Friday, February 8, 2013

Corralitas Drive: Red Tailed Hawk Learning How To Hunt In My Backyard

Photo: Diane Edwardson, February 5, 2013.  When I heard two Red Tailed Hawks calling excitedly, right outside my backdoor, I grabbed my camera & ran outside.  (Click on photos to enlarge.)
A young hawk was circling and calling just before landing in the palm tree (above & to the right in the first two photos). While it was circling, I could see it was very thin.  I am not sure if it was the same hawk we rescued last week, but it did have a few broken feathers in its wings.  The adult was busy making a kill in the large palm tree (left side of photo).
Photo: Diane Edwardson, February 5, 2013.  You can tell the hawk on the right is a young hawk, by the mottled white feathers on its back.  The adult (left) has more solid brown feathers on its back and wings than the juvenile. The adult held that position for several minutes while the youngster anxiously waited, inching closer.
For the past week, the adults have been working on their nest at the corner of Allesandro & Rosebud, preparing for mating season.  They are also still feeding last year's brood.  Four chicks fledged, we have no idea how many made it since the female altered their traditional behavior patterns last summer, due to the extreme noise of the grading equipment on the adjacent Semi Tropic Spiritualists' Tract.
Photo: Diane Edwardson, February 5, 2013.  What rodent did the adult have in its talons? 
Photo: Diane Edwardson, February 5, 2013.  Yes!  A nice, big, fruit-stealing squirrel.  As the adult took off from the palm tree, the juvenile hawk called insistently.  The hand off of the squirrel happened in midair, obscured by trees, so I missed the shot.  The hawk landed on first one, then a second telephone pole to eat dinner.  (That's the Rosebud  Ave overcrossing of the 2 Freeway in the background.)
Photo: Diane Edwardson, February 5, 2013.  As the young Red Tail eagerly tore into the squirrel, I could see just how thin the bird was.  From the time I heard the first calls to the time the hawk finished its meal, about 10 minutes passed.
We've recently reported how inexperienced hawks have not been making the best choices in hunting techniques.  At least the parents are still keeping a eye on lasts year's kids.
Photo: Diane Edwardson, February 5, 2013.  A day earlier, a neighbor stopped her car below the same palm tree when she saw a hawk struggling with a squirrel, "that was very much still alive," while the hawk was sitting on the street guardrail.  Her young children were delighted to see the hawk take off and fly just a few feet over their car. 
Two squirrels in two days; no wonder the squirrels in my yard have gotten really quiet.