The Courtship and Copulation of a pair of Red-tailed Hawks

Male Red-tailed Hawk about to mate with the femaleMale Red-tailed Hawk about to mate with the female

Yesterday I was able to see and photograph a pair of Red-tailed Hawks courting and copulating in Tooele County, Utah. At first sighting both Red-tailed Hawks were at the top of the same juniper then the male flew up and mounted the female and they mated. I couldn’t tell if both birds were calling but there were definitely calls during the few seconds that they were copulating. The male then flew off and left the female on the juniper.

Male Red-tailed Hawk spiraling towards the femaleMale Red-tailed Hawk spiraling towards the female

Nine minutes later I saw the male floating towards the female and hoped to get more shots of the hawks mating. This image shows the male coming in from the east.

Red-tailed Hawk CourtshipRed-tailed Hawk Courtship

The male came in close to the female but this time the birds did not copulate and neither of them called out. The male fluttered above the female for a few seconds and then flapped his wings and flew south. I am not sure why copulation did not occur the second time but it may have been that the female did not signal to the male that she was receptive. The female stayed on the juniper for several minutes and then she too lifted off and flew to the south.

I am disappointed that the angle of light was horrible and that I couldn’t get light in the male’s eyes during copulation or on his second attempt so I won’t bother to post my techs as these are just documentary images.

Despite the cruddy image quality I was fascinated by the courtship and mating behaviors of these two Red-tailed Hawks. It sure would be wonderful to photograph this behavior again in better lighting conditions.

Mia

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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 to pursue my passion for photographing birds.

12 Comments

  1. Mia, I saw this happen one summer when I was in CT. It is quite magical. I am so glad you were able to get these amazing shots!

  2. Interesting behaviors. Even without a narrative, the series tells a story.

  3. What a wonderful sight! I hope you get to photograph and share the results of this coupling.

  4. Very nice sequence! I also love the cover photo of the young Skimmer!

  5. Very interesting series, even if the light wasn’t perfect. Yesterday was a perfect day but I was doing yard work. Thanks for getting out there for us.

  6. Love must have been in the air yesterday, I had two red tailed hawks courting in my Mountain Green neighborhood.

  7. These shots are great…and how many people ever get to see this….I hope it results in some new, healthy baby red-tails!!!

  8. Well done Mia, great photos.

  9. Hi Mia –
    I always enjoy your daily postings, especially when you capture essential wildlife behaviors.

    Compare the markings on the breast feathers closely on each photo – it appears to me that there were 2 different males.

  10. Still great captures, Mia.

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