Sunday, January 3, 2021

Western Red-Tailed Hawk

I've previously posted on the western red-tailed hawk herehere, and here. Since the last post I've signed up with iNaturalist and in the process of taking more photos and submitting photos of hawks to that site I've learned that red-tailed hawks are more varied in appearance than I'd ever realized. There are light morphs, dark morphs and juveniles of each that look different than the adults. I've submitted at least two photos to iNaturalist that I thought were Swainson's hawks and have learned that they were red-tailed hawks. In the process I've gained a greater appreciation for the red-tailed hawk and what a beautiful bird it is. 

As indicated in previous posts, I had a great day of wildlife viewing in Live Oak Canyon on New Years Day. When we first started walking there was a Cooper's hawk in a tree we passed right under and it stayed put so that we got a great view of it. Then awhile later we encountered a peregrine falcon. While I was taking photos of the peregrine it flew and I went up and over a small hill to see if I could find it again and saw my wife who had lost patience with my photo-taking and continued her walk along another trail. As I walked toward her I saw what I initially thought was the peregrine in a different tree. But as I pulled up my camera, I realized it was a red-tailed hawk. I only got a few photos before it took off in flight. 
January 1, 2001 in Live Oak Canyon. 

Later in the day, when I walked into the Oak Glen Creek wash I saw the bird above and again thought it was the peregrine, but it turned out to be a red-tailed hawk. It could possibly be the same bird as earlier in the day. 

Awhile later I saw this red-tail flying overhead, around and around. It too, could be the same hawk. 
On Christmas Day Judy and I were on an afternoon walk in the canyon. As we were coming down a steep hill from a ridge this hawk was standing in the top of an old oak tree below us. Its chest was so beautiful and distinctive that I really thought it was something other than a red-tail. But no. Just as I was taking photos another hawk flew from behind us and distracted me and this one took off. I would have liked better photos of this one. I love the mottling on the chest. 
On December 20 I was walking in the wash of Oak Glen Creek and saw two red-tails flying ahead. One swooped down and landed on the side of one of the clay cliffs in the wash, quite high up. It stayed there for several minutes. It was not until I started looking at my photos later that I realized it had a small mammal in its talons. It looks like a young opossum. It is hard to imagine the opossum was on the side of that cliff, so I am assuming that the hawk stopped on the side of the cliff for a respite. 
Later that day, Judy, my son Andrew and his girlfriend joined me on a walk in the wash and we saw two more red-tails that look distinctively different from this one above. The photos of this last two birds may be of the same bird. 

On November 28 I got this photo of a red-tail on a telephone pole in the residential streets above the canyon. It has what I have viewed as the typical red-tail look, a dark brown head and back with a red tail. 
On November 24 I photographed this red-tail in the canyon and initially thought it was something other than a red-tailed hawk. It was early in the morning so the colors don't show very well. Look at the stripes on the tail. 
On October 31 Judy and I went to Corn Springs in the Chuckwalla Mountains about 120 miles east of Redlands, southeast of Joshua Tree NP. There we saw a hawk that I didn't think was a red-tail, but was, standing on the stump of a decapitated palm tree. Later we saw what I think was the same bird on a different palm tree stump take flight and I got one of my favorite bird photos of it taking off. 
This red-tail looks a lot like the one I saw in Live Oak Canyon on November 24 with the striped tail. 

This is the photo of it taking flight that I love. 
On October 4 in Live Oak Canyon I saw two red-tails that looked distinctly different.

On September 26 I was at Corn Springs and saw a red-tail on the stump of a decapitated palm tree. It may be the same tree I saw the red-tail on later. It may be the same bird. 
On September 6 we were south of Klamath Falls, Oregon and visited Lower Klamath NWR. We saw several red-tails in the wildlife refuge and one on the road outside Klamath Falls. I thought several of these were Swainson's hawks. 

This red-tail, in early morning light, was seen on August 29 in Live Oak Canyon. 
Finally, this red-tail was seen on August 20 in Live Oak Canyon. It is what I have viewed as the traditional red-tail color. 
This year of Covid with my meandering in the outdoors with my camera combined with iNaturalist have been good for my bird watching skills. 


  1. The red-tail hawk is the first hawk I learned to identify after moving to Redlands. They are very common around our neighborhood and the red on the underside of their tails make them easy to identify. They are much harder to identify when they are sitting on a branch. I love that photo of the hawk taking off from the stump. That's one of your best.

  2. Red tailed hawks are pretty awesome.