The Most Adventuresome Of The Red-tailed Hawk Siblings

The varying personalities of these two siblings seemed quite evident.


1/1600, f/10, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

I photographed them this past June 30th very soon after they had fledged so they were both exploring and testing their skills on the ground perhaps 100 yards or so away from their cliff nest. They could and did fly but they were still awkward and clumsy about it – especially during landings.

Their personalities seemed quite different. The bird on the left appeared to be shy and somewhat withdrawn and definitely less adventuresome than its sibling. The fledgling on the right was quicker to fly and explore and seemed more curious. Perhaps that difference was attributable to a slight difference in age.



1/3200, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

This old snag seemed to be a favorite “practice perch” for the more adventuresome of the two siblings because it attempted to balance on it several times (I’ve posted different photos of it doing the same thing). Just standing on the perch was challenging for the young bird but if it attempted to adjust its position by moving a foot…



1/4000, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

it usually lost its balance and either barely recovered or actually fell off. Here it had tried to move its left foot to a different spot on the branch…



1/4000, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

lost its balance once again and had to use its wings…



1/3200, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

to stay up there long enough to regain its balance. When it did fall off it sometimes walked up the perch and tried again. I don’t recall that it ever actually landed on the branch at the end of a flight – such a feat would have been beyond its skill level at this tender age.

Maintaining balance on a slender branch like this snag is an essential skill for a sit-and-wait predator that hunts primarily from perches so I was quite impressed by how determined this youngster was to get it right.

To coin a phrase, practice makes perfect.




28 comments to The Most Adventuresome Of The Red-tailed Hawk Siblings

  • Dave Brooks

    For me, the third and fourth shots are just priceless.
    And they go on to smoothly perform the deft maneuvers and incredible landings as they zoom into their perches, often in gusting winds.

  • Mikal Deese

    Yes, ambition/timidity scale is absolutely from the egg. When I started raising nests of orphan songbirds, I was amazed to find the different personalities within one nest of House Finches, for instance. Starting from just 4 or 5 days old, one chick will be ready to try anything while a sibling will always be the last one. Before their eyes are open, the bold or curious one moves around more, stretches farther, starts to exercise. That one will be the first to fledge (unless he is the one to fall out prematurely), the first to practice flying (instead of just sitting), the first to be self-feeding. The conservative scarredy-cat is consistently the last. It makes sense to me as I imagine that in different circumstances, either trait might convey advantage. We’re watching evolution in action. (Anxious to see humans evolve further, but that is another essay.)

  • Susan Stone

    Late to the party today because we were out climbing on the rocks at the park. This youngster seems to know innately what skills it needs to gain. I think it will become a successful adult. I’ll bet it was fun watching the practice session.

  • Love this. And am considering the nature/nurture conundrum. Again. Same parents. Same upbringing. Different characters. Age undoubtedly plays a part – but equally undoubtedly isn’t everything.
    And yes, I too carry scars from childhood experiments. And my partner broke his arm at three because he was walking backwards along a narrow wall – to see if he could.
    I too envy them for developing the grace which eludes me.

  • Alice Beckcom

    Speaking of age differences, as a child I did not speak until I was 3 years old. My Mother took me to the Doctor who said that my older sister [3 years older] did all of the talking for me, so it was not necessary for me to speak. I have no problem talking now!!!

    As for the hawk, its persistence will pay off.

    Great series, Ron

  • Laura Culley

    Oh YES! Baby redtails!! YIPPEE! Can you see me doing the Snoopy Dog Dance, complete with ear twirlies!
    Baby raptors/birds/critters are just as clumsy as we are as we learn new skills, but they somehow look far more graceful than us when we do face plants into the ground. I still haven’t mastered the art of walking with gravity. Gravity ALWAYS wins, unless you have wings, and then it only wins occasionally! Heck, I’m still working on that breathe-air/swallow-liquids thing, too! It’s not unusual for me to mix those two ideas. You’d THINK I’d have mastered that simple idea by now, wouldn’t you? Alas, I’m only human. Redtails learn their skills much more rapidly than us silly two-legged morons (Mariah’s summation of humanity).
    Yes, they are absolutely individuals with distinctive personalities, and like Sallie said, they’re individuals from the egg onward. I’ve been blessed and privileged to know several redtails (and other individuals in other raptor species), both female and male, and I can tell you that they’re just about as alike within their species as we are within ours. Just sayin’!
    I’ve heard tell that grace can be learned, but I haven’t yet achieved that goal–or really even come close except for the occasional (rare) nanosecond. It looks so simple for raptors, birds and other critters. Humans, not so much. Raptors soon master a grace of being (the only way I know to describe it) very early on in their developmental path. And cool…I just had a lightbulb moment and realized the title of my book! Talk about a slow learner! Uh DUH!

  • Patty Chadwick

    i would bet that many of us still bearvscars from some childhood “crime”…I certainly do. I love this series…the bird is so beautiful ,funny and endearing…reminds me of my own many attempts at fence and wall walking…

  • Dick Harlow

    Great post, Ron. Boy, experience and practice brings back childhood memories of all the falling down and getting up in many venues! Like newly riding a bike and stopping too fast sent flying over the handlebars and many more too numerous and embarrassing to mention. Practice makes perfect goes for everything in life!

  • sallie reynolds

    Charming series on baby steps. As to difference in character – it’s not just age. These predatory birds are individuals! From the egg, it would seem.

  • Robyn Kemp

    I love these shots! Reminds me of the determination my now-grown daughter displayed as a tot in trying to climb up and balance on a little stool, although I believe her motivator at the time was the cookie jar, as opposed to actual survival.

    • The cookie jar will do it, Robyn.

      When I was very small I opened several lower kitchen drawers and used them as stairs to get at the ceramic cookie jar in the corner of the counter. My mother in another room heard me put the lid back on and yelled at me to get out of the cookies. I jumped backwards off the counter and hit my lower jaw on the top of the counter as I went down. Apparently I had my tongue out when it happened so I almost bit the end of it off. To this day I have a hanging flap on the top of my tongue. More blood than I ever want to see again!

      • Robyn Kemp

        I cringe just thinking about all that blood coming from one very small tongue! On the other hand, I bet you learned something that day, even if it was just that mothers have ears like bats!

  • Marty K

    Gravity is not necessarily always my friend either. Nice to know I have something in common with this pretty fledgling, although I could definitely use the wings. 😉

  • It’s somehow comforting to know that “instinct” isn’t 100% of wild creatures’ eventual coping skills—grace, too, can be learned !

  • Judy Gusick

    Great series, Ron:) Lots of things to master in a short period of time. The difference in personalities is interesting and fun tho age does make a difference. Mother Nature always “perfecting” her creatures to better handle the tasks at hand. 🙂