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May 5, 2012 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: Red-tailed Hawk

Last week I posted a link to live streaming video of a Red-tailed Hawk nest atop a light pole on Cornell University’s athletic field. The eggs had just hatched and viewers could get an up-close look at the chicks and the parents.

While Red-tailed Hawks are common across North America, they are usually seen circling high above open fields or perched at the top of tall tree or telephone pole. So imagine my surprise when I came almost face-to-face with one earlier this week while out taking photos of flowers.

Red-tailed Hawk

The hawk was on a low branch moving his head back and forth searching for a meal. In the surrounding trees were many smaller birds all chirping out warning calls. The robins were flying around him and swooping down to create a distraction. Even the little goldfinches were making a lot of noise. Most likely one of the little birds had a nest in the immediate area.

Red-tailed Hawk

After about 10 minutes of harassment from the little birds, he flew down to the ground. I followed and was able to get within 10 feet of him for a nice series of close-ups. I’m not sure what he was looking at in the tree but he gave up after a few minutes, flew to a few more trees and then soared off to a different area of the park.

I’m not sure if this is a male or female, but based on the size of the bird, it’s probably a male. Females are about 25% bigger than males and this bird was only about 20 inches.


Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.

© 2012 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.



Leave a Comment
  1. Louise / May 5 2012 2:32 am

    What incredible luck, and what incredible shots Leslie. It’s intriguing when birds do such unusual behaviours, isn’t it? It’s a very attractive bird, I enjoyed the camera last week.


    • Leslie / May 5 2012 10:44 am

      The little guys are growing fast. It’s fascinating to watch nature in action.


  2. Elena / May 5 2012 2:40 am

    That is so neat. I love bird photos and those are spectacular!


  3. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea / May 5 2012 5:52 am

    You have the best luck with your birding photos. Awesome.

    I saw one of these in the tree by where I park at work, but of course I didn’t have a camera…LOL


  4. Trish / May 5 2012 6:19 am

    We get them in our back yard too, usually circling the trees for squirrels would be my guess. They sure are big and not nearly as agile as the little birds!


  5. Mary / May 5 2012 6:22 am

    I’ve never been that close to a hawk, Leslie. Great pics.


    • Leslie / May 5 2012 10:46 am

      This was a first for me. Usually the red-tailed hawks stay higher in the trees.


  6. laurelrainsnow / May 5 2012 6:43 am

    Hawks look like they are the masters of their universe. A bit intimidating, but totally awesome. Thanks for sharing…and here’s MY SATURDAY SNAPSHOT


    • Leslie / May 5 2012 10:47 am

      The raptors are at the top of the bird food chain so I guess he is the master of his universe!


  7. Kay / May 5 2012 6:58 am

    Wow, that is so cool that you got that close to it. I only see hawks flying high in the sky. I never see them land. LOL


    • Leslie / May 5 2012 10:48 am

      I’ve seen Cooper’s Hawks sitting on fences but this was a first for the red-tail.


  8. / May 5 2012 7:31 am

    OMG what serendipity for you to happen upon this photo opp! Amazing! My Snapshot.


  9. melsbookshelf / May 5 2012 7:55 am

    What amazing shots, the detail is incredible!


  10. anniebutterybooks / May 5 2012 8:18 am

    Magnificent bird. Love your shots.


  11. Susan / May 5 2012 9:13 am

    Awesome shots! How lucky was that encounter?


  12. Burgandy Ice / May 5 2012 9:29 am

    Wow!! What great pictures!!! I’m so glad you got these! A hawk passed so close to our house makin’ loopies this past week, but was too far away when I got my camera and I was left with wishes… I uploaded ’em on Pinterest (linkin’ back to you) – way cool!!!

    -Burgandy Ice


  13. cherylmahoney / May 5 2012 9:35 am

    Haha, he looks very annoyed in that first shot! If I was a sparrow, I don’t think I’d mess with that guy…


    • Leslie / May 5 2012 10:50 am

      Amazingly there was a tiny goldfinch chirping at him from only about 20 feet away.


  14. mostraum / May 5 2012 10:11 am

    What great pictures, the last one in particular. So great that you could get that close.


  15. Sheila (Book Journey) / May 5 2012 10:20 am

    These are fantastic pics! I would be giddy if I seen this!


    • Leslie / May 5 2012 11:01 am

      I was! I crept right up to him not even wondering if he might think I was dinner! I don’t think they attack people but just in case I shot quickly and moved behind a bush to take more photos.


