Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk Looking Fierce

For me this image epitomizes nature in the raw and it does it without blood, guts or gore.


1/4000, f/7.1, ISO 320, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

There’s only two things in the photo, a natural rock cliff and a calling wild raptor. I think the fierceness of the pose is enhanced by the slightly raised head feathers and I like how the profile of the cliff seems to merge with that of the bird. The hawk stands out quite well despite the similar colors of bird and background.

The relaxed posture of the right foot seems to contradict the alert and aggressive countenance of the bird, giving the hawk the appearance of confidence in its ability to meet some unseen (by us) threat.

But in reality this bird (photographed a month ago) is very young, only recently fledged, and is probably calling to its parents or a sibling. Its crop is bulging which probably accounts for the unusual appearance of some of its breast feathers. The cliff is very close to perfectly vertical and though this hawk found a safe place to perch there I suspect it might be a bit intimidated by its precarious position – especially because it was still learning to fly and it’s a long ways down to the ground.

But I like the illusion. Even fledgling raptors can look pretty damned fierce.




32 comments to Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk Looking Fierce

  • frank sheets

    I agree Laura, not stupid, just uneducated and from our perspective, humerous..

  • Love, love, love it.
    And if this fledgling is only learning the aggressive stance, grown men will rip their own heads off (to save it the trouble) when it is an adult.

  • Joanne OBrien

    Beautiful photograph, Ron. Love everything about it. I also want to comment on the really cute Frick and Frack pictures. That was such a feel-good post. Thanks!

  • Patty Chadwick

    Don’t mess with “ROCKY” !!!

  • Marina schultz

    Super sharp!! Love the bird on rocks instead of trees .. question is you camera in manual mode?? I have never been able to have a shutter speed that high I don’t get it???

  • Marty K

    Dem’s some fotography skillz! 😉 Getting the bird’s left side as tack sharp as you did — wow! He’s looking pretty bad-ass…until I see his right foot. Then I laugh at how silly fledglings can be.

  • Laura Culley

    Just LOVE this image in my ridiculously redundant way! Of course, you’ve got me at the redtail baby, but overall, I’m not that fussy. I love beginning my day with your images! 🙂 Baby raptors are just cool in so many different ways. Even with a full crop, they’ll insist they’re starving to death and scream their fool heads off if the parent(s) are anywhere in sight!

  • Susan Stone

    Beautiful portrait of this youngster. I’m curious if it’s one of the chicks on that cliff nest where you posted one adventurous chick finding its way back down to the nest? I am regularly amazed by the things you see and are able to document with your camera.

    • No, Susan, this bird isn’t from the cliff nest. It’s from the third nest I’ve been following (also on a cliff but a much larger one) along the same road. Just prior to this shot this bird and its sibling had been feeding on something in the grass I couldn’t identify – thus the full crop.

  • Zaphir Shamma

    A beautiful photo Ron 🙂

  • It is surprising how well the bird stands out from the surroundings given the similarity of colors. Perhaps it is the contrast with the background on the left side of the image that grabs our attention and then our visual system extracts the remainder of the bird from the similar background.

  • He looks fierce indeed. I love that one foot up with talons clenched. Great shot and great story!

  • frank sheets

    Once again, great shot Ron. Your description of the image is one way of looking at the chick. Watching young recently fledged raptors, I have another view. Like, “hey Mom, how the H do I get myself out-a here!” We were pleased this summer in SW Montana the number of active Bald Eagle nests and were around as many of the chicks fledged. We found several perched atop telephone poles and if you got out of the car to photograph, they would just sit there and stare at you in curiosity, I like to assume. Even if you walked up to the base of the pole, they would just watch you from their perch and sometimes yell. If one or more of the parents were in the vicinity, they would come over to check out the intrusion, and only then, would the chicks flee the scene. I have a different attitude about young raptors. They aint real smart right out of the nest but do make for great photo opps. But it does make them more endearing.

    • Linda Berkemeier

      Excellent photo, but I see a a bit of puffed-up, false braveness in that stance and eyes!

    • Laura Culley

      Frank, it’s not that they’re stupid. They just haven’t yet learned to fear us. I’ve also pondered how we look to them (from their perspective). Think about it–comparatively speaking, we’re just flat ugly. We don’t have wings/feathers, we can’t fly, we’re (comparatively) blind and what are these sorry excuses for talons? I’m CERTAIN they wonder how we get through the day. And as babies (just fledged), they’re curious about the world around them 🙂

    • “the eye of the beholder” I guess, Frank. The bird looks pretty fierce to me but I see your point.

    • Susan Stone

      Frank, I’ve seen adult Bald Eagles watching people from the top of street lights on Kodiak Island…

  • Judy Gusick

    Here I am world! 🙂 Great shot, Ron. You did manage to get it sharp in spite of blending in with the surroundings……….

  • Charlotte Norton

    Marvelous shot Ron!