Red-Tailed Hawk

February 22nd, 2007

Felt good to be outside a little today… warm enough for a hatch of small insects and migrating birds. The ice has been retreating on the pond, and I saw two Koi I put in last year. They were 8-12 inches last year, but easily twice that size now… swimming together slowly in shallow waters. Not close enough for a picture, but I’ll get one sometime this year!

Heard a Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) and looked up to see him soaring high above… got a picture of him! One of the most common hawks in the country, yet also my favorite. In my younger days I worked for a raptor rehabilitation center and took care of a Red-Tailed Hawk I named “Sierra.” Beautiful birds… their size is amazing. I’ll see if I can find an old photo with Sierra on my arm. I also remember working at the Mingo National Wildlife Refuge years ago on a research project for Red-Shouldered Hawks. They are a smaller, wetland cousin to the Red-Tailed hawk. We would set mesh cages on the ground with fishing-line loops on top, and a “tasty” mouse or field rat inside (live!). Parking several hundred yards away, a hawk would eventually try to grab the mouse or rat (but not able to reach it), and become entangled in the loops. Then we would race over and put a hood on the hawk (the darkness calms them). We would then weigh, measure, band and release them, sometimes with radio transmitters, and then track their nesting habits. Lots more to that story, but it was a wonderful experience.

I once went “hunting” with a friend who was a “falconer”. He had a Red-Tailed hawk and would release it to nearby trees overlooking fields. The hawk would sit perched high in the tree, looking for game while we walked and beat the brushpiles near the woods and fields. On the hawk’s leg were “jesses” (small leather straps) with bells attached so you could hear it flying or moving. We heard the hawk and bells jingling one time, but before seeing where, it crashed into the ground at our feet. In its talons was a small mouse! It had seen the mouse from over a hundred yards away, and we didn’t even notice it at our feet. Amazing eyesight! The adult Red-Tailed hawk in this photo today was probably 200-300 feet in the sky, but the telephoto lens brought it in much closer.

Red-Tailed Hawk over Fox Haven

5 Responses to “Red-Tailed Hawk”

  1. What a beautiful site! I was exploring some of the sites on the “wall” at Fuel My Blog,” and here I am! Your cat is a real clown…and I love the photos of your dogs. The birds are beautiful! Okay, I’m running out of adjectives. But I’ll be back!

  2. Welcome Gracie! Thanks for your comments… the animals are pretty neat, and I like to share a little of everything. Somehow it makes one feel “part of the whole” if that makes any sense… :)

  3. jason

    I live in the middle of nowhere and we have seen 2 or 3 with bells on legs. we cant figure out whos they are or if they are lost cause they hang around the house all day.

  4. Hi Jason- Really? Sounds like those were birds kept by a “falconer” or someone who reared them for hunting. Maybe they think you are going to feed and/or work with them? And do you think it could be the same bird, or multiple ones for sure? I don’t know what state you live in, but you could contact the state conservation/wildlife department, and ask for their falconry permit/regs department, they might help locate whomever raised the birds? Thanks for stopping by.

  5. […] some of our avian friends returning, including a pair of juvenile Red-tailed Hawks.   I remember writing two years ago that I worked with raptors quite a few years back.  I worked alone as a biological research […]

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