Red-tailed Hawks – Mates for Life

Red-tailed Hawks - Mates for LifeRed-tailed Hawks – Mates for Life – Nikon D300, f7.1, 1/400, ISO 500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited, taken in 2012

For several years now I have been observing and photographing a mated pair of Red-tailed Hawks in the Centennial Valley of southwestern Montana that have a favorite perch that I often see them on.  Red-tailed Hawks are monogamous and will mate for life and will only move on to a new mate if the other one dies.

The hawks above are migratory because the winters in the Centennial Valley are harsh and the ground is often covered in deep snow which makes it extremely difficult for them to find enough prey to survive. I have often wondered if mated pairs of Red-tailed Hawks migrate together and I would be interested to know if they do.

Centennial Valley Red-tailed HawksMontana Centennial Valley Red-tailed Hawks – Nikon D300, f8, 1/1000, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 321mm, natural light, not baited, taken in 2013

John Taft who lives near this perch has seen a mated pair in the same location for about 30 years, I believe since Red-tailed Hawks only live about 22 years in the wild that he has observed more than one mated pair perching in this tree.

Each year the migratory Red-tailed Hawks come back to the same area to mate and raise their young, vigorously defending their territory from other hawks and owls.

I think it is amazing that monogamous birds such as this mated pair of Red-tailed Hawks that are migratory are able to find their way back to each other and their breeding territory.  But then.. nature is amazing.



  1. Sheila November 12, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    I didn’t know they mated for life! It is heartwarming to know. Beautiful photo!

  2. [email protected] November 9, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    Mia, I’ve had similar feelings after following the Ospreys here for several seasons. The Ospreys don’t migrate together, but in the time I’ve been documenting them, the male and female arrive within just a couple of days of each other at their usual nesting site (unless it’s been excluded by utility companies). And then, in our area, all of the nesting Osprey pairs return within a week of each other. I marvel at this every single year when I witness is. The magic of nature, as your post attests, makes life worth living (for me).

  3. Eileen November 9, 2013 at 4:20 am

    Awesome photos of the Hawks, Mia! Have a happy weekend!

  4. Elephant's Child November 8, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    Nature is indeed amazing. Turtles who come back to the beach they were born on the lay their own eggs blow me away. But so much of nature does.
    Glorious photo – and thank you.

  5. eric c11 November 8, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    excelent moment for you to get the couple like that, nices pictures
    thanks mia, see you soon

  6. Sonja Ross November 8, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    Some lovely images and interesting information.

  7. Merrill Ann Gonzales November 8, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Sort of restores my faith in “soul mates!” Love this post… Many thanks.

  8. patty chadwick November 8, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Wonderful images…remind me of a painting my incredible artist friend, Katie Lee, did a couple of years ago…an amazing similarity…birds and perch. Interesting info on life span. I just gave a friend some cards, copies of a painting of one of his birds. It’s of a Great Horned owl name Winston, whoooo is 20 years old. His wife is thinking of having my image (of Winston) “tattooed on her shoulder”….at least it’s not my image…..!!!

  9. Wally November 8, 2013 at 7:33 am

    Truly a beautiful raptor! Thank you for portraying them, in words and images, so magnificently!

  10. Montanagirl November 8, 2013 at 7:05 am

    Nature “is” amazing – and so are your photos!

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