Some species of birds have started their migrations south. In fact, some species, such as the wood thrush, have started several weeks ago. Near the end of August, some raptors have started to …
Some species of birds have started their migrations south. In fact, some species, such as the wood thrush, have started several weeks ago. Near the end of August, some raptors have started to migrate. I went up to Sunrise Mountain in Stokes State Forest, Sussex County, NJ in hopes of catching some migrating broad-winged hawks. They are the early birds of the hawk migration and peak in the third part of September where several hundred may be seen in a day. However, when observing a target species in a given habitat, something else not to do with the studied species is frequently seen which is more noteworthy than the original target.
Along with the broad-winged hawks and two other migrating species seen were several non-migrating red-tailed hawks. These hawks were mostly gliding up and down the ridge looking for prey and occasionally diving at each other. I saw one immature hawk that appeared to have something in its talons. I snapped a few images and found it to be some sort of stick. Pieces of it appeared to be flying off into the sky and it was probably somewhat decayed. It appeared that this young red-tailed hawk was playing with this stick.
I have seen this on one other occasion and that was also an immature red-tailed hawk. It seems, like many other species, the red-tailed hawk has a strong play instinct. It’s a means of sharpening various skills needed to hunt and to survive. Follow the sequence of photos in this week’s column for a lesson in sky play.