Hawk nest closes sidewalk on campus

Ty Mullen
Signs on campus block pedestrians from walking near a hawk nest behind the Maeser building. The hawk likely attacks pedestrians below to protect its fledglings, who are still developing wing feathers large enough to fly. (Ty Mullen)

BYU has blocked off a section of sidewalk behind the Karl G. Maeser building due to a hawk nest in the trees above and the fear of a hawk attacking pedestrians below.

Victoria Rosdahl, a BYU senior studying Elementary Education and Spanish, was attacked by the hawk as she was walking to work.

“I heard a really loud ‘whoosh’ and wings hit my head. I nearly fell to the ground I was so startled,” Rosdahl said.

Rosdahl wasn’t aware the bird had intentionally attacked her.

“I didn’t really see the bird, and at the time I thought maybe a bird must have accidentally ran into me, but then a few days later I was walking up the same path and it was blocked off because of a swooping hawk and its nest, so I knew then what happened. Blew my mind to be honest,” Rosdahl said.

A sign was placed along with roadblocks to keep the hawk from injuring pedestrians. The sign reads, “Caution: Hawk nesting. Sidewalk closed. Use other side.”

The hawk likely attacks pedestrians below to protect its fledglings, who are still developing wing feathers large enough to fly.

“When the fledglings become more mobile, they need less defending,” said Avian Conservation Coordinator Russ Norvell.

The hawks’ aggression usually passes within a few days to a few weeks, according to Norvell.

A notorious attacking hawk was given the nickname ‘BYU Angry Bird’ back in 2016 when it attacked students and staff in the southwest area of campus. It’s unknown whether this year’s hawk is the same one from 2016.

“Many hawks have taken to urban environments, like city parks or college campuses, and have done pretty well,” Norvell said.

Landowners can remove the nest from the tree once all the fledglings have left to discourage the hawks from nesting in the same place in future years. But even with the removal of the nest, birds may still return to the same location.

“It’s pretty likely birds like these will come back to nest in the same place,” Norvell said.

It is legal to remove the nest once it’s empty, but it can’t be done while there are still fledglings there, since it could harm the birds. “It is actually illegal to kill one of these birds,” Norvell said.

There are 35 species of hawks that are currently protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

BYU can apply for a permit to have the hawks removed if the birds become too dangerous, but if having pedestrians walk on the other side of the road will stop the attacks, it’s not likely the permit will be granted, according to Norvell. The hawks’ removal would most likely result in the fledglings’ death. The sidewalk will likely remain closed until the fledglings have left the nest.

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