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.