In late winter a friend, follower and enthusiastic supporter of my Snowy Owl adventures asked if I had any good prints of Red-tailed Hawks in flight. Even though this species might be the most common and best known hawk in North America, the answer was no. But, I welcomed the challenge and said I’d keep my eyes open. A few weeks later, while searching for wildflowers in a farm woodlot in late May, a chance encounter allowed me to fulfill my promise. An irate Red-tailed Hawk suddenly appeared overhead, flying in tight circles around me at treetop level and screeching loudly. I had accidentally walked to within 30 meters of its nest.. The pile of sticks was lodged high in the crown of a mature Sugar Maple tree near the edge of the woodlot, still visible from the ground because the foliage was not fully developed. I changed lenses in world-record speed, snapped a few shots, and left in a defensive posture, with my tail between my legs!
Red-tails are Buteos, broad-winged hawks that typically soar high, in large circles, scanning open areas for prey. Utility poles, posts and trees along the edges of woodlots are common perching locations.
Active farms with a mix of fields and adjacent woodlots provide ideal habitat and account for the abundance and frequent sightings of Red-tailed Hawks in central New York. I’m really looking forward to many more close encounters with this beautiful bird of prey!.
Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.