Students and faculty members were in for quite the shock as they attempted to attend their summer classes last week. As they approached the Bell Building, they were greeted by an unlikely guest….
Early last Wednesday morning, just before dawn, night shift officers were conducting their regular patrols through campus. Summer is generally considered a quiet time on most college campuses, so officers were a bit unsettled when they saw a pair of glowing eyes staring back at them. Officer Shawn Buchanan was making his last rounds on patrol when he spotted a large bird perched on the bicycle rack outside of McAlister Residence Hall. “There is nothing like patrolling and coming across this big guy,” Buchanan laughingly recalled. Buchanan joked, “He watched me go by and was like do something…”
Several hours later, as students, faculty, and staff began trickling onto campus for the day, Public Safety started to receive several reports of a large bird sitting outside the entrance to the Bell Building. “We had multiple people come in [to Public Safety] saying that there was a bird blocking the door to the Bell Building,” explained Administrative Specialist, Kim Reetz. “It was quite comical,” Reetz recalled, “Everyone was afraid to enter the building.” Campus community members redirected to the rear entrance in an effort to not disturb the new self-appointed gatekeeper.
Public Safety contacted the Center for Birds of Prey for guidance on how to respond to the campus’ two newest residents. Cynthia Steffens of Birds of Prey arrived to the campus and identified the birds as youth Red-Tailed Hawks. The four week old birds were taken to the center’s medical clinic and evaluated for injuries. Both were determined to be in good health and taken back to the campus. Public Safety officers escorted Ms. Steffens to the roof of the Bell Building to return the young birds to their nest. “We gave them food and waited to see if the parents would accept their offsprings,” Steffens explained. After observing for a short time, the family appeared to be reunited.
Steffens described the birds as branchers, a term ornithologists use to describe young birds who are learning how to fly. “They take short flights and hop around,” Steffens described, “Sometimes they have trouble making it back to the nest.” Steffens has a few pointers for anyone who comes across these birds. “It’s best to leave them alone,” she stated. If you see the birds are struggling to make it back to their nests, contact the Center for Birds of Prey or notify the Department of Public Safety.
So, can we expect to see the young hawks grow up on campus? “Probably not,” Steffens claims. Once the hawks reach adulthood, they often find their own territory and start their own nests. Not to worry campus bird enthusiasts- Steffens explained that the parents will likely maintain their residency on the Bell Building roof. Average life expectancy for Red Tailed Hawks living in the wild is 5 to 7 years, so there is still plenty of time for bird watching.
It is not out of the ordinary for Public Safety Officers to respond to strange scenarios. In most situations where people are unsure what to do, the first thought is to call Public Safety. “Sometimes we receive unusual calls for service,” Chief of Police Robert Reese stated. “That’s what we are here for,” he added.