Friday, January 31, 2020

Hawks: Part IX

The Sharp-shinned Hawk.

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is the smallest Accipiter hawk in North America. It breeds mainly in Canada and Alaska and summers in the lower half of the United States and Mexico. 

Like many raptors, the SSH numbers declined during the DDT pesticide years. They regained population but now are being affected by climate change.

They have long tails and rounded wings that make them very agile fliers that can speed through forests to capture their usual prey -- song birds.

Although they are not as abundant as Cooper's Hawks here at The Azure Gate, we do see them on a regular basis.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Hawks: Part VIII

NOTE: A new country has joined our list of visitors to this blog. Kosovo is now the 141st country that has visited our blog since we started in 2008. It's heartwarming to know that at least one thing that we have in common with people around the world is a love of nature. Thank you Kosovo for joining us!

The Red-tailed Hawk is the most abundant and conspicuous of all the raptors. It can be found year round throughout the lower 48 states and Mexico. Some will summer in Canada and Alaska.

Both its population and range are increasing as it has become accustomed to human development. Estimates are 2.3 million worldwide.

They hunt both from perch and from flying, searching for small mammals, birds, and reptiles.

There are several variations in plumage based on region; also light and dark phases within a region.

In Nest with chicks

Young Chick fallen from nest

Dark Phase

Dark Phase

Monday, January 27, 2020

Hawks: Part VII

The Northern Goshawk is a rare hawk with a fairly large range. It can be found coast to coast in the Northern US States, the Southwest, Western Canada, and Alaska.

It's preferred habitat is forests that can provide cover as it searches for prey including grouse, rabbits, and squirrels.

The most reliable place in the Southwest to find the Northern Goshawk is Miller Canyon where it has nested for several years.

The first photo is a male very high up in a tree about 100 yards from the nest:

Here is the nest, again very high up in a tree. The nest was deep so the female was rarely seen:

The male seemed agitated by the presence of humans around the nest, so I didn't stay:

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Hawks: Part VI

The Harris (or Harris's) Hawk. A quite stunning hawk of Southern Arizona and Southwest Texas. It's population has been declining, in part by humans capturing them (illegally) and using them in Falconry. Further, climate change and water usage from the Colorado River Valley have eliminated them in those areas.

Current estimates put the population at about 920,000 down 62% over the past 50 years.

Harris's Hawk is a social hawk, with a complex social order. Several years ago we would often see 4-6 at a time, traveling and eating together. We would often see them in the same tree or on the same telephone pole. They work together to capture prey as one tries to flush birds out of dense trees while others wait to pick them off. Larger prey is often shared by the group. Their diet includes small mammals, birds, and lizards.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Hawks: Part V

The Northern Harrier, though solitary and uncommon, can be found throughout most of North America, although its population has been declining do to habitat loss. Estimates are that the population has decrease by nearly 50% over the past 50 years, putting the current population around 1.4 million birds. Northern Harrier fossils found in Northern Mexico date back 40,000 years ago. 

Males are gray and white. Females are larger and brown in color. Juveniles are similar in plumage but  young males have pale greenish-yellow eyes, while juvenile females have dark brown eyes. As they mature both sexes' eyes turn yellow.

It has long wings and tail and up close, when perched, resembles an owl more than a hawk which helps it hear prey hiding in the grasses.

In general its habitat is open farmlands, fields, grasslands where it can feed on small mammals and birds.

It usually hunts by flying very low to the ground. Males fly faster than females. 

The Northern Harrier is welcomed by farmers because it keeps the mouse population in check.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Hawks: Part IV

The Gray Hawk is very rare to the United States. Estimates are about 100 nesting pairs. They migrate into the US along the Santa Cruz River from Nogales to Tumacacori and Tubac. From there they either stay and nest along the river, or go 20 miles east across the Santa Rita Mountains to Patagonia Creek. They will also go another 20 miles further east across the Huachuca Mountains to the San Pedro River. These are the most likely spots to find this rare hawk.

Unlike the Ferruginous Hawk, the Gray Hawk primarily eats lizards found on tree branches that it spots either from a perch or flying along the river/creek.

The Gray Hawk migration can be seen each March usually between the 10th and the 20th. Birders gather at Morriss County Park in Tubac as the hawks arrive daily (usually between 8:30 and 2:00).

Friday, January 17, 2020

Hawks: Part III

The Ferruginous Hawk is a rare hawk found mainly in the Southwest, though some summer Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Montana.

Rests on fence posts, telephone polls, and occasionally on the ground. It hunts from the air mostly for small animals such as rabbits, squirrels, rodents, snakes, and birds.

It is the largest of the hawks with a wingspan of 56 inches. 

Unlike many of the other hawks, it doesn't seem to mind humans getting a close look or taking a photo. This first photo, at Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, was taken at about 10 feet away:

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Hawks: Part II

The Cooper's Hawk is the most common hawk here at The Azure Gate Bed and Breakfast. We see one nearly every day -- often eating a dove or quail they just caught. In the warmer months we serve breakfast outside by the pool. And often a Cooper's Hawk will fly in and sit on (or in) one of our birds baths for 10-15 minutes giving guests a nice look.

Here is a Juvenile Cooper's Hawk sitting in one of our bird baths:

And here is an adult Cooper's Hawk sitting in another one of our bird baths:

And one eating a dove he just caught outside our office:

 And adult Cooper's Hawk from Tanque Verde Wash:

And a pair of Juvenile Cooper's Hawks taken at McDonald Park about a mile from us:

Monday, January 13, 2020

Hawks: Part I

Going alphabetically on the Hawks we start with two rarer ones to Southern Arizona, the Broad-winged Hawk and the Black Hawk.

First, the Broad-winged Hawk. An uncommon hawk in the Eastern United States.   It summers in the US and winters in South America. Like the Black Hawk, they gather together for mass entry and exit as they move along the migration routes.  It is rare to the Western United States. This one was photographed in April above Tanqque Verde Wash in Northeast Tucson.

Broad-winged Hawk

The Common Black Hawk is rarer to the United States in general. (i.e. not common at all). Estimates are about 250 nesting pairs in the US nearly all in Arizona. It arrives in Mass along the Santa Cruz River during March each year. The Tubac Hawk watch has become an annual event where birders come for a look. Birding organizations collect data on the migration.

The Black Hawk is always found near tree-lined water as its primarily diet is fish, frogs, and crayfish. It will also take lizards, small birds, and snakes.

Black Hawk

Saturday, January 11, 2020


As with Terns, Gulls don't dominate Southern Arizona waters. But again sometimes they will pop up:

Franklin's Gull

Glaucous Gull

Herring Gull

Laughing gull

Ring-billed gull

Western Gull

Thursday, January 9, 2020


Southern Arizona is not know for it's terns, though some do occasional find their way. The Common, Elegant, and Forster's Tern photos were all from Southern Arizona though.

Caspain Tern

Common Tern

Elegant Tern

Forster's Tern