Angry Red-tailed Hawk Conundrum – Day 2

Battle Worn Hawk

Battle Worn Hawk

This hawk has been angry and battle worn for two days now. I posted it on Nature and Wildlife Pics and some of you may have seen the photos of the angry hawk. It was bothering me why I have seen it in the same location for days, still exhibiting the aggressive behavior.

I called one of our expert bird watchers to ask what I might be seeing.

It is now past breeding and nesting time for these birds so the mystery was deepened when I saw the second Red-tailed Hawk in the same vicinity. I thought they were adversaries since they were both calling aggressively. The one in the majority of these photos has obviously been in a battle with wing tips missing and holes cut through the feathers. You can see this more clearly clicking on the gallery images. It even looks like the lower beak might be injured.

The gentleman I asked said that possibly one of their young was injured and both parents were trying to keep me from finding it. I saw no nest in the area though. I heard no calls from the ground either. If any bird experts are reading, please let me know what you think. Also, see Angry Red-tailed Hawk on my other blog for additional photos of more aggressive behavior. I was stumped and I did watch the birds for a while for two days.

Click the gallery for much larger photos and to view them in clickable slide show format. All photos with a 300mm zoom lens.

Any ideas? The other bird in the early morning sun below.



About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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33 Responses to Angry Red-tailed Hawk Conundrum – Day 2

  1. Midwestern Plant Girl says:

    I’m clueless as to the hawks actions, however know I loved the photos!

  2. I can’t answer your question, but these are some impressive photos!

  3. alesiablogs says:

    incredible shots!

  4. pepaulmier says:

    Impressive shots, no answer to give, however.

  5. missmabee says:

    Interesting that you posted this because I have seen the same thing. For about a week I had 3 hanging around my property making such a ruckus. It was non-stop. They were friendly with eachother but seemed very aggressive/angry and I was worried about my chickens outside. Two left after a week and the third is still hanging about. It sits on the dead tree outside my window as I write this, taunting me and my attempt to sleep in. lol. I would love to know if anyone has insight on your RT Hawks behavior.

  6. anomadlife says:

    What great photos. I love these.

  7. travelmystories says:

    Awesome pics!! Incredible!

  8. Awesome photos, Donna. I can see the damage to the wings. Have you contacted Cornell Ornithology? Maybe they might have more info on this behavior.

  9. I am really interested in what you find out too!

  10. lizzygirl12 says:

    Hi Donna! You pics are incredible!! What camera do you use? Thank you for sharing your pics

  11. Thoughts: First, if juveniles are involved, the tail will be brown – it does not turn red until the beginning of the 2nd year. In our region, juveniles become completely independent from the parents in late Summer. The parents will want the young to seek their own territories so may become more aggressive as the Summer progresses. Second, is one hawk larger than the other or are they both about the same size? It helps to know if you are seeing a male and female or two of the same gender. Red-tailed Hawks are loners, even the mated pairs; once the offspring leave, the parents will break into separate territories – they mate for life but only cohabitate while the kiddies are around. So you may be seeing some separation behavior, given the time of year. If we’ve got two unmated adults, then it is quite likely a territorial dispute, which can take several days or even a couple of weeks to work out.

    • Oh, and also, damage to feathers is quite common – they simply wear out over time because of constant wear and tear. RTs molt gradually from Spring through early Autumn. The damage seen here is not necessarily due to these aggressive interactions but is likely just feathers showing their age and will be replaced shortly. Have seen similarly warn feathers during bird banding sessions on nearly every species of bird.

      • Thanks for all this info. I told readers to check out your comments here. I just never saw hawks act like this, so for me it was new behavior. They really did not seem to be scared of me. Usually hawks fly away at any movement on my part. I was out of my truck and at the base of the tree where the female was calling. She would take off and fly in a circle after the male called to her. I am not sure how I fit into this drama, but they really did not want me there by the photos on my other blog. I was in her sights quite a few times.

        • They may be more comfortable with your presence now that the young have fledged. Generally, I find urban and suburban Red-tailed Hawks quite tolerant of human presence when they are without young. All-in-all, raptors can become habituated to humans, which is probably why we can practice falconry with them. Keep us posted as to any future sightings!

    • Thanks for the information. I did not know about territories when the young leave the nest. Both are adults (red tails) and the one in the last photo is smaller (male). Both of your last examples seem likely, separation and a territory dispute. I saw neither of them attempt to fight each other, but both flew circles around my position (like chasing each other), so I am guessing I was part of the problem. I may try tomorrow and see if I still find them there. The female was the more aggressive. The male just was calling back and chasing behind the female but on opposite sides of the circle.

  12. I’m glad I’m not a Red-tailed Hawk. I would have separation anxiety.

  13. Pat says:

    Fantastic series.

  14. Fabulous post, with the detailed description along with the exceptional photos. Hawks are amazing creatures. Part of me cheers them on because they’re so graceful and beautiful, and part of me cries when they take down their prey. They fly fast! I saw one swoop down through our backyard today, and then the blackbirds and other birds were squawking like crazy. I don’t know if the hawk caught a rabbit, a bird, or some other creature. But I’m hoping it was the former.Thanks for sharing the information and the beautiful photos.

  15. Alisha says:

    thanks for this informative article..

  16. Great info you gathered here Donna with the comments…I suspected territory but not perhaps juveniles being forced out…very interesting.

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