Red-tail hawks
are part of life here
on the prairie.
They are as certain a part of the landscape
and the eco system
as the mixed grasses.
In the winter,
they are hunting all day.
Look out the window at any time of day
and you’ll probably see a red-tail hawk before long.
Drive down any road
and you can count the red-tail hawks
sitting on fence posts
or electricity poles.
I’ve counted more than 25
in a 15-mile drive.
In summer,
many go north,
but some stay.
Some nest here
until their hatchlings
leave the nest by mid-July.
But this summer,
I have seen not a single
red-tail hawk.
I’ve been missing them
and wondering where they are.
As we drove into Kansas a couple of weeks ago,
I saw several,
including one in a roadside ditch
wrangling with a black snake.
So I called Mark Howery,
a biologist
at the Oklahoma Wildlife Department.
The good news is
there is no report of a die-off.
So, I asked if there was a correlation
between the plethora of turkey vultures
we’ve had all summer.
Probably not – they eat different food.
The hawk’s only competitors for foods are
Great Horned Owls
(who also eat baby hawks, from the nest,
or on the ground in the two-day period
from nest to flight.)
The heat and dry spell we’re having
isn’t out of the ordinary
and hawks are pretty adaptable,
says Mark.
The greatest problems for red-tail hawks
are winter food supply
(mild winters mean fewer cotton rats;
but last winter was not mild here)
and nest success.
So, we don’t know
why we haven’t seen red-tail hawks
here this summer.
The population should begin to return
around the first of October
and everyone should be back by Thanksgiving.
We’ll see what autumn brings.
I don’t like it
when someone’s missing.
I’m keeping an eye out
for these friends.