Where I live in Upper Michigan, Red Tailed Hawks are a common sight. (They are probably the most common North American hawk, and can be sighted year-round throughout most of the continental U.S.) You usually see them either majestically circling on uplifts of air, or sitting in a tree or on a power line, apparently doing nothing.
Appearances are deceiving.
Unlike the Peregrine Falcon, the Red Tailed Hawk hunts by perching in a likely spot and waiting and watching for its prey. (This makes sense because Falcons prey largely on birds, while Red Tails prefer mice, squirrels and other small mammals.) It is an efficient way to hunt; allowing the Hawk to remain physically relaxed while waiting for prey to appear. However, don’t mistake relaxation for laziness. The Hawk has to remain hyper-alert. Overlooking even the slightest movement below may mean a missed meal.
So, if Red Tailed Hawks don’t hunt on the wing, why do we see them so often soaring in the skies?
Well, apparently they just love to fly! And who could blame them for taking wing in celebration after a well-earned meal? But according to master falconer John Blakeman, there’s more to it than that. He believes that a sated Red-Tail’s flight serves an important purpose: as the hawk flies above the landscape, it takes in information that could help it land its next meal.
“…(A)s our Parkway red-tails have flown around their Philadelphia neighborhood in the last year, in all seasons and weather conditions, they have been diligently recording just where they’ve seen potential prey. That’s where they are going to go when they want to hunt, when they or their eyasses are hungry. They have learned to cogently read the entire landscape the occupy, and know exactly where the next meal’s most likely to be found.”
What does Red Tailed Hawk teach us?
If you find yourself drawn to the Red-Tail, consider what it has to tell you about choosing and pursuing your goals in life.
First, Hawks in general are all about Vision. The eyes of Hawks and other raptors (birds of prey) have special adaptations that allow them to see with far more clarity and focus than we do.
When Hawk appears to you, it’s a call to pay attention to the vision you have for your life. Red-Tail teaches us to take in the whole scene first, before planning your course of action. Get a feel for the lay of the land and where the best opportunities are likely to be. Then stake out your territory.
But don’t waste your energy in mindless activity. Instead, take a relaxed position and wait and watch until something juicy comes into view. Then, don’t let it out of your sight but claim your prize quickly and decisively.
What if it’s not a Red-Tail?
The Red-Tailed Hawk is just one of many species of hawks in the world. (There are over a dozen hawk species native to North America alone.) They don’t all hunt in the same way. If you suspect that Hawk is your spirit animal, pay close attention to what particular species you are dealing with. Remember, there is more than one way to approach a goal. Studying the hunting habits of your particular hawk can help you find the style that is best for you!
photo credit: Red Tailed Hawk via photopin (license)