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Monday, April 30, 2007


Sex in the Afternoon

White-tailed Hawks, photographed on the Texas coast near the mouth of the Rio Grande River (Boca Chica State Park)

There I was, innocently photographing a White-tailed Hawk on the top of a very distant and very tall Yucca (the Hawk had previously been identified in flight). That's the photo at upper left. A short while later I noticed the Hawk flapping its wings, and I started snapping a series of "action" shots, seen across the top row and then left to right along the bottom row. When I finished, my companions all exclaimed, "Wow, that was great!" Well, I had been observing the action through the viewfinder of my camera, and thought all I was photographing was a Hawk flapping its wings. Wrong! As my friends saw through their binoculars at the time, and as I saw later (and you can see here), what it was was s-e-x. I particularly love what seems, in the anthropomorphic view, the "triumphant" pose in the last shot (enlarged at the bottom).

Incidentally, it may look like the lone bird in the first photo is the same as the bird on top in the other photos. That's deceptive because male and female White-tailed Hawks look alike. so the bird in the first photo, seen from the front (or below if you will), is almost certainly the one on the bottom in the other photos, seen from the side, and is the female.

Males and females may look alike, but like a lot of large birds (gulls a common example), young birds and adults do look different. These can actually be identified from the photos as second-year birds. Adults are all white on the bottom and lack the dark throat clearly seen in the pictures; first-year birds have darker lower breasts, and white mottling on the head. No, I don't know any of this; I just looked it up.

Thus endeth today's nature lesson.

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