Sunday, 11 January 2015

Red-tailed Hawk (Buse à queue rousse)

10 January 2015
Erb Street Landfill
Waterloo, ON

     Raptors in the genus Buteo are notorious for the extreme variation in plumage they exhibit, none more so than the Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis perhaps. This species is found all over the continent, yet it varies from the ghostly pale Krider's Hawk of the southwestern desert to the chocolate brown Harlan's Hawk of the far northwest.
     For a couple of weeks now I have been observing this dark morph hawk at the local landfill where it seems to have taken up residence for the winter.

    I am sure that it finds a ready source of food, especially among the thousands of gulls that feed at the dump daily. It seems to scan the area constantly and I am sure that any injured gull quickly captures its eye and an easy meal is presented on a platter, so to speak.
    Each time I have seen this hawk, (and it can be found reliably), I have tried to photograph it, but there are always intervening branches for the camera to focus on, and my results have been dismal to put it mildly. Furthermore, it tends to perch in the same area each day, ensconced in a tangle of branches, and not especially close. Finally, I succeeded in getting an angle where pictures which are at least reasonable could be taken.

     The other factor that does not operate in favour of the would-be photographer is the extreme nervousness of the bird. This species has been persecuted over many generations by humans, and I am sure that by now part of its genetic code reflects this fact. The moment it becomes aware that a human is paying attention to it, it exhibits nervous behaviour, and invariably leaves its perch in very short order.
     When it flies, however, lest anyone doubt its identity, it shows the very character that makes it, in all plumages, light or dark, a Red-tailed Hawk.


  1. Dumps all over the world must provide easy pickings for a range of species. That red tail certainly shows well in that last image!


  2. Hello David,
    Beautiful pictures of the red-tailed hawk.
    Perfect photographed.
    Really unfortunate that people have hunted this species.
    I've never seen them.
    Best regards, Irma

  3. What a beauty.
    Great that you've could photograph this bird David!!

    Best regards,

  4. Great find,superb captures,

    Happy New Year

  5. Great sighting of the Red Tail, it is a beauty!

  6. Although I'm not a birder, I can enjoy you pictures and learn from your info. Thanks!
    Gr Jan W

  7. It's such a familiar outcome with so many birds, their extreme nervousness of man, mostly with very good reason. I too suspect that over the millennia man has influenced the evolution of many animals in favour of those individuals which flee rather than those which adopt a wait and see approach.

    In some places in the world I have visited and where the "natives" ignore and have no interest in birds for cultural or food reasons, many species are remarkably confiding. I am thinking of India and Egypt as two I have experienced. It is where hunting is prevalent that birds adopt a cautious approach. Who can blame them?

    Your hawk is pretty puffed-up David. I'm assuming it is rather cold down your way? Here our birds have taken to carrying brollies.

    1. I agree that birds in some countries can be incredibly confiding. My most vivid experience of this phenomenon was in Bhutan where even species like tragopans were very approachable.

  8. Que animal más bonito. Saludos desde España.

  9. Wonderful to see this bird of prey David.
    Greetings Tinie

  10. Super cool that you can photograph it.
    A beautiful bird that I have a lot of respect for.