Harris’ Hawk — Images Of The Matriarch

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On April 30 I posted some images of Harris’ Hawks and discussed their lifestyles.  I went back to the hawks’ home base a couple of days ago and took some more pictures.  This time I concentrated on the matriarch — the bird who is the leader of this family.

Harris’ Hawks in Arizona are social birds that live in tightly knit families.  They share their responsibilities.  They live communally, they often hunt as a group, and they engage in collective rearing of their offspring.  Their societies are matriarchal.  Every Harris’ Hawk family is ruled by an alpha female.  The other birds in the family are subordinate to her.  She is the only female in the group that mates.  The family’s youngsters are her children.

The family that I’ve been observing is ruled by a very large older female.  She is a magnificent bird, although she clearly shows the ravages of time.  While the other members of her troop are out hunting she stays behind, guarding her nest.  This year there are three hatchlings who are on the verge of fledging.

She’s easy to identify.  She has a healed wound on her right wing, a wound that left a large and very visible scar.

As I observed her, she flew from perch to perch, always within a line of sight of her nest.  I have no doubt that she knew that I was in her territory.

Female Harris’ Hawks are considerably larger than the males of their species.  I easily can distinguish this hawk from her male companions by her size.  Her scarred wing is a second identifying feature.  Last year when I observed this hawk family there was a second female with the group, a bird that was clearly younger than the matriarch and just as large.  She’s absent this year.  In Harris’ Hawk families the younger females usually leave and attempt to form families of their own after they become mature.

First image made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400 f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting, ISO 640, f8 @ 1/1000.  Second, third and fourth images made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting, ISO 640, f6.3 @ 1/2000.


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