My New Book


Goshawks & Red-tails, Oh My!

Frank Taylor just sent me last weekend’s banding report from his hawk trapping station in northern Minnesota. While I was busy with birding in Cape May, NJ over the weekend, he was dealing with goshawks and a double red-tailed hawk capture! So wish I had not been working and had been at the blind with him.

I just love this photo! This is a red-tailed hawk getting ready to fly into the nets. But look at the great light the hawk is flying in, the sun is hitting some dark clouds in the distance and the vegetation has browns, yellows, whites and green to make a late autumn look–three of my favorite things all in one shot! You’ll note I have a similar theme on my banner on the blog. That’s how I imagine heaven will be (that and all the angels look like Daniel Craig).

Because Frank bands on the weekends and not during the week, the station is dependent on winds coming out of the northwest just on the weekends to get good numbers of migrating raptors moving through. The weather mojo hasn’t been really been that cooperative this year, so most of the weekends have been slow going. Ah well, some years that’s the way it crumbles, cookie-wise.

Although Saturday Frank said, “Not much was moving in the morning and our first bird of the day was a huge second year adult female Goshawk that came in at 11:40 am.” Check out how big that girl is! That’s Chuck and Rick holding her. She’s HUGE. She’s no doubt female (in the raptor world females are larger than males and it’s more noticeable in bird eating raptors like goshawks).

Frank noted that she’s a second year bird, meaning she hatched in 2007. She’s got her adult gray feathers, but her eyes are still quite yellow. The older these accipiters get (accipiters are a type of hawk that includes sharp-shinned hawks and Cooper’s hawks), the more red their eyes become. Here’s a photo I took a few years ago of an adult gos with those red eyes:

That red with that delicate gray makes them the most beautiful raptor (in the US) in my book. It also makes them look more maniacal.

They did get a passage (hatched this year) goshawk too–note the brown feathers and yellow eyes. Ug, this is so painful. I love Cape May and I loved birding and I got some fabulous digiscoping images (I still have a few more to post) but I love goshawks so much, I’m so sorry I missed this weekend at Frank’s station. And as awesome as goshawks are, they also had some other excitement in the nets:

“A lot of birds started moving. First the Crows got up, followed by the Eagles and Ravens, then an explosion of adult Red-tails with some Rough-legs and Shins mixed in. At various times during the day, we could see as many as thirty birds in the air at once. What a day!!! A lot of the Red-tails would swoop in and perch in the trees over the blinds. We had to go out and shoo them away so they wouldn’t scare off any of the others that were making their final approach to the nets.”

The highlight of the day came when we got a double of adult Red-tails at 3:35 pm. When they hit, Rick shot out past the one in the front net knowing it was securely caught and grabbed the one in the mist net that was all but out, except for its feet!!! Chuck got on the other one right away. WAY TO GO, GUYS!!!! That was the first time we ever got a double on larger hawks. (We did get a triple on Shins once a few years back.)”

Total for Sunday – 13 Red-tails, 2 Goshawks, & 2 Sharp-shins. Total for the weekend is 19 birds. 13 Red-tails, 3 Goshawks, & 3 Sharp-shins.”

Thanks for sharing your photos, Frank. This is his last weekend up at his banding station for 2008. I’ll have to wait until next year.


6 comments to Goshawks & Red-tails, Oh My!

  • Jess

    Don’t you just love all those gentle golden-browns and yellows? And you get that dry rustle through the big grasses when the wind blows. Gorgeous. :)

    Daniel Craig angels? Sure, but can we throw in a few winged David Tennants, too? I think I’d be disappointed if there weren’t a few David Tennants knocking around.

  • Steve

    They must be, but ARE raptor mist nets different than song bird mist nets? I would think they'd soon get destroyed if they weren't more heavy duty. I've seen the traps used, but didn't know much about the nets. I have my eye set on raptor banding as a retirement activity. Much better than fishing (although kinda similar with the bait thing & all).

    Goshawks..oh yeah….only saw one in my life and a juvenile at that. Some day, some day….Georgia gets maybe one every 10 years or so. BTW, we might be having an invasion year for siskins down here. Not nearly as exciting as a gos, but something to make feeder-watching a little more interesting.

    Love the blog as always. Cheers….(I'd love to do a Birds & Beers thing here…but the south isn't as well know for the drinking thing as much as the upper midwest…and I mean that with all due respect). ;-)

  • birdchick


    your guardian angels can look like whoever you want them to look like…although, did you hear? Tennant is leaving Doctor Who!


    They are bigger.

  • Kirk Mona

    Gosh, Hawks!

    I suppose Daniel Craig is better than Larry Craig.

  • Jess

    Sharon: I heard. :O Hubby and I both had a good sulk over it. They’re saying Paterson Joseph might be next, though– he’d be fantastic.


    I’m reminded: all the red-tail banding photos have really helped me out of a hawk ID bind! I had a hawk land on my deck rail (!) back in January, and have been squinting at the one blurry photo I managed to get on and off for months now, trying to figure out if it was a red-tail or not. I’m pretty sure now that it was a juvenile– you posted one of a juvenile a while ago, and it was a dead ringer for the bird I saw– very white, no red in the tail, but too big to be a Cooper’s hawk. Thanks and hooray! :)