Saturday, September 8, 2007

Hawk Transitions

Twice over the last couple days, I've seen a hawk on a power pole that looks sort of like a red-tailed hawk, but not quite. It has the belly band of a red-tailed, but the white "hood" coming down over its chest that I associate with the rough-legged hawk. It's the right time of year for the rough-leggeds to be coming down from their summer nesting grounds in the Arctic, so I think this might be an early arrival. It seems to hunch over more than the red-taileds that I have watched all summer; a quick look on the web indicates that rough-leggeds do seem to hunch when they perch, but I'm not sure if that is a reliable indicator. Next time, I'll have to watch for the white tail stripe for confirmation.

Red-tailed hawks are our most common summer hawk, perched on power poles all over the valley. I love to listen to their calls; it is so quintessentially "raptor" that it is used in movies for just about any hawk or eagle (especially the bald eagle, which has a call similar to a sea gull's). In the fall, they move out of the northern Rockies and Canada to the rest of the US. Instead, we get the rough-legged hawks, named for the feathers that cover their legs all the way down to the talons; they seamlessly take over both the power-pole perches and the rodent-control program that the red-taileds run in the summer.

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