Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk – The Lone Survivor

A one out of three survivor rate sure isn’t as high as I hoped for but I do think this one’s going to make it.

Four days ago I went looking for any survivors of the original three young Red-tailed Hawks that had been blown out of their nest by severe winds many weeks ago. Readers will remember that we found one of the three as road kill and originally I had high hopes for the other two. But before our camping trip to Montana April Olson of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah had let me know that she noticed one of the two youngsters struggling with a wing issue so she and others captured it and discovered that it had a shattered wing. They took it to WRCNU for possible rehab but the wing was so badly damaged there was nothing they could do so it had to be euthanized.

It goes without saying that it was a difficult loss for all of us.


1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 400mm, not baited, set up or called in

Because of our camping trip I hadn’t been to the area of the original blown-down nest for a while but four days ago I visited again and was delighted to find the lone survivor doing very well. He (or she, I don’t know the sex) was perched on part of a large metal corral but some distance from the original nest site. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see him doing well after the loss of both of his siblings that I’d followed for so long.

His perch wasn’t the best for photography because he was partially obscured by a metal fence rail in front of him. But after a while he seemed to take pity on my photography frustrations…



1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 220mm, not baited, set up or called in

so he took off…



1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 220mm, not baited, set up or called in

giving me a few flight shots in the process…



1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 220mm, not baited, set up or called in

and headed for another nearby part of the corral…



1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 286mm, not baited, set up or called in

where I had an unobstructed view. The light in these shots is very warm because it was early morning and there was lots of moisture and haze in the area to the east.



1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 100mm, not baited, set up or called in

Here’s a “perspective shot” taken soon after he landed (but at a different angle) to give you a feel for the layout of the setting.

  • This is the kind of photo that drives me just a little bit batty. With all of the graphic lines in the image not a single one of them gave me what I thought would be an accurate indicator of true level so I didn’t know how to rotate the image to achieve it (the corral was built on a slope). Even the supposedly vertical posts don’t all agree with each other. I keep going back to try to figure it out…

I do wish all three of the youngsters had survived but as I approached the area of the original nest I had prepared myself as best I could to find another dead or injured hawk (or no bird at all) so it was quite a relief to discover this one doing so well.

It could have been worse.


Note: I’ve put off posting these images for a few days because of server issues. This post obviously required multiple images but to minimize stress on the old server I’ve only been posting single images so I couldn’t post all of these photos until now.

Yes, the move to the new server is finally complete! Big thanks to Mia for all her help in getting it done.

Please let me know of any glitches you may notice on your end.




41 comments to Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk – The Lone Survivor

  • Debbie

    I am happy that this one survived but sad he lost his two siblings. This has been a bad season for birds this season especially with the Osprey babies. So many have died on the east coast it breaks my heart. Of the five nests that I follow only four of fifteen babies have survived. Heartbreaking.

  • Nicole


  • Alice Beckcom

    Ron, thanks so much for the update and the beautiful photos. It is great that 1 of these red-tailed survived and is looking healthy. I agree with so many others that this is a gorgeous creature that started its life with many ‘extra’ challenges.

    Hope your server continues to ‘behave’ so that we can enjoy your wonderful work.

  • I am so very glad to see a survivor. Who I hope is also a thriver.
    And cursing you a little as my eyes/brain try and make sense of those ‘straight’ lines in the corral.

  • Jeffrey Tufts

    To provide a little perspective, here’s a brief bit of information from The Raptor Institute’s website.

    As a population, Red-Tailed Hawks are stable across their range. Like many raptors they suffer up to an 80% mortality rate in their first year. However after reaching adulthood they often live up to 10 years in age.

  • Jean Haley

    Thank goodness one of them survived, and it is a beauty! Thanks Ron for the update. Hope you find the Hawk again soon!

  • Patty Chadwick

    The odds were so stacked against any of the three surviving, I’m grateful even one did, though I wished with all my heart all three would…this one looks like a strong, healthy bird…Be strong, be safe, Baby!!!

  • April Olson

    The lone survivor looks very healthy, as I recall it was the youngest and smallest of the 3. It now has the total attention of 2 parents. The hunting must be good this year. All 3 birds had full crops every time I saw them, they had very attentive parents. I have not been up to see the last bird since catching up the second juvenile with the broken wing. It would be too heart breaking to find another casualty. Thank you for the post.

    The Redtails I have been watching in my neighborhood have all fledged. It is amazing they succeed in the city. They are in peoples yards, parking strips, local school and on top of a car with a ski rack! I bet the DNR and WRCNU get calls about these hawks on the ground. But the parents are there and the birds are flying short distances. It would make me mad if someone kidnapped one thinking it needed help at this stage, they are so close to making it to the next high flying stage.

