Red-tailed Hawks Mating And One Of The Results 97 Days Later

It was an absolute joy and a privilege to document cause and effect with this mated pair of Red-tailed Hawks.

  • Note: I’ve posted photos of these birds in the past but each of these images is new to my blog.

 

1/2000, f/7.1, 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

On March 29 of this year I was fortunate enough to get many photos of this pair as they mated in a remote area of Box Elder County, Utah. This particular mating occurred on a cliff ledge fairly close to the nest they’d already been refurbishing for some time.

I was pleased with the setting that included rocks, lichens, dried sunflowers, grasses, blue sky and even a little greenery as a harbinger of the approaching and much-anticipated spring. The birds were close enough to me for pretty good image quality, the background was far enough behind them to avoid competing with the hawks and their behavior and the 8:15 AM light coming from behind me couldn’t have been much better.

This bird photographer and raptor lover couldn’t have hoped for much more.

 

 

1/2000, f/7.1, 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

The conclusion of the mating and the dismount of the male are always a flurry of activity and they often present some interesting poses. Here the female still has her tail in a vertical position to facilitate the recently completed sperm transfer as the male prepares to climb the ledge of rocks on the right from where he…

 

 

1/2000, f/7.1, 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

appeared to look over at their nest on the side of the cliff before taking off in that direction.

I spent several months watching these birds (from a respectful distance of course) as they chose their nest site, refurbished the old nest, mated (this was the only time I witnessed that behavior with them), incubated their eggs and eventually raised three young hawks to fledging.

 

 

1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 255 mm, not baited, set up or called in

This is one of those fledglings 97 days after the mating as it practiced its balancing and flight skills on an old rusty pipe enclosing a water source. The image quality of this photo and the next two is only mediocre but I adore the behavior.

The young bird hop-jumped the entire length of the pipe with decidedly mixed results. Sometimes it nailed the landing and other times it very nearly fell off the pipe. But it was determined to make it to the end of the pipe without cheating by actually flying to its destination (which it was fully capable of doing at this point).

 

 

1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 255 mm, not baited, set up or called in

In the next frame the awkward young bird is making contact with the pipe from the jump in the previous image. This particular “landing” went pretty well but not all of them did.

At lower left you’ll notice that the pipe is about to change both direction and angle.

 

 

1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 255 mm, not baited, set up or called in

But that didn’t deter the young hawk as it continued hop-jumping along the pipe for a distance of perhaps 40+’ until…

 

 

1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 255 mm, not baited, set up or called in

it eventually reached the end of the enclosure. From here it looked back at the challenging and rusty path it had just conquered and then took off away from me and landed on some nearby rocks to be with one of its siblings.

 

 

1/2500, f/7.1, ISO 320, Canon 7D, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 255 mm, not baited, set up or called in

But soon it decided to run that rusty gauntlet again so it flew back down….

 

 

1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 320, Canon 7D, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 312 mm, not baited, set up or called in

and landed once more on the far end of the enclosure. It stood here for a while as it contemplated its next move but then decided to take the easy way out by…

 

 

1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 320, Canon 7D, Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM @ 312 mm, not baited, set up or called in

flying to the end of the enclosure rather than hop-jumping it. At this point I drove on down the road and let the young birds continue their education without an audience.

As I decided what to post this morning I was hearing a freight train wind outside preceding a series of snow storms approaching us here in northern Utah. Despite the fact that I’m looking forward to some much-needed snow and cold my mind turned to spring and new life – thus my choice for today’s edition of Feathered Photography.

Besides, raptor addict, falconer and blog follower Laura Culley has recently been asking for “more red-tails” and I knew I’d feel guilty until I complied with her request…

Ron

Note: This species mates multiple times during the breeding season so of course I don’t know for sure that the mating I documented here produced the youngster in my photos. But it’s very possible, perhaps even likely. At least I like to think so…

 

 

30 comments to Red-tailed Hawks Mating And One Of The Results 97 Days Later

  • Charlotte Norton

    What a sensational behavioral series Ron! Merry Christmas!

    Charlotte

  • Diana

    Thank you Ron. For the wonderful photographs, for your accuracy, for your ability to teach us about animal behavior. Hope your holiday are filled with joy and love.. Diana

  • Diane Bricmont

    Late to the party, Ron, but I love the behaviour of this youngster! We all work in our own ways to figure things out! Thanks again for another wonderful post.

  • Marty K

    Thank you for the sheer joy of my daily foray into the natural world! You have no idea how much it means to me.

  • nikonsteve

    Great photos as usual Ron and I would have to say Mr. Wally Jones pretty much summed up my feelings. He expressed those feelings better than I could have, so thank you Mr. Jones…and of course….Thank you Ron

  • I have a busy and challenging day ahead I volunteer on a crisis line and the demands escalate dramatically at this time of year). And am starting it on a decidedly upbeat swing thanks to this series.
    How I love seeing learning behaviour – teemed with beauty. And britches.

