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!
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.