A Hawk in your Classroom!

Bird’s Eye View of a Nest

Observing nesting birds in the wild can be an incredible, but not always easily accessible, experience.  Birds often find a hidden or high location that helps keep their eggs and young safe from predators. But you don’t have to miss out or climb a high tree to see hawks, herons, and ospreys raising their young:  Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird Cams bring these birds right into your classroom!

With the Bird Cams, teaching about bird habitat needs, predator-prey interactions, and animal behavior is exciting and memorable. The live Bird Cams document courtship, egg-laying, incubation, chick-rearing, and fledging, providing students an exciting window on breeding bird biology in a unique and fun way. To help you structure your use of our streaming cams, we’re now offering a free download of our new lesson series: Life in a Nest! The series includes five lessons that are designed to help you introduce science topics, guide student curiosity and inquiry, and help students apply concepts as they observe birds in their own neighborhood.

Bird Cam Birds
On a light pole nearly 80 feet above the ground you’ll find the nest belonging to Ezra and Big Red, a pair of Red-tailed Hawks. Red-tailed Hawks typically build their nest on some sort of very high perch, like the crown of a tall tree, a cliff ledge, or even a tall apartment building. Taking your class to observe nesting Red-tailed Hawks would certainly be one difficult field trip to plan! But with the Bird Cams, you can bring in live views of these birds of prey as they preen, feed, and raise their young high atop their perch.

Other cams are focused on a nesting pair of Great Blue Herons. Right in the middle of Sapsucker Woods Pond, our “backyard” here at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the herons are nesting in a huge dead white oak. Their  nest  is nearly four feet across and a foot deep. You can watch them every day as they fix up their nest and incubate their eggs. After they hatch, Great Blue Heron chicks remain in the nest for 7 to 8 weeks, so you’ll get to watch as the chicks grow, gobble fish, and develop from sparsely feathered hatchlings to fledglings getting ready to start life apart from their parents.


If you miss a key moment at one of the nests, such as the first chick hatching or the drama of a Great Horned Owl attack, there are recorded clips of special events so you can go back and watch anytime. This clip of Ezra bringing prey to Big Red in the rain is just one of the many fascinating behaviors captured on the cams that you can find on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology YouTube channel.

One of the best things about the Bird Cams is that you can have students watch the birds at home as well. Have them write down observations they make or questions that they have as they watch. Some of your students might even start watching the cams just for fun!

cam-heron hairdo!

Download your Life in a Nest lesson series today, and see what these amazing birds can help you teach! Please let us know in the comments what your students think about the Cornell BirdCams and BirdSleuth lessons.



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