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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

Apr 21, 2010

Red Tailed Hawk

Today was the best!!!

I went out early, as usual, on bird watch headed to my favorite place near the golf course.  When I got there nothing much was flying except  the ever present sea gulls, so I went a little further than I normally do.  The first thing that happened was that I startled some Grouse into flight in a place that I didn't expect to see any, never having come across them in the city.  They startled me almost as much with their sudden noisy flight, so of course no pictures, but I kept going hoping to flush out some more of these birds so that I could get some pictures.  I came across some tracks that I believe belong to Elk next and kept going listening for any unusual sounds.  Nothing much was to be seen for quite a while, and then I spotted a large bird at the top a tree  in a stand of woods straight ahead of me.

The Grouse were immediately forgotten, in favor of getting closer to this bird.   I have visited this particular location earlier this spring and noted a large nest there in one of the trees.  This bird was in close proximity to that nest.

Red Tailed Hawk landing on nest

Naturally I started taking pictures right away, because you never know what you might have in your sights.  Pretty soon I heard the bird cry out nervously and knew immediately that it belonged to the raptor family, but since the sun was behind the bird, I still had no idea which kind it was and then it took off.  It flew behind and below the tree tops and for a minute there I thought I'd lost sight of it altogether, but then I heard it again and looked up only to see two birds, a male and female.  One of them had flown to perch on the nest I mentioned and a few minutes later one was flying around me in agitation, and in so doing, revealing itself to be a beautiful Red Tailed Hawk.

Red Tail coming around

I was simply amazed that it was flying so close to me that I could literally see every detail of its markings.   I thought at first that this bird was  attempting to scare me away in order to protect his female and since I meant her no harm,  I kept walking around until I reached the little stream that is amongst the trees there. Here I startled a Canada Goose into flight, but I was rewarded with a picture of the female, who by now had moved to perch in a tree top, and was screaming at me in warning.

Screaming Red Tail
It finally dawned on me that these two birds were trying to protect their nest, which obviously meant that they had already laid their eggs, otherwise they wouldn't be making such a fuss and would simply fly off.   I turned around and started heading back the way I came, but the male kept circling me and so of course I kept working the shutter on my camera.  The result are these pictures in which you get a detailed view of the birds identifying markings.  Notice the dark band of color beneath the wings, right next to the bird's neck.

Red Tail wings powering down
Red Tail right Above
Red Tail Going up

These markings are what you need to see in order to positively identify a hawk as a Red tailed hawk, especially if you do not catch sight of its bright red tail, if you see a subspecies of this hawk that is not marked by the red tail, or a juvenile who hasn't yet grown mature enough to have developed a red tail.  Red Tailed hawks come in colors that include albino white, rare black, light and dark morphs, however typically they are colored as you see them in my pictures.

Also as I happened to be lucky enough today to get pictures of two species of hawks, the other being a Swainson's Hawk, I couldn't resist giving  you an opportunity to be able to see the difference in the color patterns of these two hawks.

Swainson's Hawk

Notice the dark band of color on the bottom edge beneath this hawk's wings. Swainson's hawks are sometimes mistaken for Red Tailed hawks when they are perched, because they have a  redish patch of feathers beneath their beak and on their throat similar to a Red Tailed hawk's, which is however slightly darker.  Swainson's Hawks are very much alike in the coloring of their back as well, which is another reason why they are often mistaken for a Red Tailed Hawk.

As you can see I had a great and fortunate day, and enjoyed my self  thoroughly.  I hope you had the same.   If you wish to learn more about the Red Tailed Hawk  there are videos at the following links: 

also you can find more information about The Red Tailed Hawk at the following links:

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