Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk Learnin’ The Ropes

Watching a clumsy young hawk attempt to learn new skills always makes me feel sympathetic for its plight but I’ll admit to being more amused than anything.

I don’t know the sex of this youngster but for the sake of convenience I’ll refer to it as a female.


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 past June I spent considerable time with this recently fledged Red-tailed Hawk and her sibling as they attempted to learn new life skills. This one repeatedly returned to this dead branch and attempted to establish some degree of stability while perched on it but with varying degrees of success. If she got up there and held perfectly still she was OK but whenever she tried to move her feet on the branch the poor bird invariably lost her balance.

Even though I’ve posted this photo before I’m including it again to show her position a few moments before the following two images were taken (both of which are new to my blog). I love her concentration on her foot placement as she tries to figure out how all this works while simultaneously maintaining her dignity.



1/5000, 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

But as soon as she tried to move her feet further down on the branch she began to seriously lose her balance…



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

and was barely able to recover without falling off completely. She did this time and again, sometimes leaving the perch completely and walking a short distance away from it before returning to the branch and trying again. She was determined to get it right! I had to admire her perseverance but I have to admit that some of my shots were soft because I couldn’t help but laugh at her predicament. Laughing while attempting to use good long lens technique is definitely a counterproductive combination.

I purposely chose amusing images to post this morning because I needed the entertainment as a temporary diversion from my troubles. Ongoing and worsening computer problems mean that I may not be able to post for the next few days and even if I can post my access to my images will be limited so the photos may (or may not) be several years old.

Please bear with me. This too shall pass, theoretically…




18 comments to Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk Learnin’ The Ropes

  • I appreciate all the supportive comments, everyone!

    My primary computer is in the shop so all of my images are in an unorganized jumble that I can’t search in any meaningful way so at this point I have no idea what (or even if) I’ll post for the next day or two. Add to that the fact that all I have to process images on now is a laptop and using that screen I can’t evaluate my images properly anyway. There’s more too but I’ll save you the bellyaching…

    We’ll see what happens. Thanks again.

    PS – And now my internet connection is intermittent. Sheesh!

  • Joanne OBrien

    Thanks for the humorous photos! Good luck with your computer problems. I am in the midst of car problems now… It’s always something.

  • Alice Beckcom

    Without giving it much thought, it is easy to ignore the fact that birds and other creatures have to learn basic skills to get along with life. Your photos capture that learning. Thank you for the photos.

    So sorry about the computer issues…yes, they can last a while with a lot of pain. Hope your computer avoids the obstacles to getting back to health.

  • You have to love that determination. And hope that it continues to stand her in good stead in all of her many life challenges. And yes, I would have laughed to, knowing that I would have done a face plant and would probably have given up.
    Sigh on the ‘puter issues. And hopes (big hopes) that they get fixed sooner rather than later. I hope it for you, and I selfishly hope it for all of us too.

  • Marina schultz

    Your photography is amazing !!!! Love these pictures .. maybe when my rig comes back things will be better for me .. B&H sold me a different warranty for lens so canon won’t fix it . sending it back to me and I have to ship it to insurance company. It’s a freakin nightmare …1 just spend 200 dollars sending it to canon!

  • Marty K

    Thanks for some humor this morning. I admire her perseverance!

    I’d like to chip in to help out on the computer front. I’m sure other readers would as well. You’re so generous with all of us.

  • Laura Culley

    I love watching baby redtails exploring their new skills, learning how all the controls work while gravity is still pertinent to them 🙂
    But you KNEW you had me with redtails!
    Sorry about your computer issues. I FEEL your pain! Hope you’re back among the connected soon and with a minimum of hair pulling!

  • Patty Chadwick

    I guess I’m a slow learner. One of my crows, Corby, had some pretty awkward times with various perches when he was learning to fly, but I assumed that most birds just automatically, instinctively know how ro hsndle them….not true, according to this series….it’s another klearned skill…They have so many! Again, I’ve learned something new from you every day….Amazing(and wonderful!)….thank you.

  • Svetlana

    Thank you, Ron, for interesting stories and illustrations. I am learning from you to observe and see details. Interesting tail position and role in balancing to keep the center of mass close to the feet. 🙂 It is always a pleasure to observe the youngsters, no matter what species they are.

  • Judy Gusick

    It is fun to watch the learning curve of the young – guess those who don’t persevere just don’t make it. 🙂 Holding the camera and laughing certainly aren’t a great combination for sharp photos! Hope the computer problems can be rectified with minimal disruption – ha! ALWAYS a disruption and rarely minor…….

  • Dick Harlow

    Interesting shots of a youngster, learning.
    Sorry for your computer problems Ron, I understand! Hope you can get them fixed with minimum hassles!

  • “car, computer, camera”

    That’s a perfect list of sources of angst, Ed – though right now I’d put computer at the top of the list. Thanks.

  • Funny images Ron. It is amazing to think how a bird goes from sitting in confined nest to flying and catching prey in a relatively short time frame. They must be fast learners!

    Good luck on your computer woes, there always seems to be something to keep it interesting (car, computer, camera, …) 🙂

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