LOWELL – UMass Lowell’s athletics teams and even its mascot, Rowdy, have been known as River Hawks for two decades, a tribute to the birds of various species who, like the university, call the banks of the Merrimack River home.
Yesterday, the university officially “adopted” the living embodiment of the River Hawks: a pair of rare peregrine falcons who have nested atop Fox Hall, the university’s largest residence hall and the tallest building in the city of Lowell each spring since at least 2007.
Up until that time, the female falcon had been laying eggs on the cement roof out in the open – the birds do not make typical nests – which made it more difficult for the chicks to survive. Working with the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, UMass Lowell made a nest box and erected a webcam to monitor it in time for the falcons to return the following spring. Earlier this year, the university upgraded the nest box and webcam, which has allowed birding enthusiasts around the country to watch the falcons.
The webcam is available at www.uml.edu/hawkwatch, which also features more information on UMass Lowell’s River Hawks traditions as well as on peregrine falcons.
“UMass Lowell chose the name for its athletics teams, the River Hawks, to signify the importance of the Merrimack River both to the university and to the city of Lowell. The River Hawks symbolize our strength and pride. Today, we are not only adopting the pair of falcons as River Hawks, we are recognizing the importance of the birds to our environment,” said Chancellor Marty Meehan, one of the speakers at yesterday’s “adoption” celebration with students, faculty and staff at the aptly named Hawk’s Nest Café, located a short distance from Fox Hall on UMass Lowell’s East Campus.
They are two of just a few dozen pairs of peregrine falcons believed to be living in Massachusetts.
As the birds have returned each spring, so has the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, checking on the falcons and banding their offspring to allow further monitoring once they leave the nest.
The symbolic adoption of the birds – which were officially named “Merri” and “Mack” for the Merrimack River over which they nest – celebrates school spirit as well as enhancing understanding of UMass Lowell’s resident falcons.