A pair of adult Red-tailed HawksA pair of adult Red-tailed Hawks – Nikon D300, f9, 1/250, ISO 500, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited, called in or set up

I photographed this pair of Red-tailed Hawks while enjoying Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in the Centennial Valley of Montana last summer in early morning light. These adults were being bothered by some American Kestrels so they may have been to close to the falcon’s nest or young.

Adult Red-tailed HawkAdult Red-tailed Hawk Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1600, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited, called in or set up

I found this adult on Antelope Island State Park in Utah last September, it was near a location where I had been photographing three different juvenile Red-tailed Hawks. I like how the same rufous tones can be found in the rocks and the hawk’s plumage.

The eyes on this particular adult red-tailed seem rather light to me, normally in adults the eyes are a darker brown.

Just a few Red-tailed Hawk images that I have been meaning to process and share.



  1. Hummingbird Lover February 9, 2013 at 8:47 am

    Hi! Love the Photo of the pair! The bird & rocks do blend well and all are beautiful! You do such detailed work! Love their eyes. Have a great day!

    • Mia McPherson February 9, 2013 at 10:20 am

      Thank you Mom, I love you!

  2. Bob Bushell February 9, 2013 at 3:18 am

    Beautiful Mia.

  3. M. Firpi February 8, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    I love that pair and the composition.

  4. Tammy Karr February 8, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    Stunning photos Mia! Beautiful shot of the perched pair!

  5. Bryce Robinson February 8, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    Beautiful birds Mia. As always, stunning photography. Ever thought of teaching a young humble bearded bird nerd a tip or two? Haha. As for the eye, I noticed with the birds I have banded and aged that the eyes of many second year birds, in adult plumage, still are a light amber color like that of juveniles. It is my understanding that the eye darkens as the bird ages, usually turning carmel colored sometime after the second year, becoming totally dark afterwards. Not a good way to definitively age birds, but a neat thing to pay attention to. Of course there are other actual experts that can tell you for certain, these are just things I have picked up. Love the post, of course!

    • Mia McPherson February 9, 2013 at 6:24 am


      I’d love to spend some time on the field with you, bearded or not 😉

      I was thinking that the Red-tailed Hawk with the light eyes might be a second year bird and was hoping that some one with more raptor expertise than I; like you, would chime in!

      Thanks for your comment and your thoughts on my light-eyed adult RTH

  6. Tami Vogel (@_CabinGirl) February 8, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Nice to see the different colors not only in the eyes, but also the plumage, in such beautiful photos, Mia.

  7. Merrill Ann Gonzales February 8, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    I can’t believe you answered my question about the color of the eyes. I had photographed a red-tail up at Audubon which had met an unfortunate accident and ended up being a study piece for them. From the photo I have drawn a rather dramatic drawing which I hope to paint (as soon as the blizzard lets up around here…now I’m battling snow!) But I noticed that the color of the eyes in the real hawk were darker than I had seen in all the photos I have at my disposal… and my assumption was that the camera picks up the sunlight reflection on the eyes… Your attention to this lets me go ahead with the darker color which I expect is a warm color brown with a cast of burnt umber in it. I’m hoping I come up with the answer before I start painting it. But glad to know that even photos can’t always pick up every detail exactly as they are sometimes.
    When I look at the second photo I see that the hawk is looking into the sunlight and that sort of informs my hunch.

    • Mia McPherson February 9, 2013 at 6:18 am

      Merrill, Bryce commented about the eye color of Red-tailed Hawks darkening as the bird ages which is also what I read on BNA (Bird of North America). Typically I see dark eyed adults, light eyed juveniles but don’t often see an adult with the lighter eyes, I guess I need to be in the right place at the right time more often to do so.

      • Merrill Ann Gonzales February 9, 2013 at 12:07 pm

        Many thanks for the reply. The specimen that I photo’d had darkish eyes… I’m glad to FINALLY know the answer to something that’s puzzled me for a long time. In gratitude,

  8. Wally February 8, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    Wonderful images of a beautiful raptor! Is there a difference in eye color for immature Red-tails? I didn’t see any reference to it in the reference books.

    • Mia McPherson February 9, 2013 at 6:16 am

      Hi Wally, immature Red-tailed Hawks have lighter colored eyes than the adults so. The bird I photographed might be a second or third year bird whose eyes will get darker as it ages.

  9. Scott Simmons February 8, 2013 at 11:41 am

    Beautiful shots! I heard one calling as I walked into work today; put a smile on my face.

    • Mia McPherson February 9, 2013 at 6:14 am

      Thank you Scott, whenever I hear a Red-tailed Hawk a smile forms on my lips, I just can’t resist smiling!

  10. eric c11 February 8, 2013 at 11:08 am

    ☺ nice !!

  11. Prairie Birder February 8, 2013 at 9:35 am

    Lovely photos, Mia, the colors are so rich and pretty.

  12. Kathleen Finnerty February 8, 2013 at 9:26 am

    Oh Mia! I LOVE the pair! How wonderful – and twice as nice to see two perched together! Just beautiful!

  13. Sherry in MT February 8, 2013 at 7:39 am

    Mia those images are STUNNING! I just adore the light in the first one and you are right the tones in the rocks that mimic the colors in the hawk make it!

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