harvey the hawk

Screenshot via William Bruso/YouTube

Harvey the Hawk was a proud hurricane symbol—until the Confederate flag showed up

An animal video is never just an animal video on the internet.

Sep 1, 2017, 10:49 am*

Internet Culture


Tiffany Kelly

As Hurricane Harvey began to flood streets, homes, and businesses in Texas on Friday, residents sought refuge. That included wild animals.

A taxi driver picked up an unusual passenger at the beginning of the hurricane: a Cooper’s hawk. He documented the whole experience on his YouTube channel. In the first video, the driver, William Bruso, narrates in the background while the terrified-looking hawk stares at the camera from the passenger seat of the cab.

“He just kind of hopped on in and doesn’t want to leave,” Bruso says in the video.


Since the bird refused to leave Bruso’s cab, he named him Harvey the Hurricane Hawk. Bruso invited Harvey into his home, where the bird naturally decided to settle in next to all the wine and liquor. Bruso documented Harvey’s weekend indoors with a series of videos.


In the last video, Harvey is picked up by the TWRC Wildlife Center. It seemed like a happy, feel-good story of an animal and a human becoming friends during a natural disaster. The hawk is saved! Everyone in this story lives!

But on the internet in 2017, nothing is that easy. Feel-good stories only feel good right up until we find out some crucial detail that derails the whole thing. The Twitter user @pixelatedboat summed up this experience in a very popular tweet last year:

Basically, all your faves are problematic.

And the taxi driver who saved the hawk is already a new Milkshake Duck. Unfortunately, the reason is the same as the one given in the tweet above. More specifically, people noticed the Confederate flag hanging inside his home in the videos with Harvey. It’s hard not to notice a Confederate flag hanging inside someone’s home, especially in light of recent events.

The whole thing felt like a setup. During a weekend where news reports showed people desperately trying to escape their flooded homes and cars, Harvey the Hurricane Hawk offered the internet a heart-warming story. People who wanted to watch the full saga went to the rescuer’s YouTube page. And when they got to the part of the story when Harvey made it inside the home, they saw the camera pan over a flag that represents America’s racist past and present.

The comment section in the first YouTube video that shows the Confederate flag and the hawk in the same room quickly turned from positive to negative as people noticed the symbol. Some commenters supported William Bruso despite the flag. Bruso left a response in the comment section of the video over the weekend, saying that he flies his flags “proudly.”

So can the internet enjoy heart-warming animal tales anymore? Yes, if no one knows any personal details about the people involved. Most of the videos that document animal rescues are posted with few details, and we happily share them before moving on to the next cute animal rescue video. We love seeing raccoons sitting on a couch, or a baby deer recovering in a family’s backyard.

But the problem is that we enjoy these videos because we assume that the humans who rescued the animals are people whose values align with ours. When the Confederate flag shows up, it makes for some cognitive dissonance.

But that’s also just 2017 for you.

Share this article
*First Published: Aug 29, 2017, 6:47 am