Colorado Red-Tailed Hawk - WOW!


One evening in April/2008, my wife Wendy was taking my oldest son Dirk to the library and called from her Cell Phone, saying there was a big bird in a nest in a nearby Cottenwood Tree. So my youngest son Kyle and I walked over, but there was no bird in the nest ... although we got an awesome show of a Dog and Coyote battling it out!       So I went back the next evening and saw ...

People say this is their favorite picture - how to order prints of these pictures

red tailed hawk perch 2

A Red Tailed Hawk in the Nest

colorado red tailed hawk

He took flight a few seconds later - see full takeoff and landing sequences

colorado red tailed hawk

Red Tailed Hawk takes off from another branch

red tailed hawk takeoff

He was quite noisy hanging out on the branches

red tailed hawk perch

He was also making noise while flying around

red tailed hawk fly noise

I'd estimate about a five foot wingspan

red tailed hawk wings

After a screech at the photographer, the Hawk lifts off

red tailed hawk lift off

Back side of a Red Tail on takeoff 0.16 seconds apart

red tailed hawks back side

Two superimposed head-on pictures of the same Hawk 0.16 second apart

red tailed hawks head-on

There actually were two Red Tailed Hawks ... but they rarely flew together

two red tailed hawks

One hawk hangs out while another one takes off and comes at the camera - this is 300+ feet away

colorado red tailed hawk two

Got some sunlight of the upper surface of the Red Tail here!

colorado red tailed hawk

Picture from another day with sun back-lighting the red tail

colorado red tailed hawk sunlight

1972 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Convertible - nice bird watching vehicle!

prairie olds

Nearby Praire Dogs (aka dinner!) keep an eye out for the Red Tailed Hawks

prairie dogs



Misc. Notes: I'm not a birder, but several who are thought it is was Red-Tailed Hawk, although one thought it could be a Ferruginous. According to Bill Schmoker, President of Colorado Field Ornithologists and recently quoted in the Rocky Mountain News, they are "classic Red-tailed Hawks" and adds "One thing you can look for when you have an up-close shot is the gape (corner of the mouth)- on Ferruginous Hawk it goes back as far as the back of the eye. Also, on your spread-wing shots you can see the long dark bar on the leading edge of the inner wing- a classic Red-tailed Mark but one Ferruginous lack. Finally, you can see in some of your shots that the upper tail surface is brick red- this doesn't always show through from below but is unmistakable on the namesake Red-tailed Hawk. Ferruginous Hawks never have this- their tails are very pale, almost white. Comparisons: Ferruginous and Red-tailed" - thanks Bill!


Photography Notes: These pictures were taken with a Canon 55-250 lens mounted on a Canon 40D DSLR. Since that has a 1.6x crop factor, it means a 35mm equivalent of 400mm ... and I wish I had more reach. The light is pretty decent since it was less than an hour from sunset, and by setting ISO to 800 (and then 1600), I was able to maintain shutter speeds better than 1/1000 second. This came in handy for the full takeoff and landing sequences at 6.5 frames/second.


June/2008 Update: The Cottenwood Tree now has lots of leaves on it, so it's hard to see the nest. But look closely in this full-size crop of that image and you'll see a small white thing. BTW, if you want to see some cool up-close bird pictures, check out this house finch.

I have not seen the Red-Tailed Hawks every year - in fact, sometimes, there are Great Horned Owls in the nest.