Fledgling Red-tailed Hawk Playing Around On The Rocks

Very young raptors do a lot of crazy stuff when they’re still trying to learn the ropes.


1/2500, f/7.1, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

I photographed this very recently fledged Red-tailed Hawk just over two months ago in northern Utah. Just prior to this the bird and one of its siblings had been feeding on something fairly large (possibly a rabbit?) in the tall grass some distance from their nest in a nearby cliff and when they were through this one decided to do some exploring. Notice that its crop is bulging hugely from its recent meal.

When it left the rabbit it alternately walked and flew over to the base of the cliff where it had a very difficult time negotiating the rocks – thus the raised wings. This bird could now fly but its flight skills were far from highly developed so when it decided to take off and land on the side of the cliff…



1/1600, f/7.1, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

its chosen landing spot left a lot to be desired. It landed in a precarious spot on bare vertical rock where it could barely hold on without falling off. It stayed plastered against the side of the cliff for some time as it tried to decide what its next move would be.



1/2500, f/7.1, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

Soon it took off, flew around a point in the cliff, and landed in a small rocky alcove – a much more convenient place to perch. From here it could actually see its nest and I believe that’s where it’s looking in this photo. When it eventually took off again…



1/2000, f/7.1, ISO 400, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM, not baited, set up or called in

I was able to get a couple of shots where I didn’t clip any body parts. Here it’s intending to land just a few feet from its previous perch so the cliff face is very close to the bird. I think the concentration of the hawk on “sticking” the landing is so intense it’s almost palpable in this photo.

The adult hawks at this nest site successfully raised three youngsters to fledging. Soon after these shots were taken all five birds dispersed and I haven’t seen any of them since then that I know of. A three out of three success rate is exceptionally good, especially when you consider the dismal survival statistics of very young raptors.

These adult hawks worked extremely hard at raising their three chicks and I almost wish I could congratulate them personally for a job well done.





17 comments to Fledgling Red-tailed Hawk Playing Around On The Rocks

  • Laura Culley

    Awwwww…sorry I didn’t get to this yesterday, BUT the day got away from me. This one is threatening. DARGH!
    Anyway you KNOW you’ve got me with baby redtails! What a splendid series, and of course, what a gorgeous baby! You just gotta love baby redtails for eleventy dozen different reasons. Soon, they’ll overcome this silly gravity thing and take their place up in the majestic realm. But every now and again, that majestic thing doesn’t work for them and gravity takes over–generally not for long, but it happens. Oh I love redtails, raptors in general, birds in general and other critters!
    I’ve developed a foot fetish, too. If I had to guess, and it IS a guess, I’d go with this one being a male. I’ve got a 50-50 shot of being right. Those ain’t bad odds 😉

  • Young anythings do a lot of crazy stuff. Love those spotted britches and am awed at the size of that crop. After a meal like that sleep is high on my agenda. Coma like sleep.
    Congratulations indeed to the parent – and the photographer.

  • Joanne OBrien

    Great series! Love the polka-dotted pantaloons!!

  • Alice Beckcom

    Raising chicks to fledgling would certainly seem like quite a feat. I like your comment about the adult hawks needing to be congratulated. Through your blog photos and your very informative narrative, I certainly have a much better appreciation of what it takes to raise a brood of chicks. I wonder if these chicks ever take ‘naps’ so as to give their parents a break from feeding them when they are young…just being curious!

  • Marty K

    The bulging crop must have made him “top-heavy” which I’m sure didn’t help him balance! 🙂 Love the pantaloons in the last shot. This is a marvelous series! Kudos to the parents — *and* the photographer! 🙂

  • Susan Stone

    I envy you getting to see these behaviors. I love the concentration evident in the last shot – it is indeed palpable.

  • Ann

    I agree with Judy about the britches. Love the splayed tail. I’ve decided I have a foot fetish as that is one of the first things I look for in your photos. Those outstretched talons are so cool.

  • Charlotte Norton

    Great behavior shots Ron!

  • Judy Gusick

    Wonderful series, Ron 🙂 The last photo is especially intriguing to me with the swirl of color on the under part of the wings and it’s “britches”.