  16. Alyce (@AtHomeWithBooks) / May 5 2012 10:40 am

    He’s gorgeous! You were very fortunate to get to see him up close!


    • Leslie / May 5 2012 1:28 pm

      Some of my best shots were not planned, just being in the right place at the right time. I was not planning on taking photos of birds, he just showed up. I didn’t even have the zoom lens on the camera.


  17. Suko / May 5 2012 10:43 am

    Wow! These are wonderful shots. I love how hawks match their surroundings so well.


  18. dyane / May 5 2012 10:58 am

    awesome experience! good clicking! thanks for sharing 🙂


  19. gautami tripathy / May 5 2012 11:07 am

    Beautiful capture!!!

    Here is my Saturday Snapshot post!


  20. Paulita / May 5 2012 1:01 pm

    Great shots. The red-tailed hawks are getting more comfortable around here too. I think they view the birdfeeders as salad bars. Here’s Mine


    • Leslie / May 5 2012 1:24 pm

      Yes, they do! I’ve had both Cooper’s Hawks and Red-tails eating at my bird feeders… and I don’t mean eating seed either. I find little piles of feathers every once in a while with no trace of the bird.


  21. Amy Peveto (@AmyPeveto) / May 5 2012 1:06 pm

    What great shots! I like birds, but he’s a little scary-looking. Makes me glad I’m a lot bigger than he is. Those pictures are definitely keepers.

    Here’s my Saturday Snapshot!


    • Leslie / May 5 2012 1:25 pm

      That beak of his does look rather knife-like.


  22. sim@chapter1-take1 / May 5 2012 2:41 pm

    Holy moly, that is rather special! Great camera work!


  23. Lisa H. (@AliveonShelves) / May 5 2012 3:34 pm

    Great pictures, as always. Such handsome birds.

    Here are my British Snapshots


  24. Vicki / May 5 2012 5:25 pm

    Looks like two different birds, one in the tree and one on the ground, looking at each other.


    • Leslie / May 5 2012 5:28 pm

      I noticed that too after I posted them. You’re the first one to notice it though.


  25. Bev@My Reader's Block / May 5 2012 7:27 pm

    What great pictures! He doesn’t look too happy at being caught on camera in that first one, thought. 🙂


  26. samstillreading / May 6 2012 12:18 am

    He’s gorgeous! Such strong legs and feet.


  27. Marie / May 6 2012 12:28 pm

    Very cool! Great photos. It’s wonderful that you got so close. We saw one here about 2 years ago. I’m sure he’s still around (or maybe he was displaced by last year’s flood), but we haven’t seen him. Unusual bird activity or bird sounds always make me look skyward. They ain’t doing it for nothing. 😉 That’s how we’ve spotted a horned owl, the red tailed hawk and other birds of prey in our area. The other birds in the area were going nuts! It’s not something we get to see everyday.


    • Leslie / May 7 2012 1:08 am

      The robins are one of the first to give the alarm call. When I hear them I grab the binoculars and start looking for a hawk and usually there is one at the top of the pine or cottonwood tree.


  28. Cathy / May 6 2012 2:19 pm

    Wonderful shots, Leslie! Raptors always seem so intent and deliberate, and these photos capture that perfectly!


    • Leslie / May 7 2012 1:01 am

      The entire time I observed him this bird seemed to be thinking and calculating his next move.


  29. edgar / May 6 2012 11:41 pm

    Wonderful close ups of the hawk. I have seen red wing hawks here in Napa Valley,California. The red color is actually under the wings.


  30. Carol / May 9 2012 3:34 pm

    What grat photos! My daughter would be so jealous of you being able to get that close to a wild hawk.


  31. Jennifer Ryder / May 10 2012 9:24 pm

    Wow, great photos!! Then again, all of your photos are! Back in March I heard a squirrel making a lot of noise so I went outside to take a look. The squirrel was in a maple tree and there was a red-tailed hawk hopping from branch to branch trying to get at it. That squirrel was having a fit, scolding the hawk like crazy. I watched them for a while, and eventually the hawk gave up because it couldn’t fit into the space where the squirrel was. It was the first time I’ve seen one in our trees. Usually we see the smaller sharp-shinned hawks around our house.


    • Leslie / May 12 2012 12:43 am

      That must have been quite a sight! Usually I see the hawk sitting still waiting to pounce.


  32. A.M.B. / Jun 18 2012 9:07 am

    Great pictures! We see red-tailed hawks with some frequency in our neighborhood. My kids are fascinated by them.


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