Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Red-tailed Hawk

Several years ago, I took this first Red-tailed Hawk near Madison, South Dakota.  This species is common but variable across North America.  Except in extremely dark individuals, they can usually be identified by the dark necklace across their lower breasts.  I wrote a paper for South Dakota Bird Notes that gives an introduction to identifying Red-tailed Hawks.

I have had less success photographing Red-tailed Hawks in Minnesota.  Perhaps the problem is all of us Minnesotans in Minnesota that makes them relatively wary.  I found the photo below to be amusing: a Red-tail in dense forest at Nerstrand Big Woods State Park.  I do not often see Red-tailed Hawks in dense forest.  Usually this species inhabits open areas interspersed with forest patches.  (We Minnesotans, however, realize that Red-tailed Hawks also are often seen in urban Minneapolis/St. Paul.  The species also inhabits dense forests in Central America.)
The juvenile bird (note the lack of a red tail) was photographed on a cold, snowy January day.  Hunger may have driven it into the woodland.  Red-tails eat "a wide variety of small to medium-sized mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, arthropods, and fresh carrion" (Preston and Beane 2009). The eye gazing through the forest makes me realize that, even in the quiet depths of the forest, we are watched.

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