Nov 14 2007
That’s what Cliff tells me at least once a week at WQED.
Many people at work know that I’m interested in birds and the two most interesting birds at work are the pair of red-tailed hawks who’ve claimed the territory around WQED in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh. I am sure to hear when they’re nearby.
This pair has made themselves famous by hunting for rodents behind the dumpster (good job!), for soaring together over Central Catholic High School and mating on the parapets, for eating a rabbit – outside the third floor windows – in the tree in front of our building, and for ignoring their loudly whining youngsters who are too old to be begging from mom and dad.
And they look just plain huge when perched.
The red-tails have generated a lot of questions over the years. Some of the answers are…
- They live in the city because there’s enough to eat and they aren’t harassed.
- They eat rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, mice, rats and pigeons (if they can catch one on the ground) among other things. I am especially glad they eat rats.
- They won’t try to eat something that will put up a dangerous fight because they can’t afford to get hurt trying to catch dinner. They are very, very unlikely to attack a small dog or cat.
- Because they pounce on their prey from above, red-tails like to perch on tall dead trees. To a red-tail, light posts on the Parkway look like tall dead trees.
- Yes, they have a nest somewhere near here but only in spring. Their nest is the babies’ bed. The adults don’t live in the nest themselves.
- It is actually courtship when the male brings a dead chipmunk to his mate.
- They are ignoring that loud, whining red-tailed hawk because he’s their kid. He has to learn to hunt and if they feed him he will never learn. He thinks begging will break their resolve.
- If two red-tails are perched next to each other, they are either mates or parent and child. Red-tails don’t make friends with other red-tails as a general rule.
Today the red-tails were busy, busy. Hunting. A cold front is coming tonight and they had to eat today because they don’t know how long the bad weather will last. Better face the storm with a full stomach. In winter it’s a matter of life and death.