10 January 2015
Erb Street Landfill
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.