Red Shoulders and Red Tails

As I walked past the last shrub in the line of hazel alders and into the clearing I was a bit startled by a red-shouldered hawk no more than four feet distance from me, at eye level. The hawk seemed just as surprised as I as we stared wide-eyed at one another on the north edge of the wetland. The hawk’s stare briefly intensified, then relaxed.

Eyeball to eyeball with red-shouldered hawk.
The hawk tried to stare me down, and succeeded.

I slowly backed up so as not to force the hawk to flight. It seems though, the hawk intended to stay and finish what it had started, hunt for fresh food for its young up in the woods to the north of the wetlands. When it was finally ready to take flight, it would, as it did some minutes later after finding no frogs, snakes, or small rodents in the immediate area.

Sharp talons ready to pounce on prey.

Getting close looks at a red-shouldered hawk is not something easily done in many wilder locations. We here at the museum are lucky to have a semi-wild environment within an essentially suburban landscape. Red-shouldered hawks become very tolerant of humans in such locations. I was able to study the hawk close-up for several minutes.

Red-shouldered hawk soaring over wetlands.

Several days later while checking the bluebird nest box on the west side of the parking deck, I noticed a high-pitched, wheezy, whining sound coming from the trees to my left. It was a red-tailed hawk, an immature red-tailed hawk.

What’s this young red-tailed hawk staring at?
Rabbit on a limb.

The hawk was staring down at a rabbit left on a limb by one of its parents. The parent who had dropped off the meal was now on another nearby limb encouraging the young hawk to drop in on the rabbit. It appeared to be a lesson in securing food, one that the young bird was not quickly learning.

Can you see the hawk and the rabbit.
The parent delivering the goods several minutes earlier.

Having limited time to sit and observe, I wasn’t able to witness the young bird’s lesson through completion. I’m sure the bird got to sample the cottontail. By the way, I very rarely see rabbits here at the museum. I can remember only one in my 11 plus years of walking the north side trails.

Red-shouldered hawks traditionally nest on the wooded north side of our 84 acres, red-tailed hawks on the more open south side.

The red-tailed hawk nest is in a pine on the east side of the south parking lot. The birds have obviously fledged though they still stay close to nest site.


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