Gutsy Brewer’s Blackbird at a Red-tailed Hawk Nest

/, Birds, Brewer's Blackbirds, Montana, Nesting Birds, Red-tailed Hawks, Wildlife Ethics/Gutsy Brewer’s Blackbird at a Red-tailed Hawk Nest

Red-tailed Hawk chicks and a Brewer's BlackbirdRed-tailed Hawk adult with chicks and a Brewer’s Blackbird – Nikon D810, f8, 1/800, ISO 500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

I don’t do much nest photography because I don’t want to stress birds at such a vulnerable time and I also don’t like drawing attention to nests because other people might not be aware that their presence could adversely affect the young and upset the adults. There are times though if I can sit in a vehicle and photograph a nest from a road that I will photograph a nest. Seeing nesting Red-tailed Hawks is always a thrill.

This past summer I found a Red-tailed Hawk nest right next to a road in Montana that had three chicks in it that I felt I could photograph without stressing the hawks. The light was never the best angle from the road because in the afternoon the branches of the tree blocked the view of the nest and in the morning I had what was basically side light instead of directly on the nest but I was happy to be able to observe the adults, the chicks and the Brewer’s Blackbirds that harassed the hawks every time one of the adults was at the nest.

Those Brewer’s Blackbirds were gutsy and would sit mere inches away from the hawks and dive at them repeatedly. They seemed fearless even though the adult hawks were so much larger than they were.

I thought about these hawks this morning and wondered if all three chicks fledged. I’ll never know for sure but I hope they did and are flying wild and free right now.

Life is good.


Ethics on photographing nesting birds:

  • Do not approach too closely
  • If the birds show any sign of distress, back away
  • Don’t trim leaves, twigs or branches to get a clearer shot, you may inadvertently attract predators or cause the eggs/chicks to over heat
  • Follow local, state and federal guidelines concerning nesting birds
  • Don’t harass the birds to get an action shot
  • Don’t stay a long time with nesting birds or chicks, that disrupts their normal behavior
  • Always remember that your scent may draw predators to the area of nesting birds or birds with chicks.

For more information on the ethics of photographing nesting birds or chicks check out the Principles of Birding Ethics published by the American Birding Association.


  1. Utahbooklover October 13, 2015 at 9:52 am

    Thanks for the reminders on nesting ethics and the great image. I assume there was a nearby blackbird nest. Being small has advantages, including much more agile flight maneuvers which may explain their courage.

  2. Elephant's Child October 12, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    Some birds punch well above their weight.
    And how I wish that more people had your ethics.

  3. Cindy October 12, 2015 at 8:14 am

    While reading your comments and viewing the photo, I am reminded of the song Kate Wolf sang “The red tailed hawk writes songs across the sky.” Beautiful song, beautiful work once again, Mia. We are so fortunate to be gifted with this earth.

  4. Patty Chadwick October 12, 2015 at 6:51 am

    Like some small dogs, those blackbirds must not realize their size difference…or their hormones (fight or flight) must kick into overdrive when they “see red” at the very sight of a predator p, an immediately reaction…seems suicidal…

  5. Bob Mcpherson October 12, 2015 at 5:53 am

    Beautiful photo, Mia. Love the dialogue. So True.

Comments are closed.