An Insight into an Interaction- The Red-tailed Hawk and American Badger

by Bryce W. Robinson

TO VIEW THE SCENE IN ITS ENTIRETY, WATCH VIDEO IN FULL SCREEN

While out conducting Golden Eagle surveys in the west desert, I stumble upon many interesting and peculiar things. Car carcasses are among my favorite, but often I come upon the fauna of the land, and stand privy to their every day lives.

This past week I stopped to look at a distant Red-tailed Hawk sitting atop a greasewood, only a few feet from the ground. This behavior is a bit peculiar for this Buteo. I see many Rough-legged Hawks sitting on bushes in the deserts, but in my experience, Red-tailed Hawks tend to prefer the power poles and rock ledges. The bird sitting low caught my eye, so I investigated.

I am so happy I took the time to look. What I observed is illustrated in the above video. Again, I apologize for the quality. It is the best I could put together with my mediocre digiscoping skills. Still, I was able to capture the scene.

An American Badger- Taxidea taxus, was milling about to the left of the perched bird.  To see a badger is a treat itself, but this experience was even more special. It seemed the hawk was paying a great deal of attention to the badger. Along with the hawk and badger, a raven sat on a pole just to the right of the hawk, scolding the scene. As you can see in the video, the badger seems to be digging, and moving something about. I can only postulate what the three creatures were up to.

I think that the hawk had some success in procuring a meal for itself, only to find its prey victim to some interspecific klepto-parasitism. That is, to say, the hawk was robbed of its kill by the badger. That would have been incredible to catch, but one is only so lucky. I believe the interaction in the video is simply a Red-tailed Hawk watching a badger burry its stolen prey. The presence of the raven adds some confidence to my diagnostic.

Experiences such as this are why field work is such an adventure. I hope this upcoming week brings more adventure, as I travel the desert in search of winged wonders.

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