Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Wildlife Feature: Red-Shouldered Hawk

Over the last couple of weeks I have been seeing a lot of hawk activity in our back yard...in the air over head, in the trees, swooping down in the yard...a lot more than usual.  So I began watching more closely and discovered a nest in one of our neighbor's large trees.  Of course I had to get the camera out right away and see what kind of pictures I could capture to share with you before the trees get too leafy to see the birds clearly.  I got several neat shots with the zoom, although some I wish were not quite so blurry/grainy. I would have liked to have gotten a few action views of them swooping around before I put up the post, but here's what we have so far!

Mr. & Mrs. Red-Shouldered Hawk
At first I was telling everyone that we had a pair of Red-Tailed Hawks nesting here. But after photographing, and then researching a little bit to have some factual info to write about them, I realized they are actually the Red-Shouldered Hawk.  Wikipedia and AllAboutBirds.org have good articles and graphics on both types.

The statistics and information I learned are as follows:

Male: body 17-23 inches long, weight 19 oz (or 1.2pounds), wingspan 38 inches
Female: slightly larger body 19-24 inches long, weight 25 oz, wingspan 41 inches

Coloring: brownish head, reddish chest, paler underparts with reddish barring,  red "shoulders" visible when perched, back/wings are darker brown with light markings, tail dark with narrow white bands

 Formal name/description: Buteo lineatus, a medium sized raptor with robust body and broad wings. Accipiter-like flight pattern which is several wing flaps followed by a glide.
While momma sat in the nest, Mr. Hawk cooperated for a photo session,
 displaying the distinctive markings of the birds.
Momma getting settled back into the nest
after a short flight to stretch her wings!

Behavior:  Monogamous, breeding occurs once per year between April and July. Males perform "courtship sky dances" involving soaring high, steep dives, and wide spirals.  Loud screeching (kee-aaah) repeated 3 or 4 times, is typically heard when establishing territories.

Nest:  Together the pair works on the nest or refurbish one from a prior year--a large and deep bowl of sticks, twigs, leaves, strips of bark, moss, placed in a main crook of a large tree, between 20 and 60 feet above ground.

Eggs: 3 or 4 layed within 2-3 days, white with brown blotches, incubate 33 days, hatch over the course of 7 days.

Hatchlings: brooded by the female, while the male brings food to the nest for her and the chicks. Chick begin leaving the nest after 40 days, but are still fed by both parents for 8-10 more weeks. At 17 -19 weeks old, chicks become independent of the parents, however still roost at night near the nest.  Breeding begins around 1 year of age.

Feeding/Hunting: The birds normally wait perched with a good view of the ground, and swoop down to catch their prey which consists of small mammals (chipmunks, mice, squirrels) and occasionally small snakes, toads, other birds, and large insects.

Hunting: just missed a chipmunk!
 Friends & Foes:  Predators include the Great Horned Owl, Racoon, Red-Tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, and martens and fishers (in the weasel family).   Sometimes this hawk can be found cooperating with the American Crow (who is normally an enemy of all other birds because of their egg-eating habits)--to gang up on Red-Tailed Hawks and Great Horned Owls.


 So, I know we have a type of hawk not an eagle but as I have been looking at this last picture of the bird as it was just about to take off in flight, it makes me think of a verse in the Bible:

"But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew [their] strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; [and] they shall walk, and not faint"---Isaiah 40:31.