Fledgling Red-tailed Hawk — The Rookie
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I was out for a drive the other day when I saw four large raptors sitting side by side on the cross beam of a utility pole. My first thought was that they were Harris’ Hawks. Harris’ Hawks live in family groups and often perch together. I quickly realized that I was wrong. These were Red-tailed Hawks. Adult Red Tails perch with their mates from time to time but they never perch in larger groups so I was perplexed for a moment. Then, it hit me: these were fledglings. Very young Red Tail siblings just out of their nests sometimes perch together for a short period of time before going their separate ways. Partly that’s out of insecurity but partly also it’s because their parents continue to feed them for a while after they’ve fledged. The kids tend to hang out with each other if there’s food in the offing.
Three of the birds flew off before I could grab my camera from the seat next to me and take their picture. They headed for another utility pole a couple hundred yards away. The fourth, apparently confused, flew a few yards and attempted to land on a utility wire.
That was a rookie error for the youngster. The fledgling hadn’t perfected its skills well enough to balance on the wire. For a second it attempted to use its wings to stabilize itself. Then, it fell off, quickly regained control, and flew on to join its siblings.
It’s a lot of fun to observe fledgling raptors as they acquire the skills that they’ll need for the remainder of their lives. They acquire flight skills very quickly. In a day or two this young hawk and its siblings will be adept fliers. They will still have a lot to learn, however. Hawks are not born with instinctive hunting skills. They have to learn how to hunt through trial and error. Only about one-third of fledgling hawks do. The rest will not survive their first year. Being a raptor is not easy.
Image made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting, ISO 640, f6.3 @ 1/3200.