Red-tailed Hawk, Liftoff and Flight

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I recently posted some images of a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk as it took off from its perch on the ground. In that post I related that I’d obtained a second takeoff sequence featuring that same bird. I’m presenting that today.

The young hawk flew from its original perch to the top of a nearby utility pole.

The pole was only a couple of dozen meters from where I was standing. Evidently, the hawk decided that I was still too close for comfort. Almost immediately, it decided to take off again. In this image it’s made the decision to fly and is looking in the direction that it intends to travel.

Moments later it jumps from its perch. Different bird species have unique takeoff styles. Invariably, Red Tails jump upward to begin flight, accompanied almost simultaneously with a hard downward thrust of their wings.

A fraction of a second later and the young Red Tail has now spread its wings. It has also flared its tail. A Red-tailed Hawk weighs a couple of pounds (about a kilogram), relatively heavy for a bird, but still very light considering the large surface area of its wings and tail. With its wings and tail fully spread, the hawk gets the benefit of any uplift caused by warm air currents. Notice also that the hawk has turned its head to its left. Just like a gymnast or a diver executing a movement, the hawk’s head leads the bird into a turn.

Another fraction of a second and the hawk has oriented its body in the direction that it intends to travel. Its wings and tail are now spread to their fullest extent.

A final image captures the young Red Tail settling into its flight pattern. It has tucked its legs against its body to reduce drag and has changed its shape to assume a streamlined posture.

The entire sequence of images transpires over a time of less than a full second. Modern photographic equipment is almost miraculous in that it allows the photographer to capture sequences like this one simply by pressing the shutter button and holding it down. The images reveal the almost unbelievable athleticism of this bird, performing a complex action that is routine for the hawk.

Images made with a Canon R5, Canon EF 400mm f4 DO II lens+Canon EF 1.4x telextender, M setting (auto ISO), ISOs from 200-320, f5.6 @ 1/4000, -1/3 stop exposure compensation.

2 Replies to “Red-tailed Hawk, Liftoff and Flight”

  1. burrdoo says:

    “…allows the photographer to capture sequences like this one simply by pressing the shutter button and holding it down.” – you get a lot more credit than that! Great shots. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great RED-TAILED HAWK images. Enjoyed seeing your RED-TAILED HAWK images!

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