Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Phenology: Red-Tailed Hawk

(Reclaimed from Bubblews, where it appeared on August 28, 2014. Obviously the rest of the phenology is not applicable to March 31, 2015, but I've seen the male red-tailed hawk flying above Route 23 again this month. Image credit: ShadowLight at Morguefile.com: http://mrg.bz/ftLukd)

I've mentioned earlier that ever since deadly poisons were sprayed alongside Route 23, I've not seen many living birds or butterflies there. This morning on the way to the computer center I did see a flock of small migrating birds fly over Route 23, southbound.

The red-tailed hawk who lives near Route 23 screamed three times as I passed by. I'm not really familiar with this red-tail, although I've been observing him and his mate for years--can't swear that he's the same one I've been observing, but he was definitely a mature male with the same color pattern. (Male red-tails are much smaller than females; both sexes show more red feathers as they mature, with individual variation.)

Anyway I can't claim to understand the red-tail's language. He might have been calling his mate, or mourning for the loss of her, or trying to attract another female red-tail's attention. He might have been able to raise a family this year, and been giving fatherly advice to his young. He might have found fresh roadkill. But it's just barely possible that he was saying, "Write about me!" So I did.

Though red-tails do sometimes eat smaller birds, they don't thrive on this kind of cannibalistic diet. Healthy red-tails eat mostly small animals--mice, rats, voles, frogs, freshwater shellfish. (They have been known to eat young domestic animals, but this is rare.) I was glad to observe that the hawk I saw seemed completely uninterested in the little tweetybirds passing by.

(Fun facts and nice clear pictures of red-tailed hawks are available at these nonprofit sites: