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.
Very interesting behavior shown in the video Bryce, peculiar even. I hope your adventures this week are wonderful.
I hope they are as well Mia. I’ll be sure to share anything fun.
Of Buteos and Badgers! That’s so true about a Tail perching low like that. Not that it doesn’t happen, but being curious enough to notice it and wonder why it’s happening. That Badger could care less that the RT is only a few away. Good stuff man. Thanks!
Wish I would have been closer so I could have captured the whole interaction with a quality camera. I need the bug guns! Glad you liked it Mike.
Definitely a treat to see a wild badger! I’ve seen my fair share of their burrows and some camera trap shots but never in real life!
And interesting fact, I was watching a red-tailed hawk perched on the ground for over an hour yesterday when I was with Pete and Scott. He wasn’t doing much, just kind of jumping around in this sage brush area. I didn’t see anything around but it was interesting as I’ve only ever see Swainson’s Hawks on the ground like that.
Great to hear. In winter in agricultural areas, many raptors sit on the ground near mammal burrows waiting for something to surface. I’ve often seen Ferruginous Hawks hopping around in pursuit of a furry meal. This behavior is something I hope to capture on film this winter. RT’s will do the the same, but are more often seen on posts or poles. When They are on the ground, it is usually for a reason, as it was in this case with the badger.
I hope to get out with Pete and Scott again this spring, and of course you too! Thanks for the comment Melissa.
Amazing video, Bryce. I’d love to have seen this, much less photographed it. As soon as I saw it I wondered if it could be some variation on interspecific cooperative hunting so I checked BNA. Here’s what they had to say:
“In Sonoran Desert, Arizona, Red-tails followed hunting badgers (Taxidea taxus) and attempted to take prey escaping from them (Devers et al. 2004)”.
Very interesting Ron. Possibly the Badger had a meal for itself, and the RT was merely waiting for the opportunity to parasitize a the prey. Could be the reason the badger is acting so hurried.
I love the you have had your nose in the BNA lately. What a wealth of knowledge. I bet you are learning a lot. I need to pay the subscription fee myself. Any serious bird biologist should have immediate access to that resource.
Thanks for the insight!