Harris’s Hawks On the Hunt – A Family Affair (Tucson, Arizona)

When a winter trip to Arizona landed on my travel calendar, I knew a search for Harris’s hawks was in order.  Harris’s hawks reside in the arid southwest US, including the Tucson area.  This raptor species stands alone when it comes to hunting.  They hunt cooperatively as small family units.  Why?  It increases their chances of successfully capturing prey.  Mammals and birds top the list of menu items.  Their hunting technique ranks as one of the most advanced group tactics among birds.  They’ve been labeled ‘wolves of the sky’.

Harris's hawk
Harris’s hawk

If you find yourself in the Tucson area, keep an eye out for resident Harris’s hawks.  A reliable location to spot a small family group is just north of Sweetwater Wetlands near the Roger Road Wastewater Treatment Plant.  You just might see evidence of a successful hunt.

Hunting dive
Hunting dive
Pair of Harris's hawks after a kill.  You can usually tell the alpha female by her position higher on this telephone pole.  She eats first.
Pair of Harris’s hawks after a kill. You can usually tell the alpha female by her position. She’s higher on this telephone pole and she eats first.
Flying off with the leftovers.
Flying off with the leftovers.