Readers’ wildlife photos: a red-tailed hawk hunts pigeons in Providence

In one hour I’ll reveal the location of the nightjar, so do your looking now.

Reader Peter Green lives in Providence, Rhode Island and is an accomplished photographer of wildlife; you can see his photos at Providence Raptors.  But he has an unusual speciality: as he notes “My focus is urban raptors. . . I spot them all over Providence while most others just walk right by (see photo attached).”

Here’s the photo that was attached, of a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis):

hawk-december13-1

Peter also has a wonderful series called “Hungry hawk hunting in Providence,” which was his most popular post of the year. It’s comprises 17 photos of people feeding pigeons in the city, giving a hungry red-tail a chance for his own lunch.  Go over and see them all, but Peter has also sent me a selection. Remember that these are copyrighted and cannot be reproduced without permission (I have permission).

You can read more about Peter and his photography here.

PeterGreen-RTH1

PeterGreen-RTH2

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PeterGreen-RTH4 PeterGreen-RTH5

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PeterGreen-RTH8

15 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted January 1, 2014 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    too cool.

  2. Posted January 1, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Reminds me of the peregrine falcons that abound in London. Here’s an article about them:

    http://www.theecologist.org/campaigning/wildlife/573303/urban_birdlife_encouraging_peregrine_falcons_in_london.html

  3. Diana MacPherson
    Posted January 1, 2014 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Wow they are so used to humans!

    • Achrachno
      Posted January 1, 2014 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I’m surprised too. Red tails are the most common hawks around here in So CA, but they never approach people that closely. They’re skittish. Maybe we have more shooters than they do in Providence?

      I’ve never seen them attack birds either, though I’ve heard they do. They seem to be rodent (esp.ground squirrel) and snake specialists in my neighborhood.

    • Diane G.
      Posted January 1, 2014 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

      My thought too!

      In addition to “what great shots!” and “what a fascinating behavior,” of course.

  4. BSR
    Posted January 1, 2014 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful pictures! With the downtown buildings and trees as background, the bird’s colors really stand out.

    Most of the humans there have no idea what’s going on around them. I especially like the 3rd pic — those two have no clue that a predator with a four-foot wingspan just zoomed past in pursuit!

    #5 is also a very cool shot — looks like a plane diving in for a bombing or strafing run. What terror that must induce in the pigeons!

    Interestingly, the red-tail that hangs out in my yard doesn’t scare the smaller birds off at all. I quite often see one in a tree with smaller birds perched in surrounding branches showing no fear. I don’t have many pigeons, though….maybe it is after the squirrels.

    I just photographed my local red-tail in a tree on Christmas morning. I thought I had some pretty good shots, but now…..well….I’ll have to just keep trying. Peter Green’s pics put mine to shame!

  5. Lee
    Posted January 1, 2014 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Would speculate that we are seeing a tiercel redtail-that’s a male to you non-falconers. Females which are one third larger would probably be too large and clumsy to catch a pigeon. Actually I’m a little surprised that even a male can do it. But these aren’t really natural conditions.

    Interestingly, a recent paper on peregrine predation of pigeons in Los Angeles noted that pigeons with white rump patches suffer 40% fewer casualties. I think it was speculated that the striking color contrast was somehow disruptive to zeroing in on prey.

  6. Hempenstein
    Posted January 1, 2014 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Cool shots! We have a good supply in Pittsburgh, incl I think a nest of red-tails in the big hemlock right beside my house, and I’ve seen their aftermath but I’ve never seen one in a dive or actively taking out a pigeon/equivalent.

  7. Marella
    Posted January 1, 2014 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    We could use some of these guys round here. Our pigeons don’t seem to have any natural predators at all, except Chairman Meow of course.

  8. pacopicopiedra
    Posted January 1, 2014 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    There’s a family of red-tailed hawks that lives right down the street from me at Washington Square Park. I’ve seen them go for rats, but never pigeons. I have seen pigeon carcasses that look like they might have been hawk prey, though. Anyway, the birds are beautiful and wonderful to see in the middle of New York City. I have pictures, but none of good enough quality to post here. If anyone is interested, there is a website dedicated to them but I’m too lazy to figure it out now, just google WSP hawks.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted January 1, 2014 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

      It’s my understanding that red tails, while they do eat birds, don’t generally prefer birds. I’ve seen this play out in my yard as well – the birds will scatter and/or freeze when they see a cooper’s hawk but they won’t panic if they see a red tail unless is swooping near by.

  9. Willard Bolinger
    Posted January 1, 2014 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    I saw a hawk grab a pigeon in the air among a flock of pigeons taking off from clay tiles of a apartment complex in Olathe, Kansas in late afternoon of Nov 2013

  10. Posted January 1, 2014 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Wow, fantastic photos.

    Our resident raptor likes to go after doves feeding on the ground. Cheeky fella (maybe it’s a girl, I don’t know) will sit atop the fence and pluck and nom.

  11. Jar
    Posted January 1, 2014 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    This is so odd. I’ve lived in and around Providence for the past 8 years. I guarantee I’ve walked right by these birds and never noticed it.


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