Thursday, May 22, 2008

Two's Company, Three's a Crowd

For years red-tail hawks have been regular visitors in the area surrounding the pond. The frequency of sightings seems to go in cycles. For 2-3 years they will be very prevalent and then for 2-3 years there will be only occasional sightings. These cycles are probably related to the availability of prey which consists primarily of small mammals such as field mice. We presume their hunting reduces the prey population and the hawks shift to other areas until the local prey population rebounds and the area becomes productive again. Some red-tail hawks evidently maintain two nests that they rotate between depending on the hunting.

This year the red-tail hawks have been very active. In fact, back in March we had 3 hawks and they really put on a show. Evidently we were witnessing either some male competition for a female or fighting over a nesting/hunting site. Red-tail hawks are very territorial and will vigorously defend their hunting grounds. We did not actually witness any courtship rituals which I understand are very impressive, but for days we could hear the screeching calls and see three of them flying and soaring. They were even very visible flying low through the trees frequently. Most of the activity was centered around a big hawk nest in a large pine tree which borders on a fairly large open space. The nest has been there for several years. It's about 150 yards from the pond, but it is on the other side of a stream and up a hill so it is an area we don't often visit.

Eventually the daily 'battles' became quieter and now we just see two hawks so we figure the third one finally gave up and went elsewhere to find a mate or nesting/hunting site. We still are treated to the sight of these beautiful fliers periodically during the day and of course we can hear the trademark screech throughout the day. Those red-tail hawks that survive past the first 1-2 years of life can live for up to 20 years and they are typically monogamous so it is possible our pair has been around here for years. We plan to keep a closer eye on the nesting site and see if we can get some good pictures.


Thanks for stopping by to visit our little pond. We would love to see you again real soon.