These juvenile Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) images were taken on two consecutive days last week. I’m always excited to have a bird in my view finder and when I can photograph hawks for two days in a row… I feel raptor rapture.
Red-tailed Hawk juveniles do not have the namesake “red-tail”; they will develop that as they mature, but they have the same beauty and power that the adults do.
Fortunately for me on the two days I photographed this hawk it was intent on hunting and paid no mind to my presence as I focused on it from inside a mobile blind (pickup). It would perch for a bit while it scanned for prey and then swoop down into the grasses to search for it.
It is said that Red-tailed Hawks can spot a rodent from 100 feet in the air which to me is amazing because quite often there will be grasses or other vegetation that could partially obstruct the view of the prey. That is probably why a person with keen eyesight could earn the nickname “Hawk Eye”.
By carefully observing this young Red-tailed Hawk’s behavior, body movements and by paying attention to its eyes I was able to anticipate when it would lift off. Learning how to do that is important for those action shots.
“Focus” is a word I often think of when I am watching raptors hunt because it appears to me that they are entirely focused on their prey; after all, their lives depend on their hunting skills. This immature bird seems to miss more than it actually captures but it will develop better skills as it ages.
I watched as this keen-eyed youngster located, captured and ate a small snake. I don’t have any images of it swallowing the snake because it was too far away and my view was obstructed by tall grasses and Moth Mullein stems. That was a disappointment, I would have loved to have had those images in my portfolio.
Look at those talons, the sharp hooked bill and the feathers that are built just right for carrying this handsome young Red-tailed Hawk through the air to capture and devour its prey. This is perfection.
Normally I don’t keep images without eye contact from my subject but in this image I was fascinated by the landing pose, the great view of the spread wings, fanned tail, the intricate plumage patterns and the shadow below the hawk.
I am hoping that this juvenile hawk and it’s darker and more elusive sibling will continue to stick around the area where I located them so that I may have; as my friend Shyloh puts it, more “face melting” opportunities with these incredible birds. Yeah, they make my face melt from smiling so much.
I’m looking forward to more Raptor Rapture!
More Red-tailed Hawk images