Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Texas Harris Hawk

Several years ago I became aware of a mid-sized hawk (1.5-2.25 pounds) that lives in the South Texas Brush Country. It has the appearance of a miniature Golden Eagle with chestnut colored patches on the shoulders with a white rump patch and white terminal band on the tail. This is a most unique hawk living in a land where everything bites, stings or sticks. The terrain is thick brush and scrub trees that are often under extreme dry and hot conditions.
Harris Hawks are social birds that live and hunt in family groups. I have seen as many as 8 birds in a group. Some of the young will stay with the family unit up to 3 years and help raise younger siblings. The family group will hunt cooperatively for the good of the family and the current year’s young. This social nature is what makes the Harris such a good falconry bird as they develop a strong bond with the falconer and actually enjoy the hunting partnership. The Harris Hawk preys on mostly rodents, reptiles and small birds but is capable of taking prey up to and including jackrabbits. They are often observed eating carrion along the South Texas highways and roads. A very unique feature is you will see a group perching in the brush or on telephone poles all very close together. I have even observed a bird perched on a pole with a younger family member perched on its back. The next time you are in South Texas keep an eye out for one of our most unique raptors.
Here is a link to an article about a Harris Hawk family group and their rabbit hunt. Have a great time watching Texas Wildlife, Wild Ed.

Hawking photos by Noel Murphy and Brandi Quick

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