Sunday, January 13, 2013
This particular bird came coasting over the territory of a pair of Red-tailed Hawks, which quickly rose to push the interloper away. Red-taileds are easily the most numerous Buteo in Ohio, but in some regions Red-shouldereds are gaining ground fast, or have even eclipsed their rusty-tailed brethren. We had nine Red-shouldereds, and eight Red-taileds, on this bird count and the former outnumbering the latter has become the norm in our piece of the count.
Google earth!) shows the section of Hocking County that Peter and I covered for the aforementioned bird count. Perfect Red-shouldered Hawk country. Red-shouldered Hawks are by and large forest dwellers, peaking in areas with a blend of older-growth woodlands, stream valleys, and occasional pastures. Their nighttime counterpart is the Barred Owl - if one of these species is present, the other likely is as well.
Hard as it is to believe these days, at one time forest cover in Ohio had been reduced to about 10%. All of those heavily forested Smokeyesque places, such as the Hocking Hills, Shawnee State Forest, Mohican State Forest, etc once resembled lunar landscapes. Forest-dependent animals such as the Red-shouldered Hawk did not fare well in those dark days of deforestation. As our forests recover and mature, the hawks are recolonizing the Ohio country in ever-increasing numbers. This is even true in heavily wooded urban and suburban 'scapes. Red-shouldered Hawks are not an uncommon sight in many wooded Columbus neighborhoods, for instance. They weren't there not all that long ago.