by Bryce W. Robinson
I was surprised the first time I saw the proximity of nesting Rough-legged Hawk and Gyrfalcon. It was my first summer in Alaska. I was along the Dalton Highway peering through a scope at an incubating white Gyrfalcon. Only 100 meters down the cliffside was an incubating Rough-legged Hawk. Now that I’ve gained an in depth experience with cliff nesting birds of the Arctic, I see why these birds tolerate one another. There simply aren’t enough locations to be choosy.
These eyes were watching me as I pulled out one of my Gyrfalcon nest cameras the other day. This is on the extreme end of Gyrfalcon – Rough-legged Hawk nest proximity. These nests are only about 10 meters apart, and given that these young Roughies are about to fledge, they will both be successful. Almost every cliff I’ve worked in this summer has had a nesting Rough-legged Hawk pair. Some cliffs have had two, along with nesting Raven and Cackling Goose (yes, they nest in cliff nests often). Real estate is limited, so all suitable sites are usually occupied given enough food in the area.
Rough-legged Hawks are a favorite. I gained a familiarity with them during past winters in Utah, and it was always a dream of mine to see them on their breeding grounds. Each time I’m around a nest, I remember my current place and business in life, something that is not to be taken for granted. I’m living a personal dream, and I’m happy.