We have had a lot of red-tailed hawks in our back yard this spring. I saw another one yesterday. Of course I grabbed my camera and started shooting.
This guy was in the Russian Olive, looking back at something behind him.
Then I pulled back on the lens a little and saw that he was surrounded by a bunch of smaller birds — a robin, some finches, and a blue jay, at least. When I thought about it, it was actually the robin chirping up a storm that alerted me to the hawk.
Notice that, even though they are very close, all the smaller birds are above or behind the hawk — they aren’t stupid. He can’t get them when they are are behind him.
Finally, the Blue Jay couldn’t stand it, and dove at the red-tail. This is called “mobbing”. Small birds do this to drive off predatory birds. This day, it didn’t have any effect on the red-tailed.
I really wanted to get some shots of him lifting off and flying away. He didn’t seem to be in any hurry, though.
But when he started preening, I got hopeful. I was also getting tired. The lens I was using was a monster, and I didn’t have it on a tripod.
Then he turned to face whatever he had been watching.
Look at how beat up this guy’s left wing feathers are. I wonder what did that.
He didn’t go very far — just dropped down into the yard behind us.
He came back a few minutes later and took the same perch. Oddly, none of the little birds objected this time. Did they know that the hawk was hungry before and was now full? If so, how did they know?
Once he was back, I went around and looked where he had been. There was a dead bunny, probably roadkill from the previous night. In the past 7-10 years, our cottontail rabbit population has exploded. (Baby Bunny Gets Nailed) The coyotes that normally keep them in check don’t seem to be doing their job, possibly because they are dealing with a mange epidemic. The surfeit of rabbits may account for the number of hawks in the neighborhood.