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

by Bryce W. Robinson


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.