Though they won't lay eggs until March or April, red-tailed hawks are already thinking ahead in western Pennsylvania.
On sunny days in January, they claim their nesting territory by soaring above their chosen land, a gesture that says "This is mine!"
Red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) are generally monogamous and mate for life. The pairs soar together in courtship flight, the male higher than his lady. Sometimes both of them dangle their legs or he approaches her from above and touches her with his toes.
After the female zooms to the nest area the male goes into roller coaster mode, steeply flying up and down, ending with his own zoom to the female and then ... perhaps they'll mate.
Watch for soaring hawks today. The weather promises to be sunny.
(photo by Cris Hamilton)