Red-tailed Hawk Dines in our Yard

A dark brown shape, a jumble of wings and talons. Flying feathers, uprooted autumn leaves, a flurry of snow. When the ‘dust’ cleared, I realized it was a rather large hawk, and it was expertly dissecting a newly caught ‘something’ for lunch.

In all the photos you can see some of ‘the something’ on the bird’s beak. When I visited the location after the hawk had left, I could see that the kill was a bird.

Many thanks to my go-to person for bird identification, Murray. My photos made identification difficult (shooting through a window on a dreary dull day), but he was reasonably confident this it was a dark morph Red-tailed Hawk. (Dark morph means that the pigment has an alteration that makes the feathers darker than the common colors usually seen. There are light morphs too. A study on morphs suggests that color polymorphism is due to different morphs being better adapted to different light conditions.)

The Feather Files
Name: Red-tailed Hawk – dark-morph
Species: Buteo jamaicensis
Native to and Migration: Resident or short-distance migrant. Most birds from Alaska, Canada, and the northern Great Plains fly south for a few months in winter, remaining in North America.
Date Seen: October 21, 2020
Location: North of Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Notes: Red-tailed Hawks are large birds with very broad, rounded wings and a short, wide tail. They can have a wingspan of 45-52 inches (114-133 cm). The female will be slightly larger in length and weight. Red-tailed Hawks have extremely variable plumage,

I used a Topaz Studio filter on this photo. While it accents the lighter colour feathers, it is not a good picture for bird identification purposes!



22 thoughts on “Red-tailed Hawk Dines in our Yard

    1. My birding friend made the comment that the Red-tails don’t look quite as fierce as some other raptors. Having feathers stuck on the sides of it’s beak sort of softens the bird’s look too!


  1. Beautiful. But how do you get anything done at your house? I’d just be sitting quietly, looking out the window, waiting for another example of “nature at its best” to come by! 🙂


  2. We have red-tails here but a lighter color variation. It’s exciting to watch them zoom down on something or the other. Well, for the something or the other it’s probably not, lol.


  3. I follow a falconer on YouTube — it’s not like I’m interested in falconry, but the birds are magnificent! So beautiful and regal looking. You got some great shots!


  4. The Cooper’s Hawks are attacking the squirrels at the Park. They swoop down in a heartbeat and go after them. Not nice to see and so far no catches while I have been there, but it makes me uneasy. I was at the Park about a month ago and saw something dark on the pavement. In another life it was a mouse, but whatever killed it did not take anything after ravaging the poor thing – guts and what I’d I.D. as maybe a heart were laying in close proximity to the body – I felt sick. The next day only the hide remained. We have many Turkey Vultures in the area too. Ugh.


    1. The Circle of Life – the squirrels dig up my bulbs and eat them, the rabbits eat my vegetables, the hawks eat the squirrels and rabbits. Such is life.


      1. Yes, people cite the Circle of Life to me, but I don’t like it – this is happening right in the City too. The past few Winters I fed six squirrels: 2 black, 2 gray and 2 Fox – one Fox squirrel was either the runt of the litter or very tiny and the poor thing had mange so had little fur on its body. I also fed two Jays and two Cardinals. This paradise every morning that existed … a photo op, begging birds and squirrels, then the Cooper’s Hawk appeared on the scene. I put the peanuts near shrubs after I saw it doing a fly-by so the squirrels could hide there – but they ran away to bury them, and lost their lives. No more feeding peanuts in the ‘hood but just in the Park and now that is worrisome to me too as more and more hawks are appearing there.


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