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