Outdoors

Hiker documents growth of red-tailed hawk chick

WILDLIFE WATCHING — While hiking on a U.S. Bureau of Land Management area south of Sprague in May, Pat Killien discovered  a red-tailed hawk nest perched in a 30 foot basalt wall.

“I could look down from above or below and be within 15 feet or so of the nest,” he said. “There was a single chick that I estimated to be 7-10 days old.”

Seizing the opportunity to watch and learn, Killien returned each week for a good hike — and to observe the chick's growth. His last trip was Monday, 40-some days after the chick had hatched. As he expected, the nest was empty.  

“They normally fledge between 44 and 46 days,” he said. “When I was there at (37-41 days old,) it was quite antsy and looked like it might just jump out of the nest at any moment.

“I never saw an adult near the nest except for the first time. I was hiking near the wall where the nest is located and an adult flew out from the wall in front of me and hung around in the area. That's what tipped me off to the possibility of a nest and I quickly found it.

“From below you couldn't see anything in the nest so I walked around and came out on top of the wall directly above the nest and saw the chick. In all my trips out there, the adults never came near. They circled high overhead and screeched but that was all.

On the last visit (Monday), I saw a hawk fly a bit and land, something the adults never did. That could have been the chick. The adults were hanging around today circling overhead but I didn't see three hawks at one time so can't be certain the hawk that landed was the chick. He had to be in the vicinity, though, as the adults were constantly overhead.”

Killien plans to return next year in April for a repeat performance.




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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


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