Thursday, July 20, 2006


Phot ograph by Donegal Browne

An email from John Blakeman, falconer and Ohio Red-tail Answer Man, in reference to an earlier observation...


You mentioned the incident where one fledgling had a parent-provided pigeon, but failed to eat it. It eventually went to the other fledgling.

From your description, it might be presumed that the unconsumed pigeon was nicely "shared" with the sibling. Let me assure you that it wasn't, in any normal sense of the word. Red-tails (along with virtually all other raptors) simply don't have such social skills. When prey is captured or held dead in talons, no other animal is going to take it away, with one possible exception, the one you described.

This is a problem falconers have had to deal with for the thousands of years of this sport. When a falconer's hawk captures prey, the hawk legitimately regards it as its own. Yes, Labrador retrievers and other hunting dogs will bring back game and drop it at the feet of the hunter. Not so with hawks. Captured food is theirs, period. When my falconry red-tail captures a fleeing cottontail rabbit, I can merely sit down and watch her fill her crop while eating for 20 minutes or so. To physically remove the captured rabbit from the hawk is to create profound anger and resentment. This can be expressed just a few minutes later when the hawk flies once again off my fist, but instead of chasing a rabbit, she just flies off to a distant tree and never returns. My loss for my very bad behavior of trying to prematurely abscond with the prey the hawk captured. Generally, we falconers can't retrieve the dead prey animal until the hawk has a pretty full crop, and then only carefully.

You were correct in your suggestion that the Divine sibling with the pigeon stepped off it and allowed the other hawk to consume it because the first bird was simply filled up. That's the only time a hawk will so agreeably step off some good meat.

Once again, these young red-tails are feeding well.

John Blakeman

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