Dateline – Apr 7, 2007 – Apr 12, 2007, Dallas, Texas
This was an interesting observation. I first noticed these two hawks flying between office towers in downtown Dallas. The pair seemed particularly attracted to a corner window near the top of the KPMG Building.
As I continued to observe the two Red-tailed Hawks over the next couple of weeks, routines and patterns in their behavior began to emerge. Over time it became clear that only one of the two hawks was spending a significant amount of time on the ledge. The other hawk would only visit occasionally, usually late in the afternoon.
One of the more unusual behaviors observed was the habit of one hawk to bring the other hawk pieces of paper. When the hawk would arrive with paper, the two birds would take turns manipulating the paper before finally allowing it to drop off the side of the building.
On one occasion I witnessed the hawk bring silver, foil covered paper (obviously a fast food wrapper). Another time, two sheets of white paper were brought at the same time. All pieces of paper were eventually allowed to blow off the ledge as we watched. This behavior was witnessed for three straight days before I was inspired to try an photograph it.
The most obvious explanation for this type of behavior might be that the two birds are attempting to nest on the ledge. Unfortunately, if this is the case, it was a poor choice for a nesting location. Because the ledge is smooth and sloped, any nesting material is likely to slide off the edge.
I had been watching this hawk, and at least one other, for several days before I took this picture. I first noticed the two hawks lying between downtown Dallas office buildings. I took this picture through a window in my office. The hawk is perched on a ledge near the top of the KPMG Building nearly a quarter of a mile (0.4km) away from my location. At least one of the hawks spends the majority of each day sitting in the same corner of the ledge, facing the glass, as shown in the picture above. Interestingly, this picture was taken during an unusual April snow storm. Even the inclement weather was not enough to cause the bird to move to a more sheltered location.
Even though the hawk rarely leaves the ledge, it will on occasion get up and stretch its legs and wings.
This picture is for context. The hawk is barely visible in this image on the ledge just outside the corner office of the 34th floor of this office building.
This picture is also for context. The Red-tailed Hawk is clearly visible nestled in the corner of the ledge in front of the large corner office window near the top of the building. When this picture was taken, the hawk had been observed in this location on the ledge for nearly two weeks straight.
In this picture the second hawk has just flown by, and the hawk on the ledge has become aware of its presence. Again, I would like to emphasize the amount of time the hawk in this photo spends in the corner of this ledge. This bird rarely leaves this location (once or twice a day for only a few minutes at a time). Note the heavy accumulating of droppings on the ledge behind the hawk.
The second hawk enters the picture from the top left, and prepares to land on the ledge.
The second hawk has swooped down, and is now approaching the ledge from below. Note the distinctive red tail on the approaching bird. Also noticeable in this photograph is the fact that the two birds have different coloration. The bird on the ledge is lightly colored with large patches of white, while the bird in the air is a much darker brown in color.
The second hawk about to land. The piece of paper it is carrying is not visible in this picture.
In this picture the dark-colored hawk presents the light-colored hawk with a scrap of paper. The dark-colored hawk is holding the light tan paper in its beak, and it is just barely visible between the two birds.
Whenever the dark-colored hawk would arrive with paper, the two birds would take turns manipulating the paper before finally allowing it to drop off the side of the building. That is what is going on in this picture. The dark hawk seems to be trying to interest the other bird in the piece of paper he has brought. On a previous occasion I witnessed the dark hawk bring silver, foil covered paper (obviously a fast food wrapper). Another time, two sheet of white paper were brought at the same time. All pieces of paper were eventually allowed to blow off the ledge as we watched.
Here both of the birds are manipulating the piece of paper with their beaks.
The two birds seemed to be trying to wedge the paper into the corner of the ledge.
In this picture the piece of paper has started to get away from the two birds, and is now sliding down the ledge just below the feet of the dark-colored hawk. The most obvious explanation for this type of behavior might be that the two birds are attempting to nest on the ledge. Unfortunately, if this is the case, the ledge in a poor choice for a nesting location. Because the ledge is smooth and sloped, any nesting material is likely to slide off the edge.
The nature of the paper is a little more apparent in this photo. The paper is large and light tan in color. My guess is that it may be a typical lunch sack.
Now the wind has caught the paper, and is blowing down the ledge and away from the birds.
The wind continued to whip the paper around on the ledge before finally blowing it off the ledge. The two bird seem to be watching the paper intently as it moves around on its own.
As I watched, I was tempted to believe that what I was witnessing was a failed attempt at nesting. If so, the light colored bird would likely be the female, and the dark bird the male. Of course, there was no way to be certain, at this point in the observation.
In this picture the piece of paper has finally blown clear of the ledge.
As the wind carries the piece of paper up towards the top of the building, the dark colored Red-tailed Hawk takes to the air. Notice that the light colored bird has not moved from its original position.
This picture has been zoomed out a bit so that you can see just how far up and away the wind has carried the piece of paper. Note the paper and its shadow near the top center of the photograph. The hawk is on the ledge in the lower right-hand corner of the picture.
The paper got caught in an updraft an was lifted up near the top of the building. The hawk on the ledge appeared to be keeping a careful eye on the piece of paper as it rose into the air. The other hawk is still in the area, as you will see in the next photograph in this series.
As the piece of paper nears the top of the building (near the blue sign at the top, left), the second hawk comes back into the picture, zooming by my field of view at high speed. That is him in the top right of the photo, just past the corner of the building. The entire episode of bringing the paper and losing the paper lasted a total of only 3 or 4 minutes.