The headline above is a bit misleading. The Red-shouldered Hawks (shoulders) never left, they just haven’t been perch-hunting here at the Museum as they had in years past. I could pretty much count of seeing one of our resident shoulders at least every other day, if not every day, perched somewhere along the Trail either in Explore the Wild or just inside the woods along the path in Catch the Wind. Although I often hear them calling from above as they soar about on clear, blue sky days, I don’t see them with the regularity as I once had.
As with most things, there’s a reason for the less frequent sightings of our shoulders. I could go on for hours here on the cause for their relative absence, but more than anything else, it’s the abundance of their prey items that takes them elsewhere for their hunting activities.
Last year I was both seeing and hearing reports of garter snakes throughout the winter. I came across only one young garter earlier this past fall. I haven’t seen as many brown snakes this year either. There were frogs still active in the swamps on both sides of the Wetlands at this time last year too.
I don’t think there’s any cause for alarm though. The absence of the species named above may simply be the result of the hawks’ success last year. There were at least three witnessed predations of garter snakes by the hawks last winter, how many more snakes were captured unseen by an observer. The numbers may be down for those species this year because the hawks were so good at catching them last year. I’m sure, though, the prey will rebound since the pressure is off them this season.
The hawks are obviously doing well hunting eleswhere. And, the fact that I still see them overhead and that they are still stopping by to see what’s out and about (as in the top photo) means they’re still with us. By the way, there is still plenty of rodent prey in the area. When you have animals such as bears, wolves, goats, and other farm animals on site, their food and bedding naturally attracts other creatures, like mice, rats, and even birds. Red-shouldered Hawks like to eat all of those things too!!
Greg Dodge is a professional naturalist as well as a writer, videographer and producer of natural history DVDs. His images have been used in various TV productions, museum displays, and corporate videos. Above all, he has a fascination and passion for all things natural.
He can be found Tuesday thru Saturday in Explore the Wild, Catch the Wind, or on the Dinosaur Trail. Ask him what’s new in the wild!