I love wolves, as many of you may know, and can’t wait to return to Yellowstone in a couple of months.

Imagine my delight when I recently discovered some two-legged ‘wolves with wings’!

harris hawk

Yes, Harris’s Hawks (or Harris Hawks) of the Sonoran desert live in packs of up to six led by an alpha female. They both hunt and breed cooperatively.

harris hawk

Several females may lay 2 to 4 eggs in a single nest. The eggs are incubated for 33-36 days by both sexes.

harris hawk

Harris’s Hawks eat lizards, rabbits, rodents and small birds.  The hawk’s eyesight is so good it can spot a rabbit up to a mile away.

harris hawkOne hunting technique is the younger birds will flush the prey while the older birds keep watch from a high perch, and then swoop down on the fleeing animal.

Another strategy is tag-team chasing. This is used for large prey such as jackrabbits. The hawks will tire out the jackrabbit until it becomes easy pickings.

To feed nestlings, prey is passed up the pack’s hierarchical chain of command to the alpha female, who feeds the young.

Since the 1980s, the Harris’s Hawk has moved with increasing numbers into the city of Tucson. It apparently thrives in suburban environments, but has yet to learn about electric wires. Electrocution is its largest cause of death in the city.

harris hawkharris hawk

The Great Horned Owl is the hawk’s greatest natural enemy. The owl attacks nestlings and young hawks and can take an adult male, but not the larger adult female. Great Horned Owls frequently appropriate hawk nests as their own. This means that the hawks often have to build several nests in an area. Packs of hawks will gang up and tar ‘n feather owls when they catch ’em in the neighborhood.

harris hawkharris hawk

Watch a ‘wolf pack’ of Harris’s Hawks coordinate their efforts to snatch up a rabbit.

🙂 🙂 🙂

🙂 🙂 🙂

[All photos taken Dec 2012 at a free-flight raptor show put on by the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson]

15 thoughts on “The Family That Preys Together…

  1. Hi John, I have recently posted my college class’s experience in Yellowstone in 2012 in Yellowstone Reports. If you’d like to post it, I’ll gladly send it your way. Joe Allen


  2. Ooops … Thanks for another lesson … One of the really cool things in life is that we get to learn something everyday … I look forward to your nature lessons wrapped around your life “life lessons.” Keep ’em coming … Oh, BTW, the photos are awesome, too.


    • Thanks, Richard. Some of my valuable “life lessons” come from Wikipedia, the very place so unreliable that I forbid my students from using it. ‘Do as the teacher says, not as he does.’ 🙂


  3. Wonderful photographs. I love the stretched out diving into air, feet still on the branch, amazing acrobats. I wonder if these predator birds don’t have more to teach than most. There seems to be a lengthy instruction time, perfecting, less in other animals. Or if it’s higher up the food chain or common to raptors, more going on than just youngsters observing and immitating or relying on inborn instinct.


    • Yes, these raptors and all the other species I have been following recently are so wonderfully diverse and complicated and intelligent in their adaptation to life. If I had it to do over again I would have liked to be a filmmaker for National Geographic. What wonders galore there are in the Outdoors. Thanks…


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