Death From Above!

Feb 10, 2018 – Red Shouldered Hawks


With our backyard being almost 6000 acres of protected wetlands; we see and hear a lot of birds here at Frog Pond Farm.  Some of our favorites are the local raptors – owls, vultures, hawks, even the occasional Bald Eagle. The most common daylight raptor we encounter however, is the Red-Shouldered Hawk.  (Buteo lineatus)

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Due to their loud repetitive “Kee-ahh, Kee-ahh, Kee-ahh” calling, they are more often heard than seen.  Our friends at the Cape Fear Raptor Center refer to them as “The Mouth of the South”!  They are not at all shy about letting you know when they are around. This one was not particularly shy about staring me down either!

We’ve seen a few hanging out around the property in the past week, but today was more than a little different.  A pair of these magnificent birds was using our yard as their own personal hunting ground!

I first noticed the larger of the two (female?) as I was grabbing a final cup of coffee late this morning.  Looking out the front window, I saw her perched on one of our front yard fence-posts.  I’m glad I thought to grab the camera!  At the time, I had no idea how the next couple of hours would transpire…

(NOTE:  the first thing you will learn from the next few pics, is that dirty double-paned glass is not particularly conducive to wildlife photography. Later pics in this post are much better – promise!)

We’d never appreciated that the senses of this medium-sized hawk can rival that of owls.  Not sure if she could see and track minute movements underground or if she could hear the scratching; but as I watched she swooped to the ground and began furiously digging with those massive claws….

And there you have “Kill Number 1” for the day!  One of the moles which infest our front yard.  Good Bird!  (zoom and ignore window artifacts to see rodent in mouth)

After a few chews and a swallow, our hawk then flew out of sight.  So, now it’s time to step out to the back porch to enjoy that delayed cup of coffee.  Luckily – I took the camera with me…..

For just as I stepped out, I saw (but couldn’t photograph – coffee, remember?) the strike of the first hawks partner!  A slightly smaller but more brightly colored Red-Shouldered Hawk (Male?) dropped onto an unsuspecting squirrel like Death from Above!

I missed the photo opportunity for the strike, but did catch the Coups de Gras ….. THIS squirrel will raid the bird feeders no more!

Then a bit of celebration! That’s “Kill Number 2” for the day.

He tried to fly off with this meal almost half his size, but was having a bit of difficulty.  Physics can suck sometimes.

He wound up half-flying half-dragging the squirrel off into the woods to have his well-earned meal in peace and solitude. That’s the last I saw if this one. But while this predation was playing out, the larger hawk from the front yard (remember her?) has now moved into the back yard, and perched on the roof of our work shed…

Wait a minute!  What is that in your mouth, girl?  At first I thought she had some grass to reline her nest for the year.  That in itself would be pretty cool, but a better look when she moves shows….

Sorry, Paper Wasp – you just became documented “Kill Number 3” of the day!  We understand that insects and other arthropods are uncommon (but not unknown) prey items for Red-Tailed Hawks.  Therefore just a little proud of this observation.

Shortly after munching down on the wasp, our girl continued to hang out on the eave – looking, watching, listening, waiting…  I could almost hear her thinking…. “Mole, wasp…I didn’t get any of that squirrel, and I’M STILL HUNGRY! Who’s next on the menu?”

The target of this particular stare seemed to be a young Mockingbird. She was very aware of the lurking threat – and promptly assumed the “I’m hidden – I’m not moving – and therefore you can’t see me” pose. Zoom in to see her giving the Hawk a bit of side-eye…

But no worries, Little Mockingbird – you are only a distraction.  Ms. Red-Shoulder has another target in mind. A quick swoop down to our semi-abandoned strawberry bed….

a bit of digging around….

and then she returns to the shed roof with confirmed “Kill Number 4” of the day….

If we were impressed by this bird’s senses in snatching up an underground mole earlier – we’re doubly impressed she could come up with a cicada nymph! (you will have to open and zoom these pics to see)

Has this ever been documented before? Imagine the acuity of hearing, smell and sight to spot this prey item!

I never did get to enjoy that cup of coffee before it got cold and stale. But we dearly love the #BackYardWildlife who come to visit us at Frog Pond Farm. We hope you do too!

How You Can Help

We would like to give a seriously heartfelt “shout-out” to our friends at the Cape Fear Raptor Center, and the Carolina Raptor Center.  See links below.  These fine folks have been instrumental in developing our knowledge and furthering our appreciation of the birds of prey in the land we call “Home”.

They are both non-profit wildlife rehabilitation centers – and could use your support!  Please check out their websites, follow and share their social media presence, and visit them in-person if you have the chance.

Most importantly – contribute to their worthy cause if you can!



Cape Fear Raptor Center

Carolina Raptor Center



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