Some of our best wildlife viewing happens through the windows of our little house as we go about our day. Last weekend I caught the flash of a hawk’s wings as he dove into the field. A few minutes later, he was perched on a fence post studying the ground. He glanced up as I opened the window then continued his hunt. Using the window sill to steady my camera, I took dozens photos of the hunting Red-shouldered Hawk. The late afternoon light was a little harsh, and the distance a little far for my lens, but I still enjoyed the results.
A Hunting Red-shouldered Hawk
You might have expected a hunting Red-shouldered Hawk to catch a field mouse instead of an insect. I imagine that he might have enjoyed a meatier meal but with the abundance of these large insects, it’s easy for the hawk to find several.
On the hawk’s eating habits, Cornell’s All About Birds site says: “Red-shouldered Hawks eat mostly small mammals, lizards, snakes, and amphibians. They hunt from perches below the forest canopy or at the edge of a pond, sitting silently until they sight their prey below. Then they descend swiftly, gliding and snatching a vole or chipmunk off the forest floor. They also eat toads, snakes, and crayfish. They occasionally eat birds, sometimes from bird feeders; recorded prey include sparrows, starlings, and doves.”
Texas Parks and Wildlife and other sources add insects to the menu and acknowledge regional differences in diet.
Red-shouldered Hawks are a common site at Little Piney, but I am thrilled everytime I see one. Whether they are defending their territory against a Red-tailed intruder, fighting with crows or jays, hunting, or soaring over the pines, their power and beauty are awe-inspiring.
Hawks aggressively claim and guard their territory of a quarter to a full square mile, so this is most likely one of the pair shown in my previous post.
More Facts About Red-shouldered Hawks
- Adults measure 17 to 24 inches long , with a 36- to 40-inch wingspan.
- They can live up to 20 years, but few make it to 10; the oldest know was a 25+ year old female.
- Red-shouldered hawks are monogamous and may return to the same nest year after year.
- Estimated population is 1.1 million (North American Breeding Bird Survey).
- They were once threatened by DDT, now by loss of habitat.