Karma's When I Feel Like It Blog

March 16, 2013

What a strange sight

Filed under: For the Birds — Karma @ 9:40 am
Tags: , , ,

It was one of those days when I really wished I had my “real” camera with me, but only had my cell phone (Blackberry). I was driving home from work, along the same path I always take, when something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. I glimpsed a strangely shaped, darkly colored bird. Only the week before, when Meghan and I were coming home from a doctor’s appointment along the same road, we saw a vulture eating a dead skunk on the side of the road. Two very unphotogenic creatures, yet a little fascinating in a morbid sort of way.

So when I glimpsed the large, dark bird this time, my eyes were drawn over to that side of the road. As I came closer, I realized it was not just one strange, large bird – there were two and a magnificent hawk!
Big Birds

I pulled over to the side of the road and got out of my car to have a closer look.  I was so surprised by the sight of these birds in someone’s backyard!
I was truly stunned by the size of the hawk. I have never actually seen one on the ground. Birds of prey of various types regularly soar through the skies above my head and occasionally I have been lucky enough to capture a couple on tree branches. Something about seeing this amazing bird standing on the ground was a real moment for me. I estimated the bird to be approximately up to my knee in height. I stepped as near as I dared and took the picture you see above. The turkey vultures continued to walk in circles around the hawk and his catch, waiting for their turn to pick at the remains.

When I came home, I measured the length of my leg up to my knee and found it to be 20 inches. I then consulted my favorite birding site, Cornell’s All About Birds, and looked into the “length” of certain types of hawks. The male red-tail is approximately 18 to 22 inches – so I am thinking that is probably the correct identification of the bird above.

What do you think about these large birds?  Do you see them fairly regularly?  Have you ever encountered a large bird of prey standing on the ground?  Share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. I’ve seen hawks on the ground and they are massive! Last spring there was one with a catch just down the street. They let you get pretty close when they have something to guard. I’ve seen them take a sparrow and a flicker in our backyard. Did you know that turkey vultures migrate? It’s a sign of spring!

    Comment by Becky Sue — March 16, 2013 @ 10:27 am | Reply

    • I did not know that about turkey vultures. I don’t think I’ve ever really noticed them before, so it was very strange for me to see 3 of them within a short time like that. I’ll take whatever I can get as a sign of spring!

      Comment by Karma — March 17, 2013 @ 8:23 am | Reply

  2. Amazing thing to see. Lucky you !

    Back in 2010 I spotted an eagle feeding on a carcass of a Canada Goose. He tried to take off with it but it was too heavy, so he landed again and resumed feeding. I blogged about it at the time: http://crittersnus.blogspot.ca/2010/02/eagles-on-salt-marsh.html

    Comment by Sybil — March 16, 2013 @ 7:38 pm | Reply

    • Wow, a Canada goose – I don’t think of big birds like that as being the victims of birds of prey.

      Comment by Karma — March 17, 2013 @ 8:24 am | Reply

  3. Once in awhile we have a small gray hawk swoop through the yard near the bird feeder, hoping to get some lunch. Once he sat on a limb of a tree above the feeder and stared at me standing at the kitchen sink for the longest time. But he isn’t very big. I’ve never been that close to a big hawk, though I see them in trees out along the freeway.

    Comment by dawnkinster — March 17, 2013 @ 8:00 am | Reply

    • Maybe that hawk was hoping for you to move away and not scare off his chances for lunch! I have bird feeders in the yard, but I’ve never seen them used as a buffet for the birds of prey- thank goodness, that would be tough. As much as I admire the big birds, I would feel horrible for the little ones!

      Comment by Karma — March 17, 2013 @ 8:26 am | Reply

  4. We had one in our backyard chowing down on either a dove or a mockingbird last month, and you’re right: they are massive on the ground. We still have feathers scattered about by our rose bushes.

    And I also have a morbid fascination by buzzards, particularly when they circle around me on a hot summer’s morning run. Always makes me a tad bit nervous. ; )

    Comment by Kate — March 17, 2013 @ 10:38 am | Reply

    • I would be a bit nervous too if I saw vultures or buzzards circling above me!

      Comment by Karma — March 17, 2013 @ 7:39 pm | Reply

  5. Oh this is the coolest! I am glad you took pics! I love these birds, even though some people don’t. Shame on them. lol!

    Comment by Kathy — March 17, 2013 @ 5:42 pm | Reply

    • They are fascinating creatures, aren’t they? I am so wishing I had the Rebel and the “big lens” with me when I saw them!

      Comment by Karma — March 17, 2013 @ 7:41 pm | Reply

  6. No. Never seen before. I am only imagining now! Ohh.. unique creatures..

    Comment by sonali — March 17, 2013 @ 11:53 pm | Reply

    • I wish I had a better picture to show you, Sonali!

      Comment by Karma — March 18, 2013 @ 8:52 pm | Reply

  7. Nice catch! I have seen a hawk on the ground once or twice, and it always amazes me, too. From a distance, it’s hard to tell just how big they are, but when you see one on the ground like that, it’s a “wow!” moment. 🙂

    Comment by Robin — March 18, 2013 @ 4:29 pm | Reply

    • Thanks, Robin. I was definitely “wowed”. I imagine, too, that I must have looked a little strange to passers-by in my work clothes standing on the side of the road with my phone watching these birds!

      Comment by Karma — March 18, 2013 @ 8:56 pm | Reply

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