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Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Red-tails in Love

12 March 2019

     My daughter, Caroline, just visited with us for a few days, and as usual, had a few birds in mind that she would like to see. Principally among these was the Barred Owl (Strix varia) we had been observing with regularity, and a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at the Conestogo River where, for several years, a pair has successfully raised young. We were able to deliver on both of these wishes but our subsequent encounter with a pair of Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) was a bonus for her. And for us for that matter.
     Our regular Tuesday Ramble with David saw us visit Hillside Park in Waterloo where we had observed a pair of Red-tails a few weeks earlier. We saw them again, (presumably the same pair), and it was quite a show they put on for us. Caroline could have majored in Avian Sex 101, maybe even 202!


     A good deal is written in the literature about the spectacular courtship displays of Red-tailed Hawks, with their aerial gymnastics and food exchanges, but little about the act of copulation or its frequency. It seems that a food exchange is sometimes involved before committing the deed, but no such transfer was observed on this occasion.



     We had first observed the female alone perched on a Spruce tree (Picea, sp.) when the male came in and without hesitation, appeasement or ceremony immediately mounted the female. Copulation was quite vigorous and lasted for around a minute or so, the male using his wings to balance on the female's back.
     As soon as the act was over the male dismounted and moved away from the female, sometimes at quite a distance into the shelter of the foliage along the branch close to the trunk. They did not maintain eye contact post-copulation.


     In the picture above you can readily observe the size dimorphism between male and female, the smaller male being at the right.
     As the male sidled along the branch away from his partner the female maintained her position the entire time.


     After an interval of only a few minutes, the entire intense sequence was repeated.


     When we left the two birds were perched fairly close together, still not making eye contact, however.


     Whether more sequences would have ensued I don't know but we felt that our voyeuristic impulses had been satisfied and we moved on! 
      It was a fascinating encounter and I am hoping that we may be fortunate enough to find their nest and perhaps see young birds fledge from it. I am sure that we will all feel like proud parents watching our grandchildren go out to meet life with all its challenges!
     As usual I am very grateful to Miriam for dedicating herself to the task of recording the event and coming up with a superb series of images. The encounter would be much the poorer without her contribution.

39 comments:

  1. Hola David. Espectacular, las fotos son increíbles y las aves sin duda maravillosas, me encantan. Muchas gracias. Un fuerte abrazo.

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  2. A special moment between these beautiful birds, stunning photos!

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  3. Maravilloso y enternecedor momento captado amigo David. ¡Que gran suerte! Imagino que esas imágenes captadas en ese momento tan trascendental no serán nada fáciles de obtener. Tu hija tuvo que tener un gran día. Bravo por Miriam fabulosas imágenes.
    Un fuerte abrazo queridos amigos.

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  4. Hola David.

    Enhorabuena por captar en fotos la secuencia de la cópula del Buteo jamaicensis, un ave hermosa, y como bien sabes las rapaces junto con las límicolas son mis grupos de aves favoritas.

    Por lo demás me alegra mucho que tanto tú como Miriam pudierais obsequiar a vuestra hija con un momento inolvidable en familia.

    Un abrazo desde Galicia, España,

    Rafa.

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  5. It must be so special to watch these big birds, David. Great shots!

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  6. Not exactly what one thinks of as romantic, is it?

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  7. Es un placer pasar por su blog Saludos

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  8. Stunning series of photographs.

    All the best Jan

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  9. Interesante y preciosas fotografías. Un abrazo.

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  10. Superb Red-tailed Hawk, in England we have a Red Kite, is it exactly like this one.

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    1. They are different species entirely, Bob, not even in the same genus.

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  11. Hari OM
    It always feel such a privilege to be party to peeks like this! Mind you, the side look in image three might suggest a sense of privacy invasion! YAM xx

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  12. Unique moments and unique birds! Right now I know how Red-tailed Hawks look. David, these are magnificent photographs!

