Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Red Car Property: Precocious Juvenile Hawk

Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 18, 2013.  I heard the juvenile Red Tailed Hawk calling incessantly & watched as it landed on the slope above the Red Car Property meadow, as if it were attempting to catch a gopher or rat.  (Clicking on these photos won't make them much better.) 

It stayed on the ground for quite some time calling.  The adults spend very little time on the ground (although last year's one chick that was not too bright, even in December and January it was still hunting on the ground).  Considering this one just left the nest last week, it seems to be progressing in its skills. 

I was able to get quite a few photos before it took off and tried to land on the telephone wire above the slope. 
Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 18, 2013.  It seemed to want to walk the tightrope.  You rarely see adult Red Tails on the wires - they prefer the tops of telephone poles. 
Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 18, 2013.  The whole time it was walking and flapping it was calling.

Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 18, 2013.  Whew.  It found its balance, but kept calling. 

How do I know it's a juvenile?  Beyond the aforementioned behavior, it's kind of scrawny, the chest and shoulder muscles have not filled out yet.  And in the photo above, you can see some of the downy chick fluffy feathers peeking out through the adult feathers on its abdomen.

Photo: Diane Edwardson, June 18, 2013.  An adult Red Tailed Hawk was constantly nearby keeping a close watch on the juvenile, especially when it flew to the ground and just hung out there on more than one occasion.  I also noticed a second adult Red Tail watching from another tree a 100 yards south of these 2 hawks.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I ran into a neighbor's young son, walking his dog on the Red Car Property, who told me he & a friend were able to walk within a few feet of 2 hawks that were on the ground, on the Red Car Property, just the other day.  He said he did not try to touch them.  (I praised him for that.) 

If you find a hawk on the ground, it may not be injured.  The youngsters don't make the best decisions.  It is best to give them space and observe.  If they are truly having trouble flying it will become obvious.  Look around, are they in immediate danger from a predator or traffic?   

We have rescued hawks on a number of occasions, but only after it was clear they needed human intervention.  It is recommended to call a trained raptor rescuer for guidance before you even consider rescuing a possibly injured hawk. 

The City's Department of Animal Services has a list of wildlife rescue organizations on their website.  We've sent injured Red Tails to the Ojai Raptor Center.