Friday, December 20, 2013

Red-tailed Hawk

This Red-tailed Hawk took up residence this December at the bird feeders at the Holden’s home. This young bird—its tail was not red—perched over the feeders but did appear to be interested in the plethora of goldfinches, chickadees, and Downy Woodpeckers. This hawk might not last long—it showed no concern about us, and allowed our close approach.

The hawk continually stared at the ground. I think the raptor waited for a mouse or a vole to venture from under the porch in search of seed. Curiously, the small birds seemed to pay little or no attention to the hawk in the midst. When an Accipiter investigates the feeders, the small birds either freeze or scatter. The small birds appeared to assume that a Red-tailed hawk posses little threat.
According to Preston and Beane (2009), Red-tailed Hawks mostly prey upon mammals (mice, ground squirrels, and rabbits), large 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.

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