Red-Tailed Hawk, Down


What better time to talk about a something that happened in the middle of winter than on this, perhaps the hottest day of the summer?  My last post was about a fallen baby bird, and I happened to snap some pics of a hawk yesterday, so this story is relevant.

It was Martin Luther King Day, January 19, 2009.  I was getting ready to do a morning snow shoe with the dogs when we found a dead red-tailed hawk in the backyard.  Of course I took pictures.  It had been a rough winter – lots of snow on the ground – and we had that big damaging ice storm back on December 12, 2008.  But it seemed odd to me to find a bird of prey face-down on the ground, wings extended.  I was curious how he died, so we called wildlife pathologist for the DEC, Ward Stone [he used to host In Our Backyard on WAMC], to see if he’d be interested in seeing it.  He said yes.

All hawks are protected by state and federal laws. It is illegal to capture or kill a hawk, or to possess a hawk (or any raptor), alive or dead, without the proper permits from both State and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  But we didn’t kill it, and we weren’t possessing it – merely transporting it – so we put the beautiful hawk in a bag and my husband brought him to Ward.  He determined that the hawk died of starvation and said he wouldn’t be surprised, given the rough winter, if we found more dead animals.  Ward Stone retired from the DEC September, 2010.

2 thoughts on “Red-Tailed Hawk, Down

  1. The Red-tailed Hawk is Grace’s favorite bird. She did a report on them in 4th grade. One day we were riding our bikes at a golf course and spotted a hawk on a bridge along the golf cart path. We ditched the bikes and in full stealth mode started sneaking up on him to see how close we could get. His back was to us but he kept spinning his head around, like an owl. It was like playing Red Light, Green light. We’d get a few steps then freeze. . .a few more steps.. .freeze. We got so close we simultaneously realized how big he was, especially his talons, and without a word we started backing up. It was very cool.

  2. Great choice Grace – very cool! We see Red-Tailed Hawks every day on our property. They are really amazing! I’ve seen the Hawks snatch prey right out of the air and on the ground, and we watch as smaller birds swoop down and attack the Hawks, even ride on their backs… in an effort to keep their nests & babies safe. This too was a heartbreaking story.

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