The Lincoln Center, Rose Hill, Westchester and Calder Center campuses are mostly quiet at this time of year, at least when it comes to humans.
But for things that slither, soar, scamper and swim, it’s a different story.
Coyotes roam the 113-acre Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station in Armonk, N.Y. Red-tailed hawks are raising chicks on a building ledge at Rose Hill. Wild turkeys wander the grounds at Westchester. And visitors to Lincoln Center are not immune from encounters with pigeons.
Though Fordham’s four campuses are geographically and ecologically distinct, they all feature animals with unique capacities for adaptation, said Thomas Daniels, Ph.D., associate research scientist at the Calder Center.
“They’re generally going to be omnivorous, and can take advantage of a lot of different food sources,” Daniels said, “while animals that require a certain patch of woods or a certain body of water would be relegated to areas that are less developed.”
One of the strengths of the Calder Center is its size, its 10-acre lake and the fact that it is contiguous to other heavily forested sites, he noted. These features allow animals to travel freely between Calder and surrounding areas.
Rose Hill and Westchester are near other wooded areas, but major roadways that run alongside the campuses create formidable barriers for ground animals. For instance, birds can venture from the New York Botanical Garden or the Bronx Zoo to Rose Hill, but Southern Boulevard is wide enough and busy enough to discourage small mammals such as opossums from crossing.
“It’s almost like a positive feedback loop. If you’ve got animals in one particular place, that opens up a habitat for more animals to arrive to feed on them,” he said.
This is partly why sightings of coyotes (and most recently, a mountain lion in nearby Greenwich, Conn.) are increasing. Red-tailed hawks feast on pigeons and rats in the city, while coyotes and mountain lions rely on robust populations of white-tailed deer for food in the suburbs.
“When I started at the Calder Center in 1985, it was very, very unusual to see a coyote. As a matter of fact, I was stunned when I saw one back in the mid ’80s. Since then, they’ve managed to get more than a foothold,” Daniels said.
At the Lincoln Center campus, sightings of coyotes, turkeys or deer are nonexistent. But even in Manhattan, Daniels said, lessons can be learned from the pigeons, blue jays, sparrows and starlings that live there.
He noted that studies in Sweden and Spain have shown that birds that do well in urban areas have larger brains, relative to their body size, than birds in more bucolic environs.
“We make fun of pigeons as rats of the air, but they’re smart birds,” Daniels said. “They do well in areas where people are not necessarily happy to have something ripping through their garbage. They have a certain social system, and they’re able to figure things out at a level that not all birds can.”
At the Calder Center, Daniels said he’s not expecting to see moose wander down from Maine any time soon. Bears, on the other hand, are a possibility.
“We’re not that far from Tuxedo Park and parts of Jersey, and that Tuxedo Park/Sterling Forest area is where the bears seem to be doing pretty well. I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to hear reports of sightings,” he said.
“If they manage to find a way to make a living without bothering us too much, they have a much better shot at staying here than they would if they interfere with human activity,” he said.
“We’re pretty tolerant of most things, but that tolerance only goes so far.”
For more on the animals at the Calder Center, visithttp://www.fordham.edu/academics/office_of_research/research_centers__in/the_louis_calder_cen/climate_and_ecologic/vertebrates_12514.asp
For more pictures of the red-tialed hawks at Rose Hill, visit Richard Fleisher’s flickr page athttp://www.flickr.com/photos/profman_wildlife_photos/collections/72157618334941687/