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Wildlife Camera » Harris is most popular of hawks

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« Easier bird photos in the aviary -
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Harris is most popular of hawks

14 November 2009


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Harris hawk

When I first imported Harris hawks from Texas about 1970, most of my falconer friends thought they were a bit of a joke.

“Quite pretty, but they are not exactly goshawks, are they?” was a typical comment about the yellow-legged hawks sitting on their bow perches on the lawn. And when one bird grabbed a bare hand, and for a painful five minutes could not be persuaded to loosen her iron grip, the victim said: “I suppose they have to hold on to slippery lizards an’ that …”

But the Harris hawk is today the most popular of game hawks in this country. This is not just because it is dramatic to look at, with its black, cinnamon and white plumage, but because it is adaptable, calm and co-operative. It is hardy and breeds readily in open-fronted garden aviaries. Pairs rear their own young, and they go on doing it, year after year.

As far as hunting is concerned, the “co-operative” bit is the most interesting. Hawks and falcons tend to be lone operators, and attempts to fly them in groups at prey often end in jealous squabbles. But Harris hawks traditionally hunt in family “wolf packs” and can take pheasants and rabbits (not just desert lizards). They are also spectacular to watch.

A goshawk can outfly a pheasant in the open. A pair of Harris hawks will chase it down into cover, then flush it again and pursue it doggedly until they make a kill. Purists might call it kick-and-rush hawking, but it is much more fun than trying to calm a goshawk who is having a bad day, with sulks and hysterics. The Harris hawk has no time for tantrums.

Which is the reason that many British falconers say: “Try everything, then come back to HH.”.    

Copyright text and photo Willy Newlands.


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