Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hunting Hawk

In past entries, we have reported on Red-shouldered Hawks (Buteo lineatus) hunting for prey on the ground outside the Audubon Center at the Francis Beidler Forest. We have caught glimpses of the prey items, but we have not been able to positively identify the prey or even capture a blurry image. Yesterday was no different.

The day was grey and cool with intermittent drizzle. Today's bright sun and blue sky seemed to be a better day for hunting, but no hawk was in the area. Maybe yesterday was warm enough to get the small reptiles moving, but cool enough to make them easy meals for the sharp-eyed hawk. For over two hours in the early afternoon, the Red-shouldered Hawk moved from a low perch into a gliding attack on the ground. Not all of the attacks were successful and those that were successful ended quickly. One attack provided three bite-sized meals. No attempt was made by the hawk to reduce the size of the prey and the effort required to swallow the items was obvious. However, the speed at which the morsels were consumed prevented the taking of any images, though the prey items resembled ground beetles. Another attack yielded a skink snack (possibly an anole, but where's the alliteration in that?) and it too was consumed with a quick toss of the hawk's head.

Red-shouldered Hawks breed between April and June with an average of three eggs laid in the nest, usually in a tree trunk. The eggs will hatch in a month and the young will fledge six weeks after that. The parents will continue to feed the young for another 8-10 weeks. Maybe this summer we will see the next generation learning to hunt skinks in the shadow of the nature center!

Images by Mark Musselman

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