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Red-Tailed Hawks
January 15, 2018

All is well on the home front.

No more colds or bugs for now.

Daylight is noticeably growing longer, and that is always a good thing.

We did however, have a short lived case of Spring Fever last week.

Lasted a two or three days whole days.

Temps in the 40's on Wednesday, and a record high for the date (January 11), of 57 degrees (about 18 c.).

Reality came back in a hurry, as temperatures dropped a fast 37 degrees for Friday.

It is winter after all.

It was nice to have the snow piles become tiny mounds, and a fresh blanket of white to freshen things up a bit.

Snow makes a wonderful insulator for your gardens, Thaws and freezes aren't healthy for your plants.

Pictured above, is the flock of Mallard ducks that remain all winter.

I feed them in the front yard, but sometimes that isn't enough, so they raid the backyard bird feeding station.

I can't imagine life without pets.

Our fur kids not only give us love, but are full of entertainment value.

I know cats in general are curious, however 'Munchkin' cats seem to take that to another level.

If there is something to check out, or get into or under one of the kitties will do so.

Sophie is under the umbrella Thursday evening (I went for my walk).

Below is Miss Penny packed into a little basket (6" x 12" at the base, 7" x 13" at the top).

She took a short nap in it.

Also below is Sophie hiding in a little box, with Miss Penny checking things out.

This week's topic, Red-tailed hawks.


(Resident Pair sitting in a Sycamore tree.)

I wrote on this several years ago, and is worth writing on again.

I was outside scraping away some snow and ice when I noticed the resident Red-tailed hawks flying close and in rapid circles.

They were flying in quick circles, fly high and quickly dropping in rapid, spinning motions.

I'm fascinated with raptors and enjoy watching them in flight, (as long as they aren't chasing and catching my feeder birds).

Well, the pair continued to fly up high and dive down and circle in a manner I have only seen a few times before.

What I was witnessing, was a courtship flight or aerial dance.

To my delight, this went on for several minutes.

Then it happened.

The suicide spiral.

Grasping each other, talons grasping talons.

Spiraling hopelessly to the ground.

Just before they reached what was beyond the woods, they released and flew up once again.

What a privilege to watch nature perform one of her special moments.

Often it is a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

Red-tail hawks (Buteo jamaicensis):

Probably most common hawk in North America.

(Here is a poor quality picture of a hawk 'kiting'. Kiting refers to a bird almost hovering, or catching wind and appearing to stand still.)

Many will migrate, yet we have had at least one pair that stay rear round.

Many birds of prey start courtship in January and continue through March (owls are busy hooting at night).

During courtship, the hawks will defend their territory from other like birds.

In this time, they will construct or remodel an old nest.

At two years old, they are old enough to find a mate and mate for life.

Nests can be anywhere from 35 feet off the ground and higher.

They can be 3 feet wide and older nests grow much like an eagles nest.

(In some locations, Great horned owls will take over an old hawk nest.)

Sometime after courtship mating takes place, lasting a whole five seconds.

Some Fast Facts:

(Red-tailed hawk nest from a few years ago. High in a tree near some open land, a creek, and a large cattail swamp not that far from here.)

She will then lay 1 to 5 eggs with 2 to 3 being the norm.

Incubation can last from 28 to 35 days and both parents lay on the clutch, though she is on the nest more than 2/3 of the time, and he will bring her food.

The young fledge about 45 to 50 days from hatching.

Red-tailed hawks are large raptors (birds of prey).

They weigh 1 ¼ - 4 pounds and have a wingspan of 4 feet.

Males and females look alike, but the female is about 1/3 larger.

These hawks have dark brown backs with light-colored bellies streaked with brown.

Their tails are a rusty reddish brown color.

Their tails turn red when they are 2 years old; (before that, their tails are brown).

There are morphs with different coloration and markings.

Hawks have excellent eyesight and can spot a mouse from 100 yards away.

They live as far north as Alaska and as far south as Central America.

Red-tailed hawks don't really migrate as much as it is moving where the food is.

My hawks are year round birds.

Red-tailed hawks do not usually live deep in the woods as you might think.

They like to live along the edge of a forest because it is easier to catch prey in an open area.

These hawks and Great horned owls both live on the forest edge, but they don’t have to compete (fight) for food.

Since the hawk hunts during day, and the owl hunts at night, they never see each other.

Red-tailed hawks are active fliers; they flap a lot, and they soar.

I like to watch the hawks play in the wind.

Take time to observe and you too may notice this playful activity.

When they see a mouse (or other prey), they dive straight down (stoop) at up to 120 MPH to catch it with sharp talons (claws).

They also hunt by sitting on a perch and watching for prey.

How often do you see a hawk perched on a utility pole or bare/dead tree branch.

Then they pounce on it.

A good territory has many perches.

Red-tailed hawks will eat any animal that is raccoon-sized or smaller, even pets.

85% of their diet is made up of mammals, like mice, squirrels, and rabbits.

About 10% of the hawk’s prey are birds like ducks or woodpeckers.

Red-tailed hawks aren't your typical backyard, or bird feeder snatching hawks.

They aren't built for the objects they would have to dodge and weave between.

The rest of their diet (only 5%) is made up of snakes, frogs, fish, and grasshoppers.

(I have seen hawks flying with a snake dangling from their feet.)

When young hawks are learning to hunt, they find a low perch to sit on and swoop down on the prey.

They are not good enough yet to attack from the sky, and frequently miss their target.

I have no idea where my hawks nest, (I used to).

If you ever spot a nest, enjoy it from a distance.

Many birds of prey are quick to abandon a nest if humans get to close.

Like all Native and migratory birds, they are protected.

Enjoy them for what they are and remember they help to keep rodent populations in check.

Remember, Birds of prey are a vital part to a healthy ecosystem.

Keep your eye on the sky, you never know what you might see.

You never know what you might learn.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive words for the week.

God Bless.

“The tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goals, the tragedy lies in not having any goals to reach. It isn't a calamity to die with dreams unfulfilled, but it is a calamity not to dream.”

Dr. Benjamin Mays (1894 - 1984)

God gives you direction on how to go about your dream.

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;

I will counsel you with my loving eye on you".

Psalm 32:8

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors,

We borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb.

A Blessed week to you .

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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