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 ...
A Red Tailed Hawk in the Nest
He took flight a few seconds later - see full takeoff and landing sequences
Red Tailed Hawk takes off from another branch
He was quite noisy hanging out on the branches
He was also making noise while flying around
I'd estimate about a five foot wingspan
After a screech at the photographer, the Hawk lifts off
Back side of a Red Tail on takeoff 0.16 seconds apart
Two superimposed head-on pictures of the same Hawk 0.16 second apart
There actually were two Red Tailed Hawks ... but they rarely flew together
One hawk hangs out while another one takes off and comes at the camera - this is 300+ feet away
Got some sunlight of the upper surface of the Red Tail here!
Picture from another day with sun back-lighting the red tail
Nearby Praire Dogs (aka dinner!) keep an eye out for the Red Tailed Hawks
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"
"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!
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
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
I have not seen the Red-Tailed Hawks every year - in fact, sometimes, there are
Great Horned Owls in the nest.
Here's a Colorado Cooper's Hawk in 2014.