Large birds are easier to identify

The Red Tailed Hawk is probably the most common hawk in North America.  Red-tailed Hawks (also known as a chicken hawk in the USA) soar above open fields, slowly turning circles as they hunt for prey. Other times you’ll see them atop fence posts, eyes fixed on the ground to catch the movements of a vole or a rabbit, or simply waiting before climbing a thermal updraft into the sky.

Both male and female Red-tailed Hawks build the nest, or simply refurbish one of the nests they’ve used in previous years. Nests are tall piles of dry sticks.  Red-tailed Hawks typically put their nests in the crowns of tall trees or cliffs  where they have a commanding view of the landscape. They will lay 1-3 eggs in the spring. While the female most often sits on the nest, the male will sit on the nest when the female goes to hunt. The male brings the food once the eggs hatch.

The babies known as eyasses, and stay in the nest for about 45 days. Then they start to learn to fly and hunt. At this stage they are known as  fledglings. It takes about 10 weeks for the fledglings to mature and leave the nest.

Red-Tailed Hawk

The Great Blue Heron is the largest heron in North America. This large heron has yellow eyes. It has a white head with black stripes and black plumes sticking out of the back of its head. They find a new mate each year.

Great blue herons are waders. They can be seen along the edge of lakes and streams, walking slowly or standing in the water, patiently waiting for a fish to come within range. Though they are best known as fishers, mice constitute a large part of their diet, and they also eat insects and other small creatures.

Great blue herons’ size (3.2 to 4.5 feet/1 to 1.4 meters) and wide wingspan (5.5 to 6.6 feet/1.7 to 2 meters) make them a joy to see in flight. They can cruise at some 20 to 30 miles (32 to 48 kilometers) an hour.

Though great blue herons hunt alone, they typically nest in colonies. They prefer tall trees, but sometimes nest in low shrubs. The nest can be a meter wide. Females produce two to seven eggs, which both parents protect and incubate. Chicks can survive on their own by about two months of age.

Osprey and its young

Osprey are a large raptor, found around the world near oceans, rivers and lakes. They each fish which they catch with their large hooked talons. They build their nests on the top of dead trees, on telephone poles or other high structures including manmade nesting platforms.

They return to the same nest year after year. The female will stay close to the nest, while the male will bring food to the young.  They have a wingspan of 1.6 metres.

This post is part of the Sunday Post challenge started by Jakesprinter. You can find out all about it at

28 responses to “Large birds are easier to identify

  1. Great Horned Owls compete with the Red-tailed Hawk for nest sites. Each species has been known to kill the young and destroy the eggs of the other, but in general, both species nest in adjacent or confluent territories without conflict. Great Horned Owls are incapable of constructing nests and typically expropriate existing Red-tail nests. Great Horned Owls begin nesting behaviors much earlier than Red-tails, often as early as December. Red-tails are therefore adapted to constructing new nests when a previous year’s nest has been overtaken by owls or otherwise lost. New nests are typically within a kilometer or less of the previous nest. Often, a new nest is only a few hundred meters or less from a previous one. Being a large predator, most predation of these hawks occurs with eggs and nestlings, which are taken by owls , corvids and raccoons .

  2. Red tailed Hawk is an amazing bird to watch. You are lucky to have them in your town

  3. I felt all the excitement as I watched your photos. Such an amazing adventure to be so close to these magnificent and beautiful creatures.

  4. You are so lucky, Maggie, to have found these birds. I only saw hawks or eagles too far when they flew looking for the prey.

  5. Here in Saskatchewan where I live the most common hawk is the red-tailed, and in my bird book it says that compared to the eagle, the hawk has a more forceful, dramatic cry and so when you see an eagle in the movies, it’s usually actually a red-tailed hawk you are *hearing.*

    We also have blue herons in the summer and I usually disturb them, standing in the water, on my walks. They are shy and always fly off before I get too near. I haven’t seen one yet this spring but they are a very majestic-looking bird.

  6. The hawk is one of my favorite birds…I love their intensity.

  7. yap great photos!

  8. How magnificent they are.

  9. Beautiful birds, beautiful photographs. Great entry to the Sunday Post challenge. Hoping to take photos of Osprey this year. We have some man-made nesting platforms around the Okanagan Lake, so I will check these out in the forthcoming days.

  10. beautiful photos, love the hawk.

  11. The details in the hawk feathers are so beautiful. I’m sure he’s a real showpiece with those wings spread.

  12. I saw the most beautiful hawk last Thursday on my way to the gym – love birds of prey. Then the quail have been pretty horny lately and to me they sounded like the group were laughing this morning – a quail walks into a bar . . . – ha! Happy Monday:)

  13. Wonderful pictures Maggie of some gorgeous birds. We have our share of Red-Tailed Hawks and Herons. I enjoyed the information here. Especially that the babies are called eyasses. How interesting.

  14. love that red tailed hawk Maggie…some great shots

  15. Wonderful pictures Maggie! Particularly like the one of the Osprey and its young!

  16. Super photos…and I love the resource information you provided…teachers could use this for a unit on these birds. What a lot of work you put into it! Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  17. These are great photos and I love the information you’ve included about each bird! 🙂

  18. Maggie your blog was great all through March and now you have kicked off April brilliantly!

  19. buckwheatsrisk

    awesome shots! i love birds!

  20. How wonderful to discover your blog Maggie. I think you and I may live life in a similar manner. Pleased to meet you 🙂

  21. Beautiful! Thank you 🙂

  22. The birds took your command and arranged themselves just for you to photograph them. Or so it appears. Great photos and great selection for the challenge.


  23. stunning photos, all. I’m biased toward the raptor pics since I worked with bald eagles and red-tail hawks. 🙂 great blue herons are such exquisite birds. great post, Maggie!

  24. i loved your posting. i love watching birds, but don’t get to really go on bird outings or such. those were awesome pics of birds

  25. That heron looked magnificent. 😉

  26. Beautiful post my friend great entry for this week topic 🙂

  27. Nice post! I didn’t realize that heron would catch and east small mammals, so that was a surprise.

  28. All great photos. I love the Great Blue Heron.

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