Rufous Morph Red-tailed Hawk – Finally Some Photos in Good Light

/, Red-tailed Hawks, Utah/Rufous Morph Red-tailed Hawk – Finally Some Photos in Good Light

Big Red-tailed Hawk lifting off, Box Elder County, UtahBig Red-tailed Hawk lifting off – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2000, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

I have been trying to photograph this rufous morph Red-tailed Hawk in good light since the first time I spotted her on the 24th of March in northern Utah, yesterday I finally accomplished that goal. This Red-tailed Hawk is big, red, and beautiful. She was perched on some rocks when I first saw her and by the time I could lock on to her she was lifting off from a lichen encrusted rock that had the same rufous red tones as her plumage.

Beautiful Red-tailed Hawk obtaining flight, Box Elder County, UtahBeautiful Red-tailed Hawk obtaining flight – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2000, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

When I first found her on the 24th of March I suspected that she was nesting near this same area where I found her yesterday and since then I have seen her on the nest a few times while driving south on the road. These photos all show messy feathers on her belly where her brood patch is. Messy perhaps but I can’t tell you how excited I was to photograph her in good light for a change.

I wrote (and complained) about photographing her in poor light here and here.

Big Red - Red-tailed Hawk in flight, Box Elder County, UtahBig Red – Red-tailed Hawk in flight – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2000, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light, not baited

After the big red Red-tailed Hawk gained altitude yesterday she flew past me to the east, circled and then flew back to the west where I was able to take photos of her with the sky in the background instead of the sage and rabbitbrush covered hillside bit unfortunately I clipped wing tips in almost all of the photos and the one where I didn’t she had closed her nictitating membrane over her eye.

Speaking of eyes… the biting gnats (no-see-ums) were bad yesterday and they tore me up, sucked my blood and spit me back out. I didn’t know until much later in the day how badly they had gotten to me. By late afternoon I could tell I had been bitten by one of the nasty suckers between the bridge of my nose and my right eye because it was crazy itchy in that spot then a while later I noticed swelling on my lower eyelid that got worse before I went to bed. It was bad enough last night but it looks worse this morning. I have a lot to do before Saturday and now I have to do it with a swollen eye. This is the price we bird photographers sometimes pay to follow our passion for taking images of our beloved birds. I sometimes have really odd and/or strong reactions to insect bites.

Maybe I should buy an eye patch from the drug store and pretend to be a pirate who photographs birds for the rest of the week mateys!

Life is good.



  1. Pepe Forte May 20, 2018 at 5:05 pm

    Every pic is a treasure. Love the way you captured the powerful movement of the hawks wings. Thanks Mia.

  2. sunny mendelsn May 17, 2018 at 9:39 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing all your photos! I really love to see all of the birds feeding their young ones.

  3. Elephants Child May 9, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    What a MAGNIFICENT bird. And shot.
    And how I feel for you. Camping with the family as a child one never to be forgotten night my eyelids (both of them) and lip were bitten by mosquitoes in the night. When I woke up again I was effectively blind. Decades later I still remember the misery.

  4. Marty K May 9, 2018 at 1:20 pm

    SPECTACULAR!!! I hope these shots sort of make up for the blood-letting — I certainly appreciate all you sacrificed to be able to share these with us. Wowza!

  5. Laura Culley May 9, 2018 at 9:16 am

    What a BEAUTY! I’m a fool for redtails, but the rufous morphs and Harlan’s really delight my soul! They’re just so outrageously beautiful!
    I hope the swelling and itching subsides soon. Oh what a price, but bloodletting is often required to get to the good stuff 😉

  6. Utahbooklover May 9, 2018 at 9:14 am

    Great images of the Red-tailed Hawk—pretty stiff price to pay. We are on the west side (800 W) of Brigham City, near the Bear River refuge, and surprisingly I’ve yet to get even a single mosquito bite this unusual spring.

  7. Pat Jaquith May 9, 2018 at 9:06 am

    Those underwings are a work of art we seldom see in such detail! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Jane Chesebrough May 9, 2018 at 8:35 am

    there’s one thing worse than swollen eyes, it is swollen itchy eyes. i checked out the photos previously taken and while all the photos are good, I see the sheen better in these. What a striking morph! Here’s to a quick recovery, matey!

  9. Nikonsteve May 9, 2018 at 7:45 am

    I feel bad for your eye…but…Great shots!!

  10. April Olson May 9, 2018 at 7:31 am

    Sorry about the eye. I am desperate to get out by myself and photograph, I have been busy with booths and fundraisers for a few weekends now. However your post is giving me second thoughts!

  11. Liz Cormack May 9, 2018 at 5:33 am

    Ooooh, I’ll bet that bite is “itchy-sore”. What wonderful in-flight shots you got though even as you were donating blood, I’ll bet.

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