Sep 22 2010
At midday Tuesday I walked to the Cathedral of Learning to find the peregrines, but no one was home. Instead I saw a tiny speck floating in the deep blue sky above campus. Was it a balloon?
Through binoculars I identified an adult red-tailed hawk, motionless as if thumbtacked to the sky. The heat gave her lift and the wind was just right to hold her aloft without moving her wings. Sometimes she dropped her legs to create drag, then pulled them up to her motionless position. Slowly, slowly she drifted out of sight.
I forgot about the hawk and walked the Lawn to check the north face for peregrines. I had just decided none were there when the red-tailed hawk whooshed over my head. Barely clearing the treetops, she dropped low over the central lawn, folded up her wings, lowered her talons and nearly — nearly — caught something on the ground at the hedges. At the last minute the prey escaped. The hawk pulled up quickly, flew over the heads of three pedestrians and popped over the hillside toward Forbes Avenue.
Yow! I was seriously impressed!
Peregrines fly like fighter jets but red-tails normally maneuver like 747’s. This was the first time in years that the flight of a red-tailed hawk made my heart go pit-a-pat.
It’s amazing what a 747 can do in a tight spot.
(photo of an immature red-tailed hawk on the hunt by Kim Steininger)