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  13. Hi David.
    Woh David, this is really great.
    What a piece of pure nature this is.
    So beautiful.
    Thank you for showing us.

    Greeting from Patricia.

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  14. Amazing photos, well done Miriam and they really did put on quite a show for Caroline. Have a great day Diane

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  15. Spring is here. I guess it is the season for love or at least a spring fling.

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  16. Great captures of these moments of intimacy. Congratulations to Miriam for such rare pictures.

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  17. Wow vilka bilder av ett speciellt ögonblick! Hoppas ni får möjlighet att följa upp de två örnarnas fortsatta liv när de föder upp sina ungar.
    Tack Miriam och David för exklusiva bilder!

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    Replies
    1. We certainly will be keeping a close eye on the Bald Eagle nest, Gunilla.

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  18. A wonderful series of photos at such an intimate moment. How wonderful it will be to see some little chicks.

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  19. Hello, caught them in a special moment. Great series on the Red-tailed Hawks! It will be nice to be able to watch the young in the nest. Have a happy day!

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  20. Nice work Miriam and David. You really captured the red tails there and the large part they play in the courtship rituals. Sorry i have no news for you. We are now in the throes of Storm Gareth as well as my PC going nuts.

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    1. I sympathize with you, Phil, on the computer going nuts. My PC is behaving, but the laptop I use for presentations, which I bought only a year ago, has given me nothing but trouble and is acting up again. I almost look back fondly to the days when we used slides and a projector!

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  21. Wow, this is a great series of images of spectaculair birds in love!
    Beautifully captured!
    Regards,
    Maria

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  22. Hello David an Miriam, this is a great promiss for me, these birds working on a new genaration means Spring to me. And these birds are so wonderful. Lucky you were to be able to make such great captures of it.
    All the best from the other side of the world.
    Regards,
    Roos

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  23. Amazing images! I hope you find the nest and the chicks when they’ve hatched.

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  24. Hi David.
    The pictures are beautiful and so are these two birds of prey! What a beautiful meeting.

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  25. Hi David and Miriam,
    Good you could find the birds Caroline wished to see but then wow what a bonus find for her.
    The Red-tailed Hawks are such stunning birds and so well captured by Miriam. Lets hope you can keep a watch on this pair through the season.
    All the best, John

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  26. Magic timing, for your visit, crisp blue sky and spotting these magificent birds.
    I'm in awe of Miriam's photographic skills. I imagine these birds were high up in the tree and yet the clarity of the birds feathers is stunning. The pine branch is pretty special too.

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    1. Yes, Helen, they were pretty high. Miriam's greatest strength in terms of photography, is sheer persistence. She keeps shooting until she is reasonably satisfied that she has something decent. Quite often, however, the bird flies away before you can even get the camera focused. Fortunately this pair had other things on their mind!

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  27. What a treat to witness that! We do have Red-tailed hawks here, but I've never seen them that close and no nest either. I hope you can find the nest and follow the raising of the youngsters.

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  28. Great photos of the magnificent birds.
    I too hope you will see some little ones... and photograph them for us readers as well. :)

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  29. What a remarkable series of image. How fortunate you were to be able to observe -- and record, thanks to Miriam -- an event that most of us have seen only rarely. The red-tails are common here, but I most often see them in flight, or perched so high that a good photo's difficult with my camera. This series is pure delight.

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    1. I tried to leave a comment on your latest post and even though I have done it many times I get a message that I do not have a Wordpress account or need to reset my password. I have tried this now four times without success. It seems as though I am in a loop and keep getting the same messages that tell me whatever I enter is invalid. Hope you read this.

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  30. What a great event and series! Wonderful raptors and great photo's (Miriam)!

    Best regards,
    Marianne

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  31. Hi David,
    Miriam and you made a fine reportage on this special event. Wonderful pictures (I love nr.3) and interesting comment.

    Best regards, Corrie

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