Cherish is my favorite word, and I cherish the ability of turning the routine into a beautiful moment.
Nature creates in me, a spiritual and meditative time to bring peace, harmony and balance, into an otherwise ordinary day~
Mary Howell Cromer

Monday, March 19, 2012

IF... Raptors Are Monogamous...IF... They Breed Within Their Own Species...~

I feel so blessed to have witnessed this act as well as get any photographs of same!

These hawks shown in the post entry below would be as a bird flies approximately 2.8 miles from where the Red-Shouldered/Red-tailed hybrid hawk was photographed on
February 17 and again on March 9.  The post below is not about the hybrid hawk, but 3 different hawks with something very rarely, if ever seen.

Those photographs have already been posted in previous entries.

Last year, when I was taking some photographs of a Red-tailed hawk nest at a different location from where the hybrid hawk was photographed, I thought that I had witnessed something peculiar, and yet, I got no photographs last season.

 In fact, I only shared it with one other person and then tucked it in my memory.

How could this be...could these 3 birds do this every there some kind of bond between the three...?
IF... Raptors are monogamous...IF... They mainly breed within their own species...
What are the chances of a Red-Shouldered hawk breeding with a Red-tailed hawk, whilst the female also pairs up with a male Red-tailed hawk?

Pete Gustas had explained to me this about hybrids " The chances are slim to none. Hybrids are very unusual. In 20 + years of raptor work I know of 3 occurrences, so this is not something that happens regularly. You were very lucky in finding the one you did! " That being said, could the hybrid that I found a few weeks ago, be one that had come from this unusual pairing?

We may not have the answers and yet this was truly a very fortunate and fascinating find for me and I am so thrilled to be able to share it with each of you at this time. I am going to try and stay away from this nest site for the next couple of weeks and allow nature to take it's course. Once I am sure that the pair will not abandon the nest, then I shall catch up with them again. I am wondering now if only one male will help in the brooding and the rearing...will it be the Red-tailed hawk, or the Red-Shouldered hawk that will help with the female Red-tailed hawk? Will this nest possibly produce a Hybrid...I shall be patient and wait and see.

Here is hoping that all goes well with this nest and the activities that will be coming about in the coming days and weeks. Most assuredly, I shall keep you posted~

Last year there was only one chick and these images were taken about 2 weeks before it fledged~

One of a pair of Red-tailed Hawks, March 9, 2012~

The mate on nest last Friday, March 9, 2012~

Female Red-tailed hawk flying to meet with the Red-Shouldered male on Wednesday, March 14, 2012!  I beg your pardon, you might say...she wrote that wrong. 

No actually, I wrote it exactly as it happened and as you shall see~

Female Red-tailed hawk on the left landed in tree right next to the Red-Shouldered male, and then the most remarkable thing happened...
They had a very vocal breeding session! In other words, the male Red-tailed hawk, had to have been able to hear what was taking place.
What you need to know, if you do not already...
These hawks are monogamous, unless one of a breeding pair is killed, then they take up with a new partner of their own species.
A Red-tailed hawk could if it wanted to make a meal out of a Red-Shouldered Hawk.
The males in the Raptor family are smaller than the females, and  Red-Shouldered hawks are a bit smaller than the Red-tailed Hawks.
Have you got the image I am trying to convey here?

There is absolutely no doubt about what you are viewing here.  The smaller Red-Shouldered male hawk has copulated with a female Red-tailed hawk!

The mating of the 2 species of extraordinarily rare capture!  In fact, I could not find any information showing any other images taken of this happening with wild birds on the Internet search that I have completed to date~

The usual high pitched vocalizing of copulation was also very obvious, no hiding what took place~

  The photographs above and below are of the odd pair after the breeding session was completed. 
Above the female Red-tailed hawk is in front and the male Red-Shouldered hawk is
behind her. 
In the photograph below, you see the larger Red-tailed female behind the smaller
Red-Shouldered hawk~

The odd couple flew to the tree along side the nest tree, and stayed there for a couple of minutes before the female Red-tailed hawk flew to nest tree and left the Red-Shouldered hawk on his own~

Only a couple of minutes passed before from across the field came the male Red-tailed hawk, returning to the nest tree, along side his mate. 
I wonder what he had to say to her? 
I wonder if he admonished her for her infidelity?

Special note:

Since this is a very rare and special find, I would so very much appreciate your comments  for better documentation later.  In my nearly 3 years of blogging, I have never requested this, but it would be very much appreciated!

