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Do red-tail hawks periodically return to nest after maturing to point at which they can fly? (1 Viewer)

Greetings,

You can see the question in the subject line, but below is the whole story:

My wife and I live in southern California, USA, in a rural area with lots of red-tail hawks. We live way up high on our property and can look down into a hawk's nest (telescope trained on it) at the top of a pine tree. On April 24th of this yr, we saw our first hatchling poke its head up in the nest, so we guess it hatched a little before then. A couple or few days later we saw a second hatchling poke its head up, so we presume that one might have hatched a couple or a few days later. We have been calling the older sibling "Donny" and the younger one "Marie."

We followed their development with interest, and yesterday, June 5th, we looked into the nest in the morning and Donny (for the first time) was on a branch a few feet from the nest, presumably having recently done his first short test flight. Marie stood on the edge of the nest for a long while, seemingly getting her courage up, then she did a little test flight to the same branch, right next to Donny. They went back and forth from the branch to the nest a few times and we got some neat videos! Only a half hour later, from a different window, I saw Donny fly out of the nest in full flight, and quickly lost sight of him. I was surprised to see him commit to full flight when we think he'd only that morning started his tiny test flights to nearby branches.

I was worried because it was a bit windy that morning, but nearly gale force windy in the afternoon and evening (we have gotten several literal "gale force winds" weather warnings on our phone recently). He didn't come back all afternoon, and I actually went out on a long reconnaissance walk to see if he had flown out prematurely and been grounded by the unexpectedly harsh wind conditions. Another possibility was that he was blown miles to the south and would have significant difficulty, as a new flyer, coming back home against the wind.

This morning, he still hadn't come back; Marie was alone in the nest though Mom or Dad (which we named Eydie and Steve) stopped by to drop off a squirrel for her to eat. Then, on our morning walk with our dog, we saw Donny perched on a branch near the nest, and then later he joined Marie in the nest to help finish of the squirrel brunch. [By the way, we are virtually certain it is Donny because it is definitely a juvenile (no red in tail feathers, for instance)] After being in the nest for 90 minutes or so, Donny flew off again, and we could see him flying very capably high overhead, despite the fact that it is another windy day (I have a "small craft advisory" weather warning on my phone, which I think is one step below "gale").

So after all that context my question is: Once a red-tailed hawk is confident enough of its flying ability to leave the nest under less than ideal weather conditions and stay out all day and night, can we expect it to periodically return to the nest for a while? If so, is that primarily because a parent is still bringing food in? How long until they abandon their nest completely? Do parent hawks actively teach their offspring to hunt, or is that something they more or less do instinctually without needing much parental training? Also, what about my theory that poor Donny got blown miles away and had difficulty returning? I would have thought he'd practice flying all day while checking out his environment, but I really expected him to return home by nightfall (I think that is what I would have done if I were a juvenile hawk). However, maybe he is content to spend his nights elsewhere and is only lured back to the nest for the prospect of an easy meal.

Well, this is officially the longest forum post I have ever written, so thanks for reading and for providing any insight into these behaviors!

Otherchuck
 

Ruff-Leg

Well-known member
Greetings,

You can see the question in the subject line, but below is the whole story:

My wife and I live in southern California, USA, in a rural area with lots of red-tail hawks. We live way up high on our property and can look down into a hawk's nest (telescope trained on it) at the top of a pine tree. On April 24th of this yr, we saw our first hatchling poke its head up in the nest, so we guess it hatched a little before then. A couple or few days later we saw a second hatchling poke its head up, so we presume that one might have hatched a couple or a few days later. We have been calling the older sibling "Donny" and the younger one "Marie."

We followed their development with interest, and yesterday, June 5th, we looked into the nest in the morning and Donny (for the first time) was on a branch a few feet from the nest, presumably having recently done his first short test flight. Marie stood on the edge of the nest for a long while, seemingly getting her courage up, then she did a little test flight to the same branch, right next to Donny. They went back and forth from the branch to the nest a few times and we got some neat videos! Only a half hour later, from a different window, I saw Donny fly out of the nest in full flight, and quickly lost sight of him. I was surprised to see him commit to full flight when we think he'd only that morning started his tiny test flights to nearby branches.

I was worried because it was a bit windy that morning, but nearly gale force windy in the afternoon and evening (we have gotten several literal "gale force winds" weather warnings on our phone recently). He didn't come back all afternoon, and I actually went out on a long reconnaissance walk to see if he had flown out prematurely and been grounded by the unexpectedly harsh wind conditions. Another possibility was that he was blown miles to the south and would have significant difficulty, as a new flyer, coming back home against the wind.

This morning, he still hadn't come back; Marie was alone in the nest though Mom or Dad (which we named Eydie and Steve) stopped by to drop off a squirrel for her to eat. Then, on our morning walk with our dog, we saw Donny perched on a branch near the nest, and then later he joined Marie in the nest to help finish of the squirrel brunch. [By the way, we are virtually certain it is Donny because it is definitely a juvenile (no red in tail feathers, for instance)] After being in the nest for 90 minutes or so, Donny flew off again, and we could see him flying very capably high overhead, despite the fact that it is another windy day (I have a "small craft advisory" weather warning on my phone, which I think is one step below "gale").

So after all that context my question is: Once a red-tailed hawk is confident enough of its flying ability to leave the nest under less than ideal weather conditions and stay out all day and night, can we expect it to periodically return to the nest for a while? If so, is that primarily because a parent is still bringing food in? How long until they abandon their nest completely? Do parent hawks actively teach their offspring to hunt, or is that something they more or less do instinctually without needing much parental training? Also, what about my theory that poor Donny got blown miles away and had difficulty returning? I would have thought he'd practice flying all day while checking out his environment, but I really expected him to return home by nightfall (I think that is what I would have done if I were a juvenile hawk). However, maybe he is content to spend his nights elsewhere and is only lured back to the nest for the prospect of an easy meal.

Well, this is officially the longest forum post I have ever written, so thanks for reading and for providing any insight into these behaviors!

Otherchuck
Yes they do. They're used to getting fed there so while they're juvies they'll come back to the nest or otherwise hang out with the parents to try to wheedle for food. They'll go off on their own eventually.
 

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