Red-Tailed Hawk — I Am Lectured

You may enlarge any of the images in this blog by clicking on them.  Click again for a full screen image.

About a week ago I was driving through rural Arizona northwest of Tucson just after sunrise when I saw an adult Red-tailed Hawk sitting on a utility pole.  Nothing unusual about that: I usually see a half-dozen or more of these big raptors during an early morning drive in that area.  Normally, I don’t even stop to photograph them unless they have uniquely colored plumage or they’re doing something unusual.

But, this one caught my attention.  It was plainly agitated and was yelling at me even as I approached it in my car.

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Now, that’s pretty unusual behavior for one of these birds.  Red Tails normally either sit in silence as they are passed by a vehicle or fly off.  They rarely hold their ground and vocalize annoyance.

This hawk continued to scream at me as I approached it.  I stopped the car, photographed it from my driver’s side window, and drove on.

What was going on?  I have no certain answer but I can hazard an educated guess.  Red Tails in this part of the country breed beginning in late March or early April.  By now, fledgling birds have left the nest.  However, the parents stay close to their offspring for a month or so after the kids make their first flights, feeding them and protecting them from potential predators.  My guess is that a fledgling or fledglings were nearby when I encountered this adult bird and it was screaming at me to warn me to leave the area.  The fact that I didn’t see the fledglings doesn’t mean they weren’t nearby. They could easily have been perching on low vegetation or even on the ground.

In a few days I’ll show some images of fledgling Red-tails that I took on the same drive as the one that produced today’s image.  Those youngsters were perched too far away from this bird to be his/her offspring, I think.

Image made with a Canon 5Diii, 400 DO+1.4X Telextender, camera and lens rested on car door, aperture priority setting, ISO 1000, f6.3 @ 1/1000.

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