Red Tailed Hawks and Winter Birds of Prey

Our most common hawk is the red tailed hawk, although I have counted as many as 4 other different hawks on my property alone. I’ve even seen a Bald Eagle in my maple out front–not because there’s anything so fabulous about my property, really, but because there’s a body of water across the street where they will occasionally fish in the winter. But to see an eagle in a tree on your own property–that was a sight I hope I never forget. And it wasn’t that it stayed for too short a time to photograph. It stayed quite some time. But it was past dusk and no photo would have come out. Besides, sometimes, these things are best remembered with “the mind’s eye” to quote Hamlet.

As any of us drives around Connecticut in the winter, all we need to do is to glance up to notice our most common bird of prey, the red-tailed hawk. According to Cornell, it is possible to see one on a car ride almost anywhere in North America!

Here in Connecticut, the light stanchions will be the place to find them. They perch, observing the fields alongside the highway, looking for an easy meal. If you are the passenger and can observe for a moment, it is often possible to notice the way the hawk’s head swivels. It really is a marvel of a thing–the human head can’t swivel like that!

To me it seems as if its head is swiveling almost all the way around, but of course that’s not so. It certainly can look further over its shoulder than most humans.

Cornell says that most hawks do not visit suburban backyards. I must live in an exceptional place. Not only do I have a pair that regularly visits, but the female has a spot that she regularly “stakes out”–under a very low-branched magnolia. This same pair breeds in my neighborhood each spring and raises its young–we can tell the young by its screeching call, very different from its parents.

I know I have talked about the male before as well. He is not a terribly good hunter. I have watched squirrels chase him away and I have watched him try and fail to catch squirrels on more than one occasion. The female appears to be deadly accurate and I have found the detritus of several species in my yard to prove that.

The other hawks I have had are sharp shinned (for awhile one year, a sharp shinned visited every week, only on Friday. It was the strangest thing. I wondered if he kept a calendar somehow–and yes, he was a male), a Merlin, a Coopers hawk and on one instance the Peregrine falcon. It must have come in from Hartford, where it nests.

I feel blessed to have all these birds of prey visiting. They do enliven my winter bird watching!

2 thoughts on “Red Tailed Hawks and Winter Birds of Prey

  1. J Stella January 18, 2014 / 12:38 pm

    You are indeed blessed, as I am too. I live in NM on the banks of the Rio Grande and have seen Bald eagles, Golden eagles, American Bitterns, Ospreys, Peregrine Falcons and an assortment of hawks roosting in my trees or hunting over the pasture.

    • gardendaze January 18, 2014 / 3:17 pm

      It sounds absolutely gorgeous. New Mexico is one state I have not visited but I have always wanted to. It surely sounds glorious.


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