the optimists won out on May 6, the Friday before Mother’s Day, when a single eyas (that’s the technical name for a hawk chick) at last appeared. People who watch birds tend to take a certain pride in the associated discomfort: You’re getting up at dawn to slog through dewy fields, or lying on your back in the woods in the middle of the night, waiting for an owl to pass overhead.
“A female is not simply a passive recipient of a free handout,” Stutchbury concludes, “but coerces her mate into bringing a steady supply of food as a test of his parenting skills.” Bythis logic, a woman who coaxes her boyfriend into giving her expensive presents isn’t simply a gold-digger—she’s spurred by a quite sensible evolutionary impulse to make him prove his merit as a provider.
A click away from the Hawk Cam, human courtship rituals are on full display in the June wedding pages.