May 30, 2007

SUBJECT: Red-Winged Blackbirds Hitchhiking on a Red-Tailed Hawk

I must say I am amazed by all the attention I have gotten with these photographs of Red-Winged Blackbirds hitching a ride on the back of a Red-Tailed Hawk. I had first presented these photographs on the Minnesota Birdling List
and within one week my photographs had been lifted off of my web site and published on other bird bulletin boards around the world. All of a sudden I was getting emails from people as far away as Australia commenting about my photographs. Most of them were positive, but I did receive a few negative comments accusing me of "doctoring" the photographs with Photoshop.

I can guarantee you that the only processing that was done to these photographs was to crop, sharpen and brighten the photographs.

Not only that, I now have witnesses to the event(s) because one week later we were having a gathering at our house when the same hawk came flying by with a red-winged blackbird in hot pursuit. Sure enough, the bird landed momentarily on the back of the hawk.

As it turns out, I don't think this is too uncommon. I have since seen the same thing occur along I-90 in Wisconsin. Red-winged blackbirds are extremely protective of their nests and it is quite often that humans are dive-bombed by protective males. So if they will attack humans, they will surely harass a hawk (and occasionally land on them too.)

So the next time you are out watching red-tailed hawks during nesting season, keep a keen-eye on those red-winged blackbirds and watch for them landing on the backs of the hawk. They do not land for more than a couple of seconds, so you have to watch closely.


This photo clearly shows that the Red-Winged Blackbird has folded in his wings and is perched on the back of the Red-Tailed Hawk.


If one Red-Winged Blackbird isn't enough, how about two?


This photograph doesn't clearly show the male on the back, but it does at least show how close the Red-Wing Blackbirds get to the hawk.


—Alan Stankevitz

Web design © 2007, Alan Stankevitz
All photographs © 2002-2007, Alan Stankevitz

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