Friday, November 25, 2011

Red-tailed Hawk

Last Monday, Erika sat in our sunroom that looks out over our bird feeders and backwoods. She watched a Short-tailed Shrew repeatedly run from under the leaf litter to collect fallen sunflower seeds beneath the feeders. Erika went in search of our camera, which, of course, I had in the car with me. She returned to watch the shrew when, from above our home, a Red-tailed Hawk dropped on the shrew. The hawk carried the shrew to a nearby tree bough, and swallowed the shrew with one gulp. Earlier this month, a Red-tailed Hawk (the same individual?) carried off from the feeder what appeared to be a Red Squirrel.

According to Preston and Beane (2009), Red-tailed Hawks mostly prey upon mammals (mice, ground squirrels, and rabbits), birds (mostly pheasants and quail), snakes, and also, rarely, small birds.  These authors cite a Wisconsin study of the winter diet as 44% cottontails, 28% voles and mice,, and 10% Ring-necked Pheasants. In the spring, Red-tailed Hawks consumed 38% cottontails, 23% Ring–necked Pheasants, 14% squirrels and muskrats, 10% passerines and other small birds, and only 7% voles and mice.

The Red-tailed Hawk in this photograph is a stand-in for our recent sighting.  I took this photograph several years ago near Pierre, South Dakota.

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