Sunday, April 5, 2009

Red-Shouldered Hawks--Incubation Teamwork

Every time I watch this pair of red-shouldered hawks, I marvel at what I see. Where there's repetition, I get a deeper understanding. When I see something new, well, it's just more fun of a different kind.
Precision team work, dedication, incredible loyalty, that's a few of the things I'm observing. Some might say they're just hawks responding to instincts. But my observations tell me there's a whole lot more going on. They cooperate, they trust each other, they count on each other and they're dependable.

On this particular day, the female was on the nest. And from time to time she could be heard calling with a soft mewing sound, solicitous and very different from the typical bold exchanges they often have.
Very shortly, the male arrived with food. He first landed on the limb you see below, then he flew to the top of the house in the nest yard where the female promptly joined him.
No more than a few seconds lapsed before they each departed, the female carrying the prey to a feeding perch, the male to the nest to incubate. As she fed, the male periodically called to her.

When the female had eaten all she wanted, she flew with the prey and landed on the other side of me, on a deteriorated nest platform. You can see below that her lovely landing was obscured by two trees. On this collection of sticks, she deposited the remains of the prey and flew to a different limb to clean her bill and preen.

Below, while she rested above me, I got a view of her tummy feathers or lack thereof. You can see the disarray of the downy feathers from incubation. But if you look more closely, you can also see her brood patch, where she has plucked her feathers to expose an area of skin with supplemental blood vessels that is especially suited for keeping the eggs warm.

And what you're seeing below is anyone's guess. She's either cleaning her bill or trying to pluck a twig. I think the former. She didn't leave with a twig.

There is a pine tree a short distance from the nest that the female favors. She visits it before returning to relieve the male, bringing a fresh twig full of needles to add to the nest. As soon as she arrives, the male departs. And this time he flew right to the cache platform, lifted the prey and moved it to a new perch to feed.

Special, huh? Teamwork worthy of admiration.

First image, sketch in progress of the male. This is the 10th post in a series about this nesting pair of red-shouldered hawks. To see the entire series, click here.

14 comments:

  1. The exchange in roles and the feeding and cleaning of teeth after a meal is wonderful, as is your photography with all those great flight photos.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Vickie, you are having to much fun with your hawks. :) Awesome experience. And the sketches are great. Missed you. sorry I've been so busy. Hard to keep up.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You really captured the eye of a hawk in your sketch! Thanks for sharing your intimate observations of the nesting red-shouldered hawks. The red-tailed hawk pair I was observing has become very scarce of late. I have the feeling they had multiple nest sites and ended up choosing one well away from the roads/trails. The last week or so I've only gotten short glimpses of one hawk at a time, so maybe they're incubating as well!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great sequence of shots, love your drawing of the Hawk.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Such and interesting and wonderful post! I didn't know about females plucking the sweet spot - amazing, isn't it? And yes...we humans could learn a lot from this teamwork - just beautiful!
    Your painting is perfect to my eye so far - can't wait to see more!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Vickie,
    I am loving your series..and observations of the Hawks...
    and as always think your art is wonderful.
    thanks so much for sharing all this..cant wait for the young ones.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Very nice series of photos. Thanks for sharing the details you document over quite a long time.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This series just keeps getting better and better. And while I love the (BPW) captures of the hawks, nothing can beat that beautiful sketch that you opened with!

    ReplyDelete
  9. The way you are observing, document, and painting this couple is fantastic. I always enjoy it. It's so cool you were able to capture her brood patch, which allows her to keep the eggs warmer by being in direct contact with her skin. I've never seen one before...have only read about them!! Very cool...

    ReplyDelete
  10. what a wonderful photojournal you're creating here. I love the photos of the birds in flight, especially

    ReplyDelete
  11. great shots! And the first drawing is magnificent.
    cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Beautiful Red-shouldered Hawks painting and great observation.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Thank you, everyone, for your comments.

    Kelly, thanks for mentioning the term, brood patch. I became aware of this after a comment from a friend but had not read about it. After you mentioned it, I added the term and a link to more info in the post.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Ocean Trail at Palos Verdes Nature Preserve, California--2015

Ocean Trail at Palos Verdes Nature Preserve, California--2015

Bird-banding at Seven Islands State Birding Park--2014

Bird-banding at Seven Islands State Birding Park--2014
Photo courtesy of Jody Stone

Bird-banding at Seven Islands

Bird-banding at Seven Islands
Photo courtesy of Karen Wilkenson

Enjoying Gray Jays in Churchill!--2014

Enjoying Gray Jays in Churchill!--2014
Photo courtesy of Blue Sky Expeditions

Smithsonian National Zoo with one of my Whooping Crane banners and son, John--2014

Smithsonian National Zoo with one of my Whooping Crane banners and son, John--2014

The Incredible Muir Woods near Stinson Beach, CA--2014

The Incredible Muir Woods near Stinson Beach, CA--2014
Photo courtesy of Wendy Pitts Reeves

Me and Denali--2012

Me and Denali--2012
Photo courtesy of Bob King

For the Love of It...

...the sage sees heaven reflected in Nature as in a mirror, and he pursues this Art, not for the sake of gold or silver, but for the love of the knowledge which it reveals.
Sendivogius (1750)

Your Uncapped Creativity...

Your Uncapped Creativity...
"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action; and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. If you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. You must keep that channel open. It is not for you to determine how good it is, nor how valuable. Nor how it compares with other expressions. It is for you to keep it yours, clearly and directly." ----the great dancer, Martha Graham