I’ve seen it hundreds of times. A bird of prey that has been sitting quietly still and unnoticed deep in a tree canopy suddenly explodes into flight. Maneuvers through the branches and limbs of the treetops to take its prey.

I’m awestruck every time. This Red-tailed Hawk hunting in our yard on two recent days being a prime example of why. The good news for many of us urban dwellers is there are more opportunities to be awestruck. And, the rat population to fear.

Red-tailed Hawks are probably the most ‘common’ (there’s that word again) hawk across North America. And getting more ‘common’ as their population has increased since the 1960s after DDT & DDT-grade pesticides were banned. They are doing well in urban areas where we have left some tree canopy habitat in our neighborhoods and parks, but more importantly attracted large numbers of the small mammals – squirrels and rats – that are favorites on large raptors’ menus.

They are one of the largest birds you will see in North America. But as you can see that doesn’t stop them from being accomplished hunters flying from perches in thick tree canopy. The element of surprise is one of their most lethal tactics.

They do this in tight cover. While I’ve been bumping my head on the same pipe in the basement for 30+ years.

Technical Notes: These shots were captured with my Olympus OMD EM1X with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 150-400mm f/4.5 TC1.25X IS PRO. This kit works exceptionally well for this use case. It gives me the reach I need to be close, but not too close to spook the bird. Its mobility gives me a chance to adjust my shooting angle in order to try and get the most open shot amongst the branches and limbs. An unheralded feature in my opinion is the very single small CAF focus point option. This makes it possible to ‘thread the branches’ to get the bird in focus and not the foreground branches.

Leave a Reply