A Red-tailed Hawk on a winter day

Red-tailed Hawk immediately after lift offRed-tailed Hawk immediately after lift off – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 500, +1.0 Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 350mm, natural light, not baited

The sun was shining yesterday. Hooray!  I actually saw and photographed some birds. Yippee! One of the birds I photographed yesterday was this handsome Red-tailed Hawk that I spotted in a tree at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area. I didn’t have much time to get ready for when the hawk lifted off from the tree because of road traffic, just two test shots to check for exposure and the Red-tail took flight. I like this image because it shows that trademark red tail, the hawk’s talons, the patagial mark on the leading edge of the wing and a great look at the hawk’s eye.

Red-tailed Hawk on a winter dayRed-tailed Hawk on a winter day – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 500, +1.3 Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

After the first lift off the Red-tail headed for a post, then perched on top of a kestrel nest box where the kestrel dive-bombed it several times before the kestrel gave up. The Red-tailed Hawk then dove at some prey in the grasses and devoured it in two gulps, unfortunately there was vegetation in the way so I didn’t get any clear shots of that action. The hawk then lifted off from the snow-covered ground and flew back to the nest box before it finally flew towards the north.

It felt good to have birds close enough in my viewfinder again. It has been a long, dry spell.


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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and photographing birds. My approach is to photograph the birds without disturbing their natural behavior. I don't bait, use set ups or call them in. I use Nikon gear and has multiple camera bodies and lenses.


  1. P.S. I think I saw a pale subspecies called Krider’s Red-tailed Hawk in our neighborhood here in Brigham City just the other day. It was beautiful but not supposed to be in our area:

  2. What a treat – for you, and for us.
    Here in a heat wave I am drooling over your snow too.

  3. Intermediate-morph adults, especially in the West, show great variation, says Smithsonian Field Guide 2008. And Audubon.org says: Certain western birds with grayish, faintly streaked or mottled tails were formerly considered a separate species called “Harlan’s Hawk.” Identifying Red-tailed Hawks can be a challenge!

  4. Wonderful photos Mia, and the January thaw and the sunshine continue for the week, at least. I had to look up “patagial mark” and found A previous post of Jerry’s that also has some beautiful examples your readers might enjoy: http://jerryliguori.blogspot.com/2013/09/red-tailed-hawk-patagial-marks.html

  5. My Crossley book just arrived…another amazing guide! There are so many photos per page, it almost made me dizzy! Love having so many different angles and distances of a single specie on one page…and those that provide comparisons. Love text, some quite poetic, some humorous, none pompous! Particularly got a kick out of kestrel’s complaint (I still think you’re cute)! Can’t wait for second Liguori book to arrive…

  6. These are fantastic shots, Mia. You must be very pleased with them! The first is just plain beautiful and the second is so crisp, I can see the detail in each feather!

  7. Great timing! Mia, these are wonderful photographs of a really beautiful hawk! If I remember correctly, the darkish trailing edge of the wings is one indication this is a mature bird?

    Love those eyes!

  8. Great Photos Mia!

  9. Huh, interesting tail pattern, just another example…

  10. Lovely images. I can imagine the pleasure in being able to get out again and photograph some birds, especially one like this. Obviously they’re around in winter, so maybe I’ll see one in the flesh soon!

  11. Beautiful Hawk, flying so close.

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