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Rare Birds Nesting on Campus ‘Adopted’ as UMass Lowell River Hawks

Rare Birds Nesting on Campus ‘Adopted’ as UMass Lowell River Hawks

Chancellor Marty Meehan signs 'adoption' papers, officially welcoming Merri and Mack to campus. Athletic Director Dana Skinner looks on.


Roll of drums, please. The names of the peregrine falcons living atop Fox Hall have been unveiled: Merri and Mack. A riff on the river running alongside their home—the Merrimack—the names were chosen from several finalists in a campus-wide contest and unveiled at an “adoption” ceremony on April 22. 

UMass Lowell’s athletics teams and 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.

The falcons have lived on the Fox Hall roof since at least 2007, when they were discovered by workers, and have been officially welcomed into the campus community as the living embodiment of the River Hawks. The symbolic adoption of the birds celebrates school spirit as well as enhancing understanding of peregrine falcons, which are on the state’s endangered list.

From the time they were discovered, the University has worked with the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife to protect and monitor the pair and their chicks. The campus made a nest box and erected a webcam to monitor them back in 2007 and this year built a new, upgraded nest box and installed two monitors, one inside the box and one outside.

The webcam is available at www.uml.edu/hawkwatch, a page which also features more information on UMass Lowell’s River Hawks traditions as well as on peregrine falcons. 

“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 at the adoption celebration held at the aptly named Hawk’s Nest Café, a short distance from Fox Hall on East Campus. 

Two of just a few dozen pairs of peregrine falcons believed to be living in Massachusetts, Merri and Mack become parents to two to three eggs every year. Not all of the eggs have hatched over the years, but it is believed the pair has helped increase the number of falcons in the area. 

The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (MSPCA)—both of which participated in the event—support the University’s efforts to raise awareness of the falcons and to provide an example of how people can peacefully co-exist with wildlife, even in an urban setting.