Archive for August 26, 2008

Hawk’s “Distraction Display”

Posted in Photo Outings on August 26, 2008 by John Peralta

My daughter and I had an interesting experience on a recent nature outing with our Canon DSLR’s. While hiking we saw a large brown bird fly by and land about 40 feet from us. We continued our hike and on the return trip decided to investigate the area where the bird had landed. Here is what we found:


We discovered a hawk (Red-Tailed Hawk?) that appeared to be injured. However we knew she wasn’t hurt because we both saw her fly to this location. We then heard what might have been the cries of her offspring coming from a 20 foot cliff nearby.

I guessed that what we were witnessing was a “distraction display” – where a mother bird fakes an injury to lure potential predators away from her nest. I later did some research on hawks but could not find this behavior associated with any bird of prey.

As we moved in for some close-up shots the bird limped away and eventually rolled over onto her back – exposing her belly to us. We took some pics then retreated. About 20 minutes later we returned to the scene but the hawk was nowhere to be found.

Here are some more images:

UPDATE – I contacted a University of Texas biologist who specializes in the birds of Texas concerning this event. He said that birds of prey, with their formidable weaponry and flying skills, generally do not need to resort to distraction displays to protect their young. He said that what my daughter and I experienced was either a young hawk who was just learning to fly, or a bird that was actually injured. Fascinating nonetheless.

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