Utah Birds, Utah Birding, and Utah Birders. Promoting the sharing of information, and the conservation of habitat for birds in Utah and elsewhere. We are a group of people who want to share what we know, and create a positive birding experience in Utah.


a blog by and for Utah Birders

An interesting note on wintering raptors...

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Monday, January 16, 2012 

Some raptors eat on the wing from time to time or quite frequently; Peregrines will eat while on migration as they cross large bodies of water. Kestrels and Merlins eat butterflies and dragonflies while in flight, and kites will eat insects on the wing daily. But, you don't see buteos eating on the wing very often at all....except when they are wintering in an area with a large concentration of raptors. The competition between birds is fierce at times, stealing prey is easier than finding food on their own. Normally buteos catch a mouse or vole, and eat it on the ground, or take it to a perch.

But, at places like Lehi or Snowville, where there are numerous buteos in one spot at certain times, if a bird catches prey and stays on the ground, it is surely to be harassed and forced to give its prey up.

So, many birds eat on the wing to avoid being swooped upon, like the adult Harlan's Red-tail pictured above.


Blogger Bryce said...

Nice! That bird is incredible.

January 16, 2012 at 5:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Jerry,

I had recently photographed a Juv RT hawk that was doing just that(a FROG no less on November 13th 2011)! Being quite surprised, I had emailed a few of those images over to Vic. I was fortunate enough to watch the entire event from start to finish and the circumstances were just as you had described with a couple of other raptors in the immediate area.


January 16, 2012 at 8:45 PM  
Anonymous Jerry Liguori said...

Hi Robert:

That is neat! Thanks for sharing that info and sighting. Hope you are getting out for some hawks this winter.

January 16, 2012 at 9:24 PM  
Blogger Susan said...


Out by where I live on 13400 South and Bangerter (just north of HomeDepot) there is a field where there are usually about 5-10 raptors everyday. They all are sitting on the ground, and spaced apart. There are several fields around there, but this is the only one that doesn't ever get plowed, so I am assuming there are rodents there. I have been surprised that they are always on the ground. One or two sit on fence posts, but most sit on the ground. I wish I was better at identification, but I know I have seen several out there. Why do they sit on the ground? Is it to get rodents?

January 18, 2012 at 8:34 AM  
Anonymous Jerry Liguori said...

Interesting Susan.

I don't know if there aren't available perches nearby? Sometimes they catch mice as they pop up out of the ground if they know their burrows are right there. They can run pretty fast too in short bursts.

Thanks for the info

January 18, 2012 at 10:30 AM  
Blogger Tim Avery said...

I think the few perches option sounds pretty good--if there are lots of birds and only a few perches the ground is the only place left. Check out these three stooges:

3 Red-tails on the Ground

and this guy:

Close Up Red-tail on teh Ground

January 18, 2012 at 11:23 AM  
Anonymous Ron Dudley said...

A year ago I photographed a Bald Eagle eating a carp "on the wing" and it was for just the reason you mention Jerry - competition. Here's a link to the series of photos I got.


January 18, 2012 at 12:14 PM  
Anonymous Jerry Liguori said...

Awesome pics....Ron and Tim.


January 18, 2012 at 1:25 PM  
Blogger Bryce said...


I have seen many Ferruginous Hawks on the ground this year on my surveys. I even watched an adult Ferrug chase a rodent just like Jerry says they do. The bird did a sort of fast side step at the rodent, but was unsuccessful that time around. I am sure it is a worthwhile tactic given the number of birds I see on the ground in agricultural fields in winter.

January 18, 2012 at 1:30 PM  
Anonymous Mia McPherson said...

Jerry, I just did a post on my blog about a Rough-legged Hawk, some of the images show the hawk eating in the air: http://wp.me/p11Mom-13b

I didn't see any "competition" nearby, but mayne the Rough-legged Hawk did.

I've also seen and photographed Northern Harriers ground hunting.

January 19, 2012 at 1:09 PM  
Anonymous Jerry Liguori said...


Awesome pics!!! That looks like the bird that hangs out on the causeway, cool.

Sometimes bird do eat on the wing, just more common when competition is around. Funny, I've seen the RL on the causeway steal mice from the harriers that work the causeway. Lots of action there!

hope to run into you out there.

January 19, 2012 at 2:39 PM  
Anonymous Mia McPherson said...

Jerry, it would be great to meet you. This was taken along the causeway. Thanks for your comment on my images!

January 19, 2012 at 2:43 PM  
Anonymous Jerry Liguori said...


e-mail me next time you go to Farmington or Antelope Island.

It is easy to compliment your photos, that are great.

January 19, 2012 at 6:36 PM  
Anonymous Mia McPherson said...

Jerry, will do. I'm just hoping for some decent light to go back out to the island, that might be a few days with the weather we are having. If it is going to be gray and gloomy I want it to snow too!

January 20, 2012 at 9:33 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Back to Previous