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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Saw something yesterday that was a first for me. While out driving, I saw a red tailed hawk doing some 'aerials' and repeated circling along a tree line. I could see a 'patch of brown' toward the end a limb on a large oak tree. Suddenly, the hawk 'attacked' the brown patch in flight and kept moving. I stopped to watch as he continued circling the tree several times. By now, I had figured out that the brown patch was several dead leaves, roughly the size of a large fox squirrel. After a few more aerial 'flips and antics', the hawk again honed in on the brown leaf patch. This time, he hit it hard enough to knock several leaves free of the branch. I kept wondering why he would do this, as it was obvious he knew it was dead leaves and not a live prey. This morning, thinking it over, I'm now thinking that perhaps he was opportunistically practicing his skills by using the appropriately sized patch of leaves as a target simulating a squirrel as prey. Has anyone else observed this sort of behavior, or know what else he might have been doing? It was fun to watch!
 

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There was a male redtail under surveillance at Cornell University several years ago. He specialized in getting gray squirrels out of their nest.. I watched him many times on video circle a tree and make darting moves towards it. The squirrel was driven into his covered nest. The hawk would land on the nest, grab a fist full of it and start bouncing up and down, lifting the 'lid' on the squirrel nest with every jump It didn't take long for Mr. Squirrel to make a dash for freedom, but I never saw one get away.
At the remote hotsprings I lived at before, a Redtail was diving on a tree limb. It took binoculars to see the Bull snake way up in the tree headed for a bird nest but the RT got him first.
Life is tough if you're bait.
 

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Not hawks but waterfowl, I did observe funny/hilarious behavior by ducks on a pond where I used to work. The momma (or Papa) duck would lead the little ones up on a flight path. Then would lead them into a landing pattern. As they approched the water, very often the lil ones would stall out & just flat fall out of the air! They didn't get hurt cause they landed in the water but it was a whole barrel full of chuckles watching the learn to land!
 

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He could have caught the varmint that killed the leaves on that limb, too.
 
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N. Florida has 'wood rats' that act like porcupines at times, but that sounds like a squirrel in a bad hidey hole to me. Red Tails can be near suicidal in heavy cover. Goshawks zip through cover without touching it, RT's use brute force.

I have a semi-resident Red Tail here that I sometimes see a dozen times a day. I wiggle fingers at her just to see her head snap to attention. She hunts over my dogs regularly. Yesterday, she caught a Vole displaced by the tractor-mower.
I'm afraid I have another 'year of the PackRat'. The dogs have caught three and I've shot one so-far. 2012 was the year we got 17 that I know of.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
N. Florida has 'wood rats' that act like porcupines at times, but that sounds like a squirrel in a bad hidey hole to me. Red Tails can be near suicidal in heavy cover. Goshawks zip through cover without touching it, RT's use brute force.

I have a semi-resident Red Tail here that I sometimes see a dozen times a day. I wiggle fingers at her just to see her head snap to attention. She hunts over my dogs regularly. Yesterday, she caught a Vole displaced by the tractor-mower.
I'm afraid I have another 'year of the PackRat'. The dogs have caught three and I've shot one so-far. 2012 was the year we got 17 that I know of.
Like your goshawks, I'm amazed at how our cooper hawks navigate through the branches at breakneck speed with laser like precision. From the 'feather piles' I find in the yard, they seem particularly fond of doves, but who isn't!
You may be right, my guy may have been going after some sort of live target, a couple of small birds were harassing the RT as he was 'performing', but that is pretty common.
I just wish I could convince a couple of moles to surface once in a while, my lawn and I would appreciate the efforts of the RT's around here, but alas, I hold little hope of that!
 

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One Badger will get rid of your moles...and the yard, overnight. My ground is too much like concrete for Moles to live but Voles are sometimes at epidemic levels. Kestrels keep them in check and a treat to watch.
It always amazes me at how little 'grip' the raptors use to carry food home. The very tip of one talon is all it takes. I saw a Pack Rat running for all he was worth, but the hawk's toe had him a hundred feet off the ground and headed to the feeding tree.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
No badgers here (Northern MO, a few though), probably a good thing! If only the armadillos went after moles. They've been moving more and more Northward in recent years. Don't have any on my place right now, but plenty of 'highway suicide' evidence all around here (worse/more than racoons and possums). I often wonder how they are adapting to the cold winters here, hibernation, I guess. Used to see plenty of them in their 'home territory' at Fort Polk, LA in 1968.
 

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The Armadillos that spend the winter underground breed the next year and some of the young will do it too.
Why did the chicken cross the road?

To prove to a 'possum it could be done.

I remember the first call the sheriff's office got about a dead armadillo on US-27 South just north of the county line. That was March of '75. By 1982, they were thick in Leon County and getting thicker when I went back for the first time.

There's a good youtube video showing worst case Python range in the SE USA, but its not happening because they don't have the underground instincts of the natives. The burrowing invaders, like the Fire Ant have spread far and wide.

