Dateline – September 4, 2021 – Carrollton, Texas

On the way home from running errands the other day, I noticed a pair of big Red-tailed Hawks on the practice field of the local middle school. Both birds were on the ground and both seemed to be very interested in something in the grass. This was unusual behavior, and with my curiosity piqued, I decided to pull into the school’s parking lot to see if I could get a look at what the hawks were finding so intriguing.

Just as I hit my blinker, both hawks took to the air suddenly, as one chased the other away. I was sure I had missed my opportunity as I pulled into the big empty parking lot. I stopped the car briefly to see if I could reacquire one or both birds. Sure enough, I spotted the pair of hawks as the aggressor was breaking off his chase. This bird winged over and turned back in the direction he had just come. As luck would have it, he landed on a light post just a short distance from where I was parked.

I could tell from the bird’s striped tail feathers that this hawk was a first season juvenile. Young Red-tailed Hawks are often more tolerant of picture taking than are adults, so I was hopeful that this would be a productive photo session. I reached over and grabbed my trusty camera from the glovebox, put the car window down, and began taking pictures. But I only had time to snap a few shots before the Redtail was on the move again.

Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk on a lamp post
Thinking about moving on. He took to the air a moment later

The big bird was headed back to the practice field, possibly—I hoped—on his way to whatever the pair of birds had been investigating originally.

But he was not. Instead of flying on to the field, the young hawk instead landed on the perimeter fencing. Seconds later, the big bird dropped down to the lawn grass located between the track and the fence.

On the ground behind a chain link fence

Once on the ground, the hawk spent the next several minutes pacing back and forth along the fence line. Every couple of feet or so, he would stop to investigate or inspect something of interest in the tall grass at the base of the fence. Sometimes the hawk would just look at whatever had caught his eye. Other times he might try to manipulate it with his talons or beak.

I watched as the red-tail fiddled with a clump of grass. Next, it was a piece of erosion control fabric. Another time it he picked up some object that more solid and substantial. There was no rhyme or reason to his choices, the hawk just seemed to be getting into mischief. Check out the pictures of this odd behavior below…

On the ground at the base of the fence
Checking his surroundings to be sure he is secure
Finding something of interest
Going in for the grab
The young hawk was very cautious on the ground
Whatever it was that the hawk found here quickly lost his interest
Moving on down the fence
Looking for something new
Turning back and heading the other direction
Pausing a moment to fluff his feathers
On the look out for something new
This time a clump of grass was inspected
Moving on
I have no idea what this is… a cigar butt, possibly?
Next a small piece of erosion control fabric was inspected
After 5 minutes or so, the hawk had satisfied his curiosity…
…He leapt up to the fence top, before flying away a short time later