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Category Archives: hawk

Last week I got to see a Merlin family actively hunting dragonflies around a small lake. There were at least three birds and some, most likely the youngsters, were very vocal. That made them easy to spot. When I was there earlier in the summer, I thought there might be a nest in the area. I mostly photographed them from my boat near dusk and in the early morning as they perched on snags waiting for the unsuspecting dragonflies. It made for challenging conditions.

My Sibley field guide says this about Merlins: “Uncommon in open habitats. Nests in trees in forests with open areas. Solitary. Pugnacious; often harasses much larger birds. An active and energetic hunter; spots prey from perch or during low fast flight, closes with incredible speed, and attacks with abrupt turns, often from below. Feeds almost entirely on small birds; also takes dragonflies in midair.” It’s a pretty good description of the birds I observed.

This is a Red-tailed Hawk. Redtails, as they are commonly called, come in a variety of colors but most have similar patterns that ought to make them easy to identify. For beginning birders, they do present challenges. This bird is a light colored, first year bird. It was born last spring. The next time it molts (replaces its feathers) it will have a distinctive red tail which will make it easier to identify. Sometimes Redtails are very dark and the patterns are not always obvious. It is the most commonly seen hawk in our area.

All the birds need to eat so I try not to get upset when I see a pygmy owl or an accipiter gazing at the feeder birds. Today there was a Merlin, a small falcon, quite a distance from the feeders, fifty meters or more, and all the little birds were gone for hours. A couple days ago I spotted a Cooper’s Hawk, an accipiter, in the same snag. I managed to digiscope some photos of it and then walked out of the room. I returned a few minutes later to find all the feeder birds gone and the hawk was right in the midst of the feeders. You can see she was intent on a meal of her own. I did not see if she caught anything when she blazed away.

Digiscoped pictures of the Cooper’s Hawk and the Merlin

This young female Sharp-shinned Hawk prowled the bird feeders earlier this week. I didn’t see it catch anything but I have noticed that the quail numbers are dwindling. I think there were eight last month. Then there were five. Today I only saw three. Everybody’s got to eat.

Lots of catching up today. My computer is facing another serious meltdown and sooner or later I have to take it in for another new hard drive. I am caught up on work stuff so that should happen soon.

In the meantime here are a couple of hawks I’ve seen from my dining room this month. I think they are both first year birds – a light Red-tailed Hawk and a Sharp-shinned Hawk. If you have other ideas about their ID, let me know.

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