Hawks along the Freeway

Hawks in the coun­try

Red-shoul­dered Hawks are not not­ed for fre­quent­ing citi­fied areas. You may find them perched, like this one, on tall util­i­ty poles out along the coun­try roads near open fields.

Red-shouldered HawkWhy? In most cas­es because in the coun­try there are field mice and oth­er rodents near the poles but there are no ‘high­way mice’ to be had by free­ways.  In this case the Hawk was call­ing to his mate. Red tailed Hawk call­ing Who short­ly appeared in answer.

female Red-shouldered Hawk

Hawks on a Free­way

You don’t expect to find Hawks along major free­ways in built up areas. Imag­ine my sur­prise to find a pair hunt­ing from the util­i­ty lines along a six-lane free­way, right in front of a motel sit­u­at­ed on the frontage road, just across the bridge from where I live. But there they were, so off I went to get my cam­era and return. I didn’t stop to won­der why.

Red-shouldered Hawk, perching on a utility line

Lat­er I thought about it. It was Jan­u­ary when the tides are the high­est and the ris­ing water had dri­ven the voles and field mice to high­er ground. A small lagoon close by the free­way had pushed out of its nor­mal banks and the res­i­dent crit­ters along with it. Just right for the Hawks who were pass­ing through the area.

While they were wary of me they did let me close enough to get sev­er­al nice shots.

Red-shouldered Hawk, taking off

Red-shouldered Hawk in flightRed-shouldered Hawk in flight

For sev­er­al days the pair hunt­ed from the pow­er lines until high tide of the month was past, the water had pulled back and the tem­po­rary food sup­ply had large­ly been con­sumed. Then the pair moved on. I heard reports of them being sight­ed about a mile away but was unable to find them when I checked.  For­tu­nate­ly, they stayed long enough for me to get t some of the best Hawk pho­tos I have tak­en.  Here are a few.

Red-shouldered Hawk, landing

Red-shouldered Hawk, landing

Red-shouldered Hawk, searching for preyWatch­ing a move­ment in the grass.

Red-shouldered Hawk, searching for preyAnd off again!

I’m look­ing hope­ful­ly towards next Jan­u­ary, the hunt­ing was good enough this year to make me sus­pect they will return. If they do, I’ll be ready.

Your com­ments & ques­tions much appre­ci­at­ed

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5 Responses to Hawks along the Freeway

  1. David Colton says:

    Beau­ti­ful series. Thanks. Red Shoul­dered Hawks are fair­ly com­mon here in San Diego coun­ty. Unlike our Red Tailed Hawks, they usu­al­ly don’t soar a lot. Instead they pre­fer to perch on a high place until they see a poten­tial meal, and then swoop­ing down for the kill.

    What kind of camera/lens did you use? I just got my first DSLR three months ago, a Nikon D5100 and am like a kid in a can­dy store shoot­ing pic­tures of birds. The sharp­ness of your action shots are amaz­ing.

    • admin says:

      David, thanks for you com­ments.
      I think you might want to check pour my post on Hand hold­ing a Longs lens. I think it will answer some of your ques­tions.

  2. Corona says:

    Some beau­ti­ful shots of the Hawks. My first time to view them.

  3. Doc says:

    I’m sur­prised that hawks are con­sid­ered unusu­al above free­ways. I dri­ve into the City from Marin every day and have often seen hawks soar­ing above 101. At least I think they’re hawks. I’m not a bird­er but will try to look this up based on the shape of the bird.

    BTW, there is a nice flock of pel­i­cans that fly around the Gold­en Gate Bridge dur­ing evening dri­ve time.

    • admin says:

      Evi­dent­ly I did­n’t make myself clear. I was say­ing that you don’t usu­al­ly find Hawks hunt­ing along the free­ways. By that I meant perch­ing on poles or pow­er­lines wile search­ing for food. Yes, they some­times cir­cle over­head above free­ways, espe­cial­ly out in open areas, but they rarely sit on poles. Around here most of the birds cir­cling are Turkey Vul­tures and some­time Crows or Ravens. They are usu­al­ly easy to tell as they are black. The TV’s of course, have sil­ver under wings.
      Good to hear about the Pel­i­cans, I will have to check that out.

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