SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — May SU-Sue and Otto, the pair of Red-Tailed Hawks seen by streamers around the world, fly high.
Back in 2016, SU-Sue, Otto and another female Red-Tailed Hawk were seen by Anne Marie Higgins on Syracuse University’s campus, but had been noted for nesting there since 2012. From there, the buzz began.
In March of 2017, Higgins, a bird watcher and Alumna of Syracuse University, donated a nest camera officially known as the SU Hawk Nest Cam, so that others could enjoy the hawks from anywhere.
Following SU-Sue and Otto on and off camera is something Higgins said she had done every day. Higgins would usually find them at Oakwood Cemetery, one of their off-campus hunting grounds.
The nest cam only streams during the hawk’s breeding season which is from March through June.
She donated the cameras in honor of her late husband, Honorable Thomas “Tim” Higgins, who had passed from a short battle with Leukemia. Bird watching was something he and Anne Marie enjoyed doing together, according to a dedication page on Syracuse University’s website.
But unfortunately, after years of the hawks calling Syracuse University their home, their residency has ended.
“I am deeply, deeply saddened by the loss of both of them,” said Higgins.
The duo died from Avian Influenza (AI), specifically High Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), confirmed by Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine Animal Health Diagnostic Center.
According to research from the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Animal Health Diagnostic Center, “AI viruses are classified as either low pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) or high pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) according to the virus strain’s impact on domestic poultry.”
Symptoms from LPAI viruses may include coughing, sneezing, ocular and nasal discharge and occasionally swollen infraorbital sinuses. However, HPAI can wipe out a bird within days, as it’s more severe. This extends beyond the hawks, it affects chickens, turkeys, quail, pheasants, peacocks and more.
“It is, unfortunately, taking down lots of wild birds. Eagles, Red-Tailed Hawks, other kinds of hawks, and mammals as well,” said Higgins
An efficient way to cut down on the spread of the Avian Flu is to kill the birds that carry it, as it spreads so rapidly.
“In 2015 over 40 million poultry were euthanized to control an outbreak in the midwestern US. Some raptors and a few wild ducks were reportedly sick. No human infections were seen,” according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Animal Health Diagnostic Center.
SU-Sue and Otto, mates for life, died within a week of one another.
According to the Red-Tailed Hawk Tales Facebook page dedicated to the university’s hawks, a passerby at Syracuse University reported seeing Sue on the ground, and ESF students found Otto in the Oakwood Cemetery and messaged Higgins on Red-Tailed Hawk Tales.
Over the years, the social media presence of these hawks grew, with their Facebook page amassing thousands of people worldwide to watch the nest cam on the SU Hawk Nest Cam website which is owned and managed by Syracuse University. Higgins paid the webcam streaming service, HDonTap, who streamed on their website as well as on YouTube.
Higgins said that she’s had people from Germany, Norway, Hawaii and just about the whole world write to her on Facebook about the stream: “it shows the countries all over the world that were watching.”
She added that so many people from all over had developed relationships with the hawks.
The stream was also seen by younger students in classrooms. Higgins was able to Zoom into the classes and answer students’ questions about what they were watching and what was going on.
It was heartwarming to see the hawks live, raise chicks until they fledge (left) the nest, and more, “the loss of both of the parents is heartbreaking,” added Higgins.
Since the passing of the pair, Higgins added that she has spotted three hawks on campus.
Below is more research the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine Animal Health Diagnostic Center has about AI.
Cwhl Fact Sheets Ai by Reegan Domagala on Scribd
With a digital footprint lasting forever, or digital talons, these hawks are gone but not forgotten.