Red-tailed Hawks

An Unlikely Story of Nature and Technology Existing Side by Side
Or is it?

Landfills and power generating facilities do not often conjur up images of new life.  More often it brings to mind piles of trash, the smell of decay and clouds of water vapor from cooling towers.  However, for the last several years, Red-tailed Hawks have defied the odds by nesting and raising their young in a power generating facility that is located in a southern California landfill.

 Southwestern Light Morph

The Red-tailed Hawk is a large, chunky, short-tailed raptor.

Red-tailed Hawks are perhaps the most common raptor seen across the United States.

They can be found in a variety of habitats, from wooded to open, from farmland to urban.


Southwestern Dark Morph  

The Red-tailed Hawk can be found in a variety of colors from rufous to dark.

Prey species include rodents, small mammals, snakes and the occasional bird.



Red-tailed Hawks are  monogamous and it is believed they may mate for life.



Eggs are incubated by both the male and female for 28-35 days. 


Red-tailed Hawks will usually have one brood per year.


The young hawks will usually stay in the nest for 42-46 days.


The male and female Red-tail will take turns feeding their young.


With constant feeding throughout the day, the young hawks grow rapidly. But  with wing development yet to come, they are still quite helpless.


And so the adult Hawks are ever vigilant.


Although still incapable of flight, the young hawks become active  in the nest, particularly when their food arrives.



Although the nest is relatively large, young hawks at this age easily fill up all the available space. Still, they huddle together while waiting the return of their parent with food.


When one of the adult hawks is near, the young hawks ready themselves for a meal.



The adult Red-tail swoops in with the afternoon catch.



Although the young hawks are getting close to fledging, the adult hawk still tries to make sure that each gets his/her share of the food. Having never left the nest, the young hawks have no idea how to hunt and fend for themselves.They still have a lot to learn.



It's time to spread those wings and strengthen those muscles.  A little landing practise doesn't hurt.


Since the primary feathers are just beginning to come in, the young hawk cannot go very far.  However, the fledging time is getting near, and the siblings look on with interest. Their turn is coming too.


Practise, practise, practise. 


The power generating facility with the Landfill beyond. 

The power generating facility is located in the landfill because decomposing trash produces methane. Methane can be used as a fuel for power generating equipment.  Rodents and other small mammals can be found in the landfill because of easy access to the trash.  And finally, the Red-tailed Hawks are in the landfill because of the easy access to the abundant rodents and small mammals and a high vantage point for their nest.  Seems like the definition of a symbiotic relationship.

So, the young hawks have fledged and the empty nest remains on the power line structure. 

Meanwhile, the young hawks will learn to ride the thermals created by heat rising from the stacks of the generating facility and hunt for rodents and snakes on the  landfill hillsides.

Red-tailed Hawks will return year after year to the same nest. So, the cycle will be repeated again next Spring.


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