Red-tailed Hawk on Solomon's deck (photo by Michael Solomon)
Young red-tailed hawk on the back porch, August 2009 (photo by Michael Solomon)

23 August 2009

When you’re young you’re fearless.  You disregard life’s dangers because you can’t imagine anything will hurt you.  And when you’re busy you’re focused.  Very focused.

That’s what David Solomon’s family is learning from some immature red-tailed hawks in their neighborhood.  The Solomon’s have bird feeders that attract birds and squirrels which in turn attract young red-tails.

The hawks aren’t good hunters yet so they’re looking for an easy meal.  Their parents told them to watch out for humans but this hawk is so focused he doesn’t care that Michael Solomon is standing only a few feet away taking his picture.  In the young hawk’s limited experience people aren’t dangerous, so why care.

Immature red-tailed hawks must change this nonchalant attitude if they’re to survive to adulthood.  The birds travel long distances in their early years and, though most of the people they’ll encounter are in awe of hawks this close, there are still some people who will harm them even though it’s against the law.  It’s best to keep a wide berth.

In the meantime, hunger overcomes danger.  There’s something to be said for single-mindedness but it can be carried too far.

(photo by Michael Solomon)

p.s. Interesting articles:

10 thoughts on “Single-mindedness

  1. Hi Kate: This morning while outside with the dogs, I believe that the hawk that is pictured in this post came flying through my backyard making a very loud (never heard by me before sound)… actually scared the dogs. I live in Dormont and have never seen this variety of bird before — had a really large windspan. Could it have been a hawk? Or am I being delusional. Thanks for any help you can provide.

  2. A red-tailed hawk has been perching in a tree in my friend’s yard. It swooped down and grabbed a full size rabbit last night. Now, she is afraid for her cat. It is an outside/inside cat. Do you know of any ways to make the hawk move-on? She does not want to harm it, just make it leave her yard. I have tried to find articles with this information, but all I seem to find is just general articles about the hawk.

  3. It is certainly startling to see a hawk catch a rabbit in front of you – especially when you have a pet that appears to be the same size. She need not worry about her cat, though. Here’s information on red-tailed hawks to help your friend:
    1. As I mentioned above, red-tailed hawks look for an easy meal. They eat rabbits, squirrels, rodents and some birds (in the city they eat pigeons) and are careful to try for unwary animals that cannot fight back. The red-tail does not want to be injured by its food. A cat will fight the hawk and is well armed with claws and teeth so it is unusual – very unusual – for a red-tail to go for a cat.
    2. Your friend’s yard apparently has prey that red-tails like to eat. Does she feed the birds? Feed the squirrels? If so, the red-tail will stay to hunt them. If your friend stops putting out food for prey species the red-tail will stop visiting when the prey is gone. It will take at least a week for the prey species to stop visiting, more if the food is deeply scattered on the ground.
    3. If your friend is very, very worried she could stay outdoors when her cat’s out in the yard or she could stop letting her cat out. (I recommend she stop letting her cat out – but not because I’m worried about the hawk. See below.)
    4. Many red-tailed hawks are migrating right now so this one might leave anyway.

    Regarding keeping cats indoors, especially if you love birds: I have a cat. I keep it indoors! I know how hard it is (and annoying) to break a cat of wanting to go out. Here are two links on why cats should stay indoors: and
    And finally, do not feed birds *and* let your cat out. Do one or the other, not both. If you feed birds and let your cat out you are luring birds to their deaths.

  4. Thank you for the information. I am going to pass this information along. She does have squirrels in her yard, but she does not feed them. They just live there.

  5. Owls are a danger to cats as are some other large raptors. It is absolutely heart wrenching. A family near me lost their small dog when the owner was walking it in a field. She watched in absolute horror. She was helpless because it was off leash. There are Kevlar jackets for cats and dogs with spikes along the back and neck so predators; (coyotes and raptors in particular) can’t grab them and kill them. I agree that you make the birds vulnerable with feeders with cats who don’t need them for food

  6. Hello, we have a hawk that has been “stalking” us on our walks for the past month. It soars in the air and makes calls all throughout the day and them swoops in or just shows up quietly ,close to us unafraid. We have a 20 pound schnauzer that loves to go on walks but Ive now edited those walks. Doesn’t make a difference, it hunts in our front or backyard and neighborhood. We do not feed animals but definitely have squirrels, snakes, rabbits, foxes occasionally, etc in our yard, no way to change that. We have enjoyed the outdoor environment and animal encounters for 7 years here, never seen any animal unafraid of people. It gets close and we (unintentionally) have walked up near it and then went the other way. I have bought reflective pinwheels, just got ribbon and made a holographic vest for my dog. Do you think its a juvenielle hawk because of how it has no fear of being near people and out in the open? Do they remember people? We’ve been out without the dog and had a close encounter once, wonder if they know me now? Any help would be great, I feel this hawk has taken over the joy of walking the dog 🙁

    1. BB, your description sounds like a young hawk that hasn’t figured things out yet. If it’s a juvenile it will learn in the next few months and/or leave on migration — unless you live far south where they don’t leave.

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