red tailed hawk on strawberry hill in golden gate park

Sketches of red tail hawk on Strawberry Hill (Heath Massey)

Sketches of red tail hawk on Strawberry Hill (Heath Massey)

This weekend, on another sketching expedition in Golden Gate Park, I spotted a young red tailed hawk in a tree just at eye level on Strawberry Hill.  It paid no attention to me.  Barrel-chested and looking mighty puffed-up, with a haughty affect like a brigadier general, it sternly surveyed the scene below, in between bouts of determined grooming, working particularly hard on a downy feather that was out of line under one wing.  Gratefully, I made a series of leisurely sketches, trying to capture its proportions, posture and coloring.   Small head in relation to large body, squared shoulders, ungainly large feet.  Light yellowish breast with spotted waistcoat (much lighter, subtler yellow than in this drawing).  Dark chestnut-colored back and head.  Slightly hooked beak with a dark tip.  Striped underside of the tail.  The big personality of this bird was mesmerizing;  I left reluctantly.

As I was heading down the hill a jogger stopped me and asked, “Did you see the hawk?”  I said yes and he said two of them are often seen there lately, one juvenile and one adult.  At home, I googled “red tailed hawks Golden Gate Park,” and found this video on u-tube, posted by  Mila Zinkova a couple of weeks ago.   Looks like good hunting in the park for this pair:


About fromthethicket

I'm a landscape historian and professor emeritus of landscape architecture, UC Davis. I live in San Francisco.
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4 Responses to red tailed hawk on strawberry hill in golden gate park

  1. I saw the same bird, I think, being mobbed by some ravens. They forced it down, but fortunately did not seem to have hurt it. Later, I saw the other one hanging out in a tree near the bridge, while a Steller’s Jay yelled rude things at it.

  2. I would love to have seen that! I guess the only recourse the other (smaller) birds have is to gang up on the hawks.

  3. milliontrees says:

    Interesting video. That must have been taken from pretty high up in the tree. Wonder how the photographer managed to get such a good perspective.

    The eucalypts are the preferred roosting and nesting habitat of raptors and owls. Here’s the abstract of a study of Red-shouldered Hawks in Santa Clara County:
    “Fourteen of 27 nests in 1994 and 38 of 58 nests in 1995 were in exotic trees, predominantly eucalyptus. Nesting and fledging success were higher in exotic trees than in native trees in both years, owing in part to greater stability and protective cover. Most nest trees in upland areas were exotics, and even in riparian habitats, where tall native cottonwoods and sycamores were available, Red-shouldered Hawks selected eucalyptus more often than expected based on their availability. Of the habitat and nest-tree variables measured at each nest, only nest-tree height and diameter were significantly associated with reproductive success, suggesting that large, sturdy trees provided the best nest sites. Red-shouldered Hawk populations in the study area have likely benefited from the planting of exotic eucalyptus and fan palms.”
    Stephen Rottenborn, “Nest-Site selection and reproductive success of urban red-shouldered hawks in Central California,” J. Raptor Res, 34(1):18-25

    • The video was taken near the top of Strawberry Hill, where you are at eye level with the tops of some of the trees growing at the bottom of the hill. That’s also the vantage point from which I sketched the hawk.

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