    • Laura Culley

      That’s so good to hear April and thank you for all your work! Wish I could still do rehab work, but I can no longer trust my hands to operate like they need to operate safely. DARGH!

      • April Olson

        Laura, I am not as involved with the hands on anymore, I developed what is commonly called bird breeders lung. I can’t spend longer than a couple of hours at the center without my lungs tightening up. My 25 year old daughter is the expert in our house. She started volunteering when she was 13. I am very proud of her knowledge and skill.

        • Laura Culley

          I’m sorry to hear that April. That’s got to be frustrating, but oh how wonderful that your daughter is taking up the standard! Rehab work was so rewarding for me. Even through the sorrow of the losses, the releases made up for the ones that didn’t/couldn’t make it. I so enjoyed my volunteer work with On The Wing Again, both the rehab and education programs. It delights my soul to share the information I’ve gained over the years.

    • April, On this day one of the parents was still in the neighborhood and the youngster called a lot like it was still expecting to be fed. So I think this bird has a lot of things going for it.

  • Chris Sanborn

    I guess Mother Nature knows what she’s doing, but damn those dismal survivor rates. However, as others have said, better for the hawklet with the shattered wing to be euthanized than to suffer, and so glad there is still one healthy one for you to photograph and us to enjoy! This young hawk is a beauty and my fingers are X’d s/he will continue to thrive and grow to adulthood. Thanks for the update and the wonderful photos, crazy corral lines and all.

  • Laura Culley

    I’ll keep hoping this one enjoys a successful passage (migration) and makes it to haggard (adult) status, complete with a glorious red tail. I HATE the statistics. They often break my heart. But they are what they are…sigh. If I’m ever elevated to Queen of the World…well, let’s just say there SHALL be changes 🙂
    As usual, simply gorgeous shots. And yes, I’m easy, especially with redtails. LOL!
    Delighted you’re up and running again. I’m glad to be up and running again, too. Internet access in rural areas during the monsoon season here seems to be a challenge. And we only got a little rain out of it, too. I missed y’all!

  • Sarah Hamilton

    Such a beauty. Always love pics of the juvies as well as the parents, of course. Thanks so much for all your efforts.

  • Susan Stone

    That first shot is one of the most beautiful portraits of any bird that I’ve ever seen – even with the ugly fencing it’s sitting on. I’m glad that April rescued the injured bird, because being euthanized has to be better than a long, slow death. I really hope the one survivor makes it. I do have one comment about your new server: it now has music in the background, which I find very annoying and distracting. It takes away from the beauty of your photographs. IMHO.

    • I’m certain that there’s no music on my blog, Susan. I hate music in that context too. You must have another page open…

      • Susan Stone

        Ron, it was your page (there’s a little volume symbol in the URL box. But it’s gone today! (I just look at that symbol, and only turned up the volume on my computer to hear what it was. I always keep my volume off.)

  • Your camera captures a very healthy-looking young bird—glossy, smooth feathers, bright eyes—fingers crossed for the surviving sibling……..

  • I’m actually glad the one with the injured wing was helped. Less suffering that way. It is sad. But here’s to Solo, the lone survivor!

    • Solo is a good name for him, Arwen. I remember a very old Jane Goodall documentary called (I think) the “Wild Dogs of Africa” where one of the young pups was called Solo because he/she was the runt of the litter and constantly picked on by all the others.

  • Dick Harlow

    Glitches, glitches, glitches, bane of technology! Nice to know you are up and fully running!
    Glad you found this fellow whole and healthy!
    At least ⅓ of the nest survived. I’m sure there are instances, unseen, where no one survives!

    • I’m trying to look at the bright side regarding these young hawks, Dick. 1 out of 3 isn’t bad when you consider the usual statistics.

  • I always enjoy visiting your blog, but most especially when you have pictures of Red Tailed Hawks. Seeing this juvenile doing well and learning the ropes makes me excited for the upcoming hawking season, when I plan to take a new Red Tail, so I will be looking for youngsters like this on migration. My fellow falconer friend Laura Culley understands the excitement.

  • Good to see at least one survive a rough start to life. Hope he/she has a long and fertile life.
    As to your server: It seems to load a bit quicker.

    • Neil, I’m noticing on my end that not only does my blog load noticeably faster but so do my editing pages. If that continues it will be a big help to me when I’m composing my posts.

  • Judy Gusick

    Well hell………….. At least one is still “making it” and the one with the shattered wing was euthanized rather than letting nature do it’s thing. 🙁 Beautiful bird even if the “context” is busy. 🙂 Glad the server thing seems to have been solved – not issues on this end so far.

  • Joanne OBrien

    Good to see your blog up and running at full speed again. Beautiful photos! So glad the young hawk is doing well! It’s nice to start the day looking at such a gorgeous creature.