The Rippers

A close-up view of a juvenile red-tailed hawk

At Ridgefield, many creatures prey on the Townsend’s voles that live in the meadows and marshes. Some predators like herons, bitterns, egrets, and coyotes swallow the voles whole. Others like this red-tailed hawk (above) and rough-legged hawk (below) have beaks designed to let them rip apart their prey and eat only the parts they desire. If you watch them on a fresh kill you’ll see them pull out parts like intestines they don’t want and cast them aside so they can get to the muscles and organs they prefer. It’s a bit gruesome and I always feel for the little voles but at least they die quickly, this is how these beautiful but deadly birds have evolved to survive.

I photographed both hawks on the same day, and in nearly the same spot, the rough-leg right as the sun was cresting the hill and the red-tail over an hour later in direct sunlight.

A close-up view of a rough-legged hawk

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