Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Harris's Hawk

On the advice of birders we met in the Lower Rio Grand Valley, We visited the Estero Llano Grande State Park. The park offers excellent birding and dragonfly opportunities. Among the birds, we found this Harris's Hawk. This raptor is found in scattered locations across the southwestern United States, from Texas to California, as well as Central and South America.

Harris's Hawks practice communal hunting, cooperative groups of up to seven individuals, including adults and subadults. (A photo of such a group can be seen at the Ecobirder blog site.) This behavior makes Harris's Hawks a favorite among falconers, as the hawk will easily team up with its human handler. Often in movies or on television advertisements, you can spot Harris's Hawks, regardless of the location of the film. They are often are the stars of raptor education programs.

Within these hunting groups, wild Harris's Hawks exhibit a wide variety of mating strategies--monogamy, polyandry (one female and more than one male) or polygyny (one male and more than one female). Hunting Harris's Hawks will successively attack prey, the birds' leap-frogging each other until the prey is caught. Often groups will surround a prey's hideout and then one hawk will flush the prey (Dwyer and Bednarz 2011).

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