I am also linking with World Bird Wednesday, please visit other birding photographers and enthusiasts from around the world at:


  1. holy smokes! you need to be on Wild Kingdom or something, mary!

    the size differential is really something in your side-by-side photos. pretty amazing she was willing to mate with him when her own mate was still alive and very much nearby!

  2. It's amazing Mary... I have enjoyed it so much
    and thanks for sharing it with us!!
    Greetings from Holland,
    Anna :-))

  3. Just a sensational piece of work, Mary! Major congratulations!

    Bill Huseth

  4. I give you tremendous credit/kudos/respect for following this story. Sometimes people are too quick to move on to the next thing, but Nature is revealing itself to you and you've been given the opportunity to glimpse something truly rare. Thanks for more fully documenting whats going on here and sharing!

  5. Thank you so much for the very kind comments.
    I have had over 130 page views today alone, but I would really appreciate seeing what your thoughts are!
    Have a wonderful day~

  6. Mary, thia is so amazing, great job!! looking forward to more photos.

  7. They are beautiful, each of the raptors are in need of saying one of mine from my past, right on!!!!!

  8. Mary,

    Thanks so much for getting all the beautiful photos of this rare find! The great photos help us to all learn,,,so we can recognize one in the field,,,IF as lucky as you were!! Keep up the great work! Stick

  9. Wow! This is very interesting. I know there are photos and records of hybrid RSHA with RTHA but I don't believe I've ever seen anything like this series of photos.
    Keep us all posted Mary, wonderful documentation here. And it will be interesting to see what the young birds will look like, especially if they have some RSHA in them!

  10. Well I Must say What a great documentation of this rare occurrence, those Photos are of irrefutable evidence of this Hybridization.. You should Be very proud of your effort, your time and your photography Skills cause this is a truly well done piece of research into the Lives of this wild birds, and such a rare event!!
    Well done..
    Jeff Saez from all the way from southern Spain..

  11. This is so exciting, Mary! I wonder if the baby will be fertile.

  12. Great! The pictures are so good!
    Happy WBW evening to you!

  13. Super sequence of some superb nature specimens in their habit!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  14. What an amazing series of photos!

  15. Great documentation of this rare event. So many beautiful photos. It will be interesting to see what the babybirds are going to look like, if there are any.../ Susanne

  16. What great pictures of the hawk. Amazing :0)

  17. A wonderful post to read Mary...
    You really do put in a lot of effort.
    Lovely images.

  18. Amazing! and really great that you captured it all with your photos.

  19. Pretty amazing, Mary! We'll stay tuned. Great captures.

  20. I enjoyed all your hawk photos. Neat sighting of the hawk on the nest. Great post.

  21. This is amazing! You know so much about these beautiful birds! What an opportunity to witness this!
    I love all of your mosaics! Great job!

  22. Wow! I just stumbled across your site tonight, and I am so glad I did! What a special observation you have made here. Absolutely wonderful!

  23. Simply recognising what you were seeing seems to me a major achievement in itself. Your dealing with a rare occurrence that is certainly out of my league. I hope you can make the connections necessary to get your work appreciated fully.
    Thank you for sharing and explaining this strange behavior.

  24. That's awesome, Mary! And to have the photos is just spectacular! Like Springman said, I hope you can get them recognized.

  25. I'm amazed!! Such a lovely post, Mary! Thanks for sharing:)

  26. Like everyone else here, I'm fascinated by your observations - and the documentation provided by your photos. Amazing. Eager to know more...

  27. This is all way beyond my field of knowledge yet my daughter is a professor of biology at a college and an avid birder. I'll pass this post on to her and see what she makes of it. Great photos of a rare event indeed.

  28. these photos take away my breath - I've missed looking at your nature shots. they are very excellent, along with your stories about them. I admire your patience in capturing this beauty. as always, you've done an amazing job at documenting this (for me) rare event. happy day to you Mary.

  29. An extremely interesting and well documented story Mary. I suppose in the mists of time these species were one and the same until they diverged their separate ways. They remain closely related which may explain their affinity for one another as individuals, notwithstanding their different sizes and habits. Fascinating stuff and important to document it in the way you do.

  30. Mary, have you contacted the Cornell Lab of Ornithology with this information and these photos? I am sure they would like to hear about this and see the proof! Quite an amazing story. Well done!

  31. You were blessed with this opportunity and your results are more than beautiful, they are significant. I look forward to seeing a published version some day. I have worked with both the Red Shoulder and the Red Tail in rehab and would never have expected what you are showing us to be true. Great Job ...

    Andrea @ From The Sol

  32. tha last couple of shots are relly nice. Not that many branches to spoil the sighting. They are so beautiful. To bad we don´t have them. :( Thanks for sharing.


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