“Today Was a Good Day” for Taking Flight

Today was a good day.

After many hours of flight lessons around the wetland neighborhood, and landings practiced in the surrounding stately Douglas Firs… riding the thermals must have been the next step.

It was if this juvenile Red-tailed Hawk had been given instructions,

“Fly to the tallest tree in the west fir grove and wait for your brother.”

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Moments later, the second youngster appeared. A hawkish holler filled the clear blue sky.

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Only a single call was needed to ignite the waiting Red-tail into flight. As he burst into flight, an airborne conversation of thrilling, raspy calls filled the sky and echoed through the wetland corridor. Something important was about to happen.

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Two more hawks graced the blue with a display in which they soared in wide circles at a great height. I believed this pair to be the parents.

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What show-offs they were!

The aerial performance was a stunning exhibition of strength and flying ability. The swooping flight and extension of talons are both part of courtship flight choreography.I learned from an article written by the Oregon Zoo that paired red-tailed hawks may display courtship behavior throughout spring, even after their young are hatched. 

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It wasn’t long before the whole family was soaring… skillfully riding the thermals.

(All four hawks were high above, I could capture just three at a time in my photo frame.)

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Parents… prompting their youngsters to spread their wings.

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A good day, to aim high and soar.

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Science behind this post

What raptors can do best… is soar.

Raptors have perfected the art of soaring to reduce the amount of energy they expend during their search for food on the fly. “They take advantage of the natural atmosphere and the benefits of updraft,” … For example, air currents rising up the side of a mountain, tall buildings and even trees create updrafts that birds can ride for extra altitude. The technique is called ridge lift or slope soaring. Raptors and other birds also use two common techniques known as thermal soaring and dynamic soaring.

Cut from: Raptor Force ~ Thermal vs. Dynamic Soaring; Nature; PBS.


In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Today Was a Good Day.”

20 comments

  1. Great photos, Jane! I find it interesting that they raised both chicks to fledgling stage, most of our local raptors lay two eggs but the larger chick then pushes out the second egg before it hatches, or kills the second chick (Cain and Abel), or the parents simply starve it to death.

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    1. Whoa- the ways of survival!
      I did a bit of research to learn what I could about the behavior of Red-tailed Hawks to be as best informed as an amateur bird-watcher can be in this post. However, there is room to have drawn false conclusions. If anyone interprets these bird behaviors with more expertise… I’d love to learn more.

      I didn’t come across Red-tailed hawk parents following the tradition of your local raptors…

      Thank you, de Wets 🙂
      ~Jane

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Red-tailed hawks are the only raptor that can “kite” which is to say they basically suspend themselves in midair. I had one do that right above me as I was laying down in my yard one day.

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