Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tails are the most common hawk in North America, and their variation in color and plumage can make them both beautiful and frustrating to observe on any given outing.
They have broad wings, a consistent bit of dark brown and white mottling on their back and wings, with a more pleasant, downy white and brown on their legs. Their reddish-orange tail is diagnostic.

This particular specimen paused for a drink at a drainage ditch at a park in Phoenix. Some bloody residue on his talons indicated a recent feast. He was kind enough to swoop just overhead right as I was beginning to despair at the skittish behavior of the other birds at the park. He briefly paused on a lamp post, and greatly disturbed the local grackle population before landing  at the little irrigation trench. I'd never seen a hawk on the ground like this, but he seemed pretty comfortable both with his position and the close proximity of a gawking two-legged land mammal (myself).

Rock Pigeon

The ultimate urban survivor, it often seems pigeons have adapted better to city life than people. In their original plumage, pigeons can still be attractive birds. Their large size and iridescent necks give them an unusual pizzaz for a city bird. However, pigeons are also often sooty, mottled, missing toes, and deformed in other ways from their unsavory lifestyle.
Still, they have uncanny navigating abilities. This has something to do with the highly polar magnetite mineral deposits above their beaks, which serve as built-in compasses.