Two On Fence

Red-Tailed Hawk juvenile (Buteo jamaicensis) Photo James Kusz
Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) Photo Phil Rowntree

Two — or one? — Red-tailed Hawks posed for their portraits on the fence along the Virginia Street Extension recently. Photographer Jim Kusz (photo right) captured one image in late December on a sunny day. Thanks to raptor expert John Davis, we can identify this as a juvenile; the light color of the iris gives it away. The spectacular image on the left, by photographer Phil Rowntree, taken on an overcast day in mid-January, shows what may be a grownup bird. But without a closeup of its eye, not available in this light, we can’t say for sure whether it’s also a juvenile. These birds don’t believe much in sharing their hunting territories, so it’s likely that despite the differences in lighting, these are the same bird. The area isn’t big enough for two big raptors like these.

The Red-tails are so far the only local raptors proven to prey on Ground Squirrels; photographer Peter Illes filmed the evidence. Several others, such as the White-tailed Kites, Northern Harriers, and Barn Owls look big and strong enough to take local squirrels, but nobody to my knowledge has seen and documented it. The kites seem very happy with moles, and may take several each day. We haven’t documented what the harriers and owls eat. The Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons seem plenty big enough to take squirrels, but show no interest in them; they go for gophers instead. The squirrels show no fear of the big egrets; see “A Question Answered,” Mar 11 2018.

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