Backyard Bird Feeding: A Red-tailed Hawk in the Yard

Why Would a Red-tail be in My Yard? Blogger Rob Ripma spots a Red-tailed Hawk on a backyard bird feeding expedition in his backyard.

Rob Ripma

Last week, during some of the coldest weather that we have experienced here in central Indiana, I looked out my front window and was surprised to see a Red-tailed Hawk sitting in a large tree in front of our house. It caught me off guard since we tend to see Coopers and Red-shouldered Hawks more often in our yard.  Even though it was extremely cold, I couldn’t resist the urge to grab my camera and run outside to take some photos. The hawk didn’t mind me being outside, but it wasn’t long before a group of Blue Jays found the hawk and chased it off!

Backyard Bird Feeding: north american birds of prey Red-tailed Hawk

When I first went outside, this Red-tailed Hawk looked right at me but then went back to preening and completely ignored me.

Backyard Bird Feeding: north american birds of prey Red-tailed Hawk

When the Blue Jays first showed up, the Red-tailed Hawk turned around giving me a nice view of his red tail.

Backyard Bird Feeding: north american birds of prey Red-tailed Hawk

As the Blue Jays started to mob this Red-tailed Hawk, it took off to try to find some peace and quiet.

Over the next few days, I saw the hawk all over our neighborhood. Many people are used to seeing Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks at their backyard bird feeders but a Red-tailed Hawk is a little more unusual. The hawk then became increasingly common in my backyard, and it always showed up when the squirrels were eating any of the seed that the birds had dropped. To many people who enjoy backyard bird feeding, it’s hard to watch a bird of prey catch lunch or dinner right in their own yard, but I don’t mind watching these amazing predators work. It’s just the circle of life in the avian world.  The hawk never made a catch while I was watching, but I think the lack of squirrels around my bird feeders recently is a good indication that the hawk has indeed been eating well.

  1. Donna Marie says

    I went outside in my front yard last winter to see a huge red tailed hawk about 5 ft in front of me. My movement scared him off and he took to the sky and I saw in his claws was a HUGE rat. Glad I scared him off because a bit of fur and blood was already on the snow and I didn’t need to see any more. He was magnificent in his flight ..

  2. sophia marie says

    funny u should post this as i have been seeing a chicken hawk (i think) on the regular the last 2-3 months….i’m thrilled to see it up close and have taken way too many photos! hangs out on our back fence in our very small backyard here in Lafayette, IN.

  3. Darlene Kellams says

    I have pictures of a sharp shin hawk in my birdbath, talk about being amazed! Plus he went over to our koi pond. We see them a lot here since we have plenty of sunflower and thistle seed feeders. Occasionally we see them catch a bird, sad about that. But that’s nature. We live in Wolcott, In.

  4. wintermom says

    I’m not excited to see the red tail hawk in my neighborhood – I’m pretty sure it is the reason my feeders remain vacant of birds most days. The squirrel and bunny population has dwindled as well. :-(

  5. Rob says

    Live in Goshen, IN area. We have a couple pairs that are around all year. See one in trees behind our home at least once/week.
    On a related topic, had a chance to view 80+ adult Bald eagles roosting at Salamonie Reservoir near Wabash, IN this past Saturday. Truly majestic birds!!!!

  6. Marcus Miller says

    For several years we have had a red-tailed hawk aro undthe house here in Pleasant Hill, OH–west side of the state, 75 miles north of the Ohio River.It is here year-round and catches squirrels and small birds about the house.

  7. Deanna Griess says

    We live on a pond and have ducks come to eat under our feeders. A red tail hawk got one three weeks ago. A few days later a neighbor came out as he was catching another one. He dropped it when the neighbor yelled and the duck flew off.

  8. Carol Sturm says

    We have had a Broad Shouldered Hawk come to our urban yard every few weeks for a little over a year. I am glad to see it every time, because I read that only about half of hawk fledglings survive to adulthood. I walked out the door just as it was swooping after a sparrow the other day and got a good close up look! When the sparrows flee to the Forsythia bush in a mass, I know the hawk has been spotted overhead somewhere.

  9. Suzy Q says

    We live in Missouri. My husband & I saw 2 red tail hawks yesterday. They were mating – or trying to – on a telephone wire.

  10. says

    That must have been exciting! I can’t imagine NOT seeing Red-Tails, they are everywhere in Oklahoma during the winter. I guess it would be like me seeing a Bald Eagle. =) Congrats on the exciting spotting!

  11. says

    I hate these hawks…they prey on all the birds that are small. I have seen one in my neighborhood that is as big as an Eagle. thank goodness for the Blackbirds and Bluejays that chase this “bully” away.

  12. Pam Van Netten says

    It is incredible watching them soar around our house in western Michigan. We have a pair that nest in the woods behind our house. Beautiful birds.

  13. Colleen says

    live in nw Ohio..have had red tails for years and theres a large nest out in the woods west of house. We have never seen them in our yard. We do have Coopers hawks that do their best to take mourning doves and we’ve seen them have success. Have never seen them chase any other kind of bird. But yes, when theres not a bird to be seen at the feeder, Coop is likely nearby.

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