I live on a geothermal warm spot in a cold desert. It's just amazing to see the ebb and flow of Bull snakes and the rarity of Rattlers. I see Rattlers hitching a ride under the Red Tail Express more than I do on the ground.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Around here, it would seem that the armadillos are answering the question by proving surviving crossing the road cannot be done!
Seriously, I've read that the reason for high armadillo mortality rate on the highways is the result of them jumping straight upward when they are startled by passing vehicles, a lot more square footage of 'danger zone' in the undercarriage than just the tires! Might be something to that, as I've observed a bunch more that are still intact on the side of the road, seems those that are 'smashed' are from subsequent traffic.
 

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I've been an admirer and watcher of Raptors all of my life. We have an abundance of many full-time species along the Texas Gulf Coast along with a number of Wintertime visitors. Redtails here are generally limited to open pastures and things like rice-fields etc. They leave areas that are more wooded to Red-Shouldered, Sharp Shinned, Coopers, and Harris Hawks. In Galveston County we also had a number of Ospreys and since I have moved here even a few Bald Eagles. We do have a number of Crested Cara-Cara which are very cool. I even have a number of Marsh Hawks (Northern Harrier) that frequent my area. All of them...other than the Red-Tailed Hawk are pretty much Chicken safe Raptors...but they tend to stay away from my semi-wooded areas as hunting is much easier in pastures and fields. Since the Red-Tails are mostly visitors and there are an abundance of snakes and other small vermin, I really don't worry with them around my chickens and to the best of my knowledge have never lost one to them.

We also have an abundance of Kestrels in the pasture and grain fields at times. One of my favorites!! Small, but tenacious. Bugs, mice, small snakes. Nothing is safe.

I have watched most extensively and have a few observations. Ospreys almost always go to the same place to eat. Juvenile, Red-Shouldered Hawks will attack adult squirrels before they are ready too. Adult squirrels can be tenacious and tough. Takes some practice. Cara-Cara's will attack easy prey. Turtles mostly.

I really love watching Raptors.
 

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I lived on the Snake River for several years. Lawn mowing around the utility pole was interesting. Ospreys left the heads of every snack. There was a family of weasels took up homestead right close.
I'm two miles from a reservoir with Osprey, Bald Eagle and Great Blue Herons. They all come over here occasionally to pick on dumb fish. Redtails, Rough Legs, Harriers, Prairie Falcons, Swainson's and the rare Peregrine. Kestrels nest in the attic of on old building here. The ornithologist say Kestrels see in UV light and can track a vole or mouse by the trail of pee they leave.....and watch for grass stems moving different than those just blowing in the wind.
I have a pair of 'Cooper-shins' over in the Orchard. Once in a while one will come through here and terrorize the tweeties.

My best raptor story happened sitting in my hot pool. I put a zero edge on part of it made of copper bar. Normal overflow is about .015 over that edge. I was sitting close by and saw a yellow jacket land on that copper bar and stand against the current like a fisherman in a rapids. The yellowjacket was scooping up water into 'balls' on each hind leg. When she took off, she was heavy and slow and only got about three feet before a big blue Dragon Fly caught her, nipped the head off that fell in the pool beside me and started off with the prize. A Kestrel came from somewhere else and snagged the dragon fly right out of the air, all within about eight feet of me.

Golden Eagles are the bullies of the neighborhood. Prairie Falcons the most fascinating and rare to see hunting, unless it Perigrines picking off Robins in the winter time.
 

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For a couple of years my backyard was inundated with collared doves, they're pretty bird but their loud cooing can be annoying. Several pairs nested in the neighbors blue spruces, that's when the Coopers showed up. One morning my dogs went nuts barking looking out back through the window. A hawk had one of the doves down on the ground killing it then took it apart piece by piece for breakfast, maybe 50ft away from the deck so we had front row seats to wild kingdom. I checked the camera's hoping I'd gotten a midair takedown pic but it was a blur, probably the same as it was for the dove!
 

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crooked, I can attest to at least one 'dillo that jumped as I passed over it in my pick-up. Boy, was that an attention getter! Glad it wasn't one of my vintage MG's. I don't think a 'dillo would fit under any of them anyway. When we moved to Wyoming in 2000 there wasn't a dillo anywhere near Cole County, Missouri. When we came back 3 years later there was. I don't believe they hibernate, at least from what I've read but, like anything locally they will hole up during a cold snap. I have killed them on our place here in Phelps county the year 'round.

Moles....it's so hard and dry here right now I think they all moved to the creek bottoms!!!

When we were farming I used to watch red tails circling high above me when I was raking or baling hay. Up close it was the barn swallows that circled the tractor and whatever piece of equipment I had hooked up. I kept a pack of beagles for 20 years and many times I've seen red tails circling over my dogs when they had a rabbit going. It appears they learn quickly.
 

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Several times, late in the day of a big ground squirrel shoot, Harriers would come in and land and walk through the field picking up a piece here and there but never messing with whole (remaining) animals. Ravens pick up half a squirrel and fly off with it.
Golden Eagles fed on rock chuck shoots several times. I think it was Bob Millek that spent part of an afternoon stalking a big Golden on a rock chuck carcass for a close up photo but it didn't work out.
 
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