Mar 05 2009
For months the crows have been loud and obnoxious while red-tailed hawks have been present but not particularly noticeable. This month they switch roles because it’s courtship time.
That’s why we’re seeing a lot of red-tailed hawks lately. In winter they don’t care to be noticed but now they’re conspicuous, soaring to claim territory, chasing each other in powerful flight displays.
Mated pairs soar high together with wings outstretched. You might hear them make sharp, shrill “chirps” or see them drop their legs to show their talons. Watch for the male to do his Sky Dance in which he folds his wings and dives down, then zooms up in undulating flight like a woodpecker. If his lady is in an amorous mood she’ll head for a perch near the nest and wait for him. When he makes a beeline to join her, mating follows.
And they are loud. During territorial disputes red-tailed hawks soar with exaggerated wingbeats and scream in a sound so blood-curdling that foley editors sometimes use it (incorrectly!) as the voice of the bald eagle on videos.
Meanwhile the crows go silent. It’s hard to believe but there will be a day when you just won’t notice crows any more. As soon as they nest they become very secretive, switching from obnoxious to oblique behavior. You might see them but you won’t hear them unless they’re upset by a predator.
Will we notice when the crows change their ways? It usually takes me a while.
(photo by Chuck Tague)