Nest 1, Hawk 0: Nesting Great Blue Herons Threatened by Red Tailed Hawk

The threatening skies weren’t the only peril facing the great blue herons on the nesting island.

© 2012-2013 Babsje. (Http://

Great blue heron guarding the nest while a red tailed hawk circles in the background.

In heightened vigilance, one heron stood sentry above the nest while it’s mate stretched out low over their clutch of eggs.

They had mated not quite four weeks earlier, and predators already had designs on the eggs and chicks. The top photo here shows a red tailed hawk circling menacingly.

Less than 48 hours earlier when only one heron occupied the nest, a red tailed hawk landed on the treetops mere feet away from the nest. Great blue herons have little to fear from predators in a nest seventy feet up, except for eagles, great horned owls, and certain raptors. This red tailed hawk is one such predatory raptor.

© 2012-2013 Babsje. (Http://

Red Tailed Hawk threatening nesting Great Blue Heron as smaller birds look on.

The photo above shows the scene two days before, with the red tailed hawk lurking at the left of the frame. At right, the heron in the nest is on alert, cap feathers erect in alarm. Above the hawk, several smaller birds wheeled and spun and scolded the hawk in a cacophonous squabble that was audible in my hide all the way across the channel.

My heart was in my throat as I watched the scene unfold. I have written before about the symbiotic relationship between cormorants and great blue herons, but on this day there were no cormorants about. Instead, jays and grackles came to the rescue.

The standoff went on for quite a while, but when it was done, the jays and grackles had vanquished the red tailed hawk.

If a hawk can be said to “slink off” in defeat, this one certainly did. As you can see from the photo below, not content with the hawk merely leaving the island, one of the smaller birds latched on to the hawk’s shoulder and pecked at the hawk’s head as they flew off together.

© 2012-2013 Babsje. (Http://

One of the smaller birds rode on the hawk’s back, pecking at his head.


Thanks once more to Prairiebirder Charlotte for her Feathers on Friday prompt.

Thanks to the kind folks at SkyWatch Friday.

Thanks to Ed Prescott for the Sunday Stills: Birdhouses prompt.

Thanks again to Stewart Moncton for the Wild Bird Wednesday prompt.

Thanks again to the kind folks at NaBloPoMo for the National Blog Posting Month challenge this November.

Thanks also to Skinnywench for the Word a Week Challenge: Two. (Two birds flying together, hawk and hitchhiker.)

Thanks to Ailsa for the Weekly Travel Theme: Delicate. (How delicately, intricately woven is the nest.)


Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

(This took place June18, 2012)

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2013 Babsje. (

Posted on November 8, 2013, in A Word A Week Photo Challenge, ardea herodias, Feathers on Friday, Great Blue Heron, NaBloPoMo, Nature Photography, Photography, postaday, Red tailed hawk, Skywatch Friday, Sunday Stills, Weekly Travel Themes, Wild Bird Wednesday, Wildlife Photography and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.

  1. Amazing illustrated story… RH

    • Thanks for your kind compliment, glad you enjoyed it. A couple of weeks ago I posted about a Blue Jay hitchhiking on a RTH. This may or may not have been the same hawk. This incident took place three weeks before that other one.

  2. Wow! That is utterly amazing! It must have been the experience of a lifetime to catch this.

    • thanks for your generous compliment, it was an exciting experience for sure. I’ve seen the hitchhiking birds only twice, so its not your everyday sort of event!

  3. I love this post. You make it exciting, like narrating an exciting documentary. Great job, Babs.

  4. Forest So Green

    Great story. I like to watch the birds. I really enjoyed reading your post, Annie

  5. Beautiful bird watching. I enjoyed learning about the blue heron and glad they won the stare down against the hawk. Happy Sky Watch!

    • Thank you, I’m glad the herons won, as well, alhough I do have a soft spot for red tailed hawks, too. Many thanks for visiting and for gour kind words!

  6. Great photos, Babsje! How marvelous that you could witness this amazing scene. I’m so glad that the eggs were safe, and also that the brave bird gave that hawk a really good sendoff. 🙂

    • Thanks, I’m glad you like this one! Truth be told, I have a thing for red tailed hawks, along with the herons, but when it comes to heron egg or chick poaching by hawks, I draw the line. One thing people may not realize about red tails is that they only hunt when hungry or to feed their brood, unlike a cat, who hunts for sport. So, the hawk in this encounter wasn’t just out for sport.

  7. Lovely photos – we see lots of herons on the French waterways.

  8. I have a couple of photos of a Red Tailed hawk in a nest with a Blue Heron. I saw the hawk enter what I assumed to be an empty nest. About 5 minutes later, a heron rose from the nest. There was never any vocalize ruin from either bird. The pictures definitely shows both birds in the nest at the same time.

    • Hi Steve. Thanks for sharing your experience. Would be interesting to know about how old the heron was, same for the hawk. Can you tell? Best, Babsje

  9. Being a Hawk must be a hard gig. Nobody likes you and is always making you go away to somewhere else!

  1. Pingback: Red-tailed hawk nest webcam | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Beautiful Great Blue Herons After the Storm (Not Art Nbr 10) | Babsje Heron

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