Tis the season for raptors

PHOTOS: Anne Brokelman
Despite what it looks like, this is normal behaviour for this pair of red-tailed hawks, nesting near Rosetta McClain Park. The park’s southwest Scarborough location is ideal for getting a close-up view of raptors, below. PHOTOS: Anne Brokelman

How do I love birding? Let me count the ways: birds make me smile, laugh, scream with delight, jump up and down, hit my friend’s arm to get their attention, give high fives, and run around the park like my crazy grandkids. I’m sure there’s more, but I’m usually too busy paying attention to the birds to notice my own actions.

Why do I love the birds themselves? That’s much easier to explain. Take the red-tailed hawks I’ve been following at Rosetta McClain Gardens, for example. They can seem silly, daring, fast, controlled, or reckless while they are dipping, diving, soaring, and flying in ways that would make the most skilled pilots jealous. I cheer for them while they expertly zero in on their squirrel targets. (I also cheer for the squirrels to get away.)

Along with the crowd around me, I ‘ooooh’ and ‘ahhh’ as they sit in trees and majestically survey the world from angles strange to us. I’ve watched them soar so high that I’ve had trouble identifying them, so low I’d swear they would scratch their bellies on the ground, and so close that I’ve felt the air off their wings. I’ve seen other red tails build their nests, feed their newborns, and watch as their younglings fly for the first time.

The regular hawk watchers and I at the Rosetta McClain Raptor Watch have been enjoying a particular pair of red tails since spring, and we’re hoping they will stay into late fall. In one of the photos you will see the two hawks talon to talon. Many people would think this is aggressive behaviour, but this is actually a normal game played by this pair of hawks. Do I really understand this unusual behaviour? Nope! But does this take away any of my enjoyment in watching them or taking their pictures? Double nope!

Red-tailed hawks (buteo jamaicensis) grow to a size of about 45-65 cm (18-26 in) in length, with a wingspan of 110-145 cm (43-57 in). These are my favourite hawks and can be seen all year round in Toronto. They have a loud, descending scream that sounds something like “keeer-arrrrrrr.” An adult red tailed hawk has a rufus, or red, tail while juvenile birds have a brown tail. Join Walter at the Rosetta raptor watch daily from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. until the end of November, and maybe you can experience some of the joy I’ve had these last few years watching these amazing creatures.

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2 comments

We have red-tailed hawks in our yard, but they’re usually way up at the top of the trees. Great photo! One of my grdnosan’s favorite books is Bird Songs, by Les Beletsky, with the audio bird songs. To keep it from being too overwhelming (250 songs), he has decided he just wants to hear the owls and the hawks.

I love that book as well. My grandkids love it.

You are so lucky to have them in your yard. The call of the red tailed hawk makes me smile.

Heard them calling tonight by my house. Ann

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