  • Beth Ann Doerring

    Amazing series! I loved the retail series from before and it is so good to see the results! Do you have any pics of all three young ones together?

  • Laura Culley

    Awwwww…thank you SO much! Oh what a beautiful morning when redtails are on the agenda 😉 I LOVE these images for a variety of reasons beyond the whole redtail thing. I’m a big fan of lichen–that stuff is pretty darn cool and I’ll often stop to enjoy its beauty out in the field. Then, there are the baby shots–watching the Cornell redtail families over the years, it’s blatantly obvious that kids are kids across species. They’re funny and brave and they have SO much to learn, mostly by trial and error–just like us! I love watching them discover how all those flight/landing controls work! Not only that, but watching the adults parent is a sheer delight! I’m so hoping Big Red and her new young mate make it happen this year, but there are a lot of IFs to work through to get there. Thus far, they’re ticking them off one by one, so I’m hopeful.
    It’s been such a HUGE blessing and privilege to share my life with Mariah, “my” 22-year-old female redtail hawk (who is no more “mine” than the air I breathe). She and I have shared so many adventures and she’s taught about life, love and the pursuit of happiness on a much higher level than I could ever have achieved on my own. I love her beyond words–she tolerates and trusts me, and that’s enough. Every morning, before dawn (usually), I go to visit her, often before coffee (LOL!). My hope (and the reason I moved here) is that we can get back in the sky. If she catches a rabbit every now and again, I’ll be delighted. But I need to find her some trees first. She’s not going to like the greasewood/mesquite/cactus available around where I live here.
    Thank you SO much. Once again, you ROCK!

    • I’m glad you saw this post, Laura. I’ve had your request in the back of my mind ever since you made it.

      • Laura Culley

        Today was a difficult day and tomorrow looks worse, so I’m leaving these up on the computer. Between, Mariah, Jack, the dogs and these photos, I’m CERTAIN I’ll get through the day one way or another with joy in my heart. Birds and critters make that happen for me, and redtails, well, yeah, a profound joy. I’m really not fussy on birds/dogs/critters in general. They all make my heart sing.

    • Pam Skaar

      You probably already noticed this Laura. There are often mesquites that resemble trees near the creeks in Arizona and sometimes near the dry washes

      • Laura Culley

        Yep, and I’ve been sticker near-ish to the washes. What Jack has found most helpful (more stable perches/launches) are the ones with a mass of berries(s) and/or the dead snags. I’m ranging farther and farther outward in search of better conditions for him and for Mariah, too.

  • Susan Stone

    Definitely a joy to see the results of the mating behavior, especially when those “results” are cooperative for photography. The only time I’ve been able to see a youngster learn new skills was one day when I got to see a fledgling American Kestrel play on wind currents over our neighbor’s back yard. After watching the pair of adults during the nesting phase and then seeing the babies emerge from the nest, it was like we had an investment in the success of those youngsters. Seeing this series helps me understand why you spend so much time looking for and photographing birds. Connecting with nature that way is incredibly important to our well-being.

    • “Connecting with nature that way is incredibly important to our well-being”

      It certainly is, Susan. I just wish more people out there realized that fact!

  • Simply satisfying.

    I haven’t been able to follow you daily as of late, but what a comforting thing to be able to “tune in” any time and find a wildlife documentary, biology lesson, avian behavioral study, technical photography tutorial and gobsmackingly beautiful images – all able to be savored in the time it takes to sip a cup of coffee.

    Thank you, Ron, for your continuing inspiration!

  • Dick Harlow

    Thanks for the post Ron, remember the previous shots well. Beautiful images!

    Enjoy the snow, 2′ in some places they say, we are expected to have this same storm that is hitting you now by the weekend. However, ours, supposedly, will be a mix of snow and rain, at least that is what is predicted.

    • Thank you, Dick. This first storm this afternoon and evening is supposed to make it a messy commute tonight so I’m glad I’m retired. Quite cold and more snow is forecast for the rest of the week. Time will tell if it really happens but from the sound of that howling wind I’m optimistic.

  • Judy Gusick

    Wonderful series Ron. 🙂 Remember the hawk navigating the rusty pipe earlier this year – still fun to watch again. 🙂 Yesterday it was calm at one point while snowing and I could hear the freight train in the distance blowing it’s horn – something we rarely hear any more with closer lines long ago closed. Roads are treacherous BUT initial snow was pretty wet and it’s snowing again this morning – we NEED it! 🙂

    • Judy, this bird ran that pipe several times so I was glad to not have to repeat images for this post. Sometime in the future I may even post more of them.

      We’re supposed to have two snow events in the next few days. I hope it happens but our forecasters are no better at their job than our current President is at his so I’m not holding my breath… 🙂

  • Joanne O'Brien

    Beautiful post! Nice to read and see an end of the year success story.