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Raptor Mating Season

March 2nd, 2011

Raptor Mating Season

Raptors begin their nesting cycle in late winter / early spring.  I’ve noticed recently that the hawks are already paired up along my drive-route to work.  The other day, I observed three separate pairs of Red-Tailed hawks perching in prominent trees.  These perches appeared to be located near prime hunting grounds and in one case, in the same tree as a large nest.

Hawk nests are found in large, tall trees from 34 to 86 feet high in the forks of large branches and limbs. The structure of the nest is large, flat, and shallow, made of sticks and twigs about 1/2 inch in diameter. Male and female Red-Tails work together on nest construction. Nest sites may be used from year to year, since there is strong evidence that hawks mate for life. If the old nest is damaged by the wind or other weather events, new layers of new nesting material are added. Nests that are reused from year to year can grow to be very large with several layers of materials.

Red-Tailed Hawks are not the only raptors starting to pair up.   A few weeks ago, my wife heard some noises outside the house at night. Deep, resonating hoots could be heard from the backyard as a pair of Great Horned Owls were roosting in the large pine tree back in the swamp.  After listening to them for a bit, we noticed them flying over the house and into the front yard.  Watching them out the front window, in the dark, it was easy to see the big silhouettes high up in the cottonwood tree.  Owls begin their mating cycle earlier in the winter, sooner than Hawks, as the young take longer to fledge the nest.


Happy Nesting and Raptor Watching!

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