Friday, January 29, 2016

Red-tailed Hawk

On Wednesday, I was working in our sunroom. I looked up from my computer and noticed a Red-tailed Hawk perched high in a tree near our house.  These hawks are fairly omnivorous carnivores, consuming small to medium-sized mammals (rodents like voles, deer mice, and ground squirrels), rabbits, a wide menu of birds, and a few snakes. Tree squirrels, Red Squirrels, chipmunks, amphibians and insects are infrequently taken by these hawks.

Our Red-tailed Hawk tore apart and ate a Red Squirrel. (We did not see the capture, so we do not know if the squirrel was scavenged.) Prey is often taken to feeding perches, but small mammals are usually swallowed whole. Birds are torn apart and plucked before being eaten. Larger prey is dismembered on the ground and the pieces taken to a perch for dining (Preston and Beane 2009).
While our hawk ate, a second Red-tail swooped down through the forest and landed nearby. I do not know if these birds were a pair, or if they were cooperative hunters. The first hawk paid no attention as the second watched it eat.  Red-tailed Hawks are known to steal food caught by other hawks. (They are also known to eat each other.) After about five minutes, the first hawk flew away, carrying the remains of the squirrel. The second hawk followed deeper into the woods.

6 comments:

  1. Cool pictures! Did you mean opportunistic instead of omnivorous?

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    1. I did mean omnivorous, since at one time or another, Red-tails have eaten almost everything--but the word opportunistic is a good one too.

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  2. So, you're saying they eat plants?

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    1. Probably not plants, even if they were opportunistically available. See my edit of the post: "These hawks are fairly omnivorous carnivores…"

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  3. If they just eat meat, then wouldn't they just be opportunistic carnivores? Omnivorous would mean they eat both plants and animals.

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    1. That’s how I amended the post. Thanks.

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