Red Tailed Hawks’ Courtship Flight

The male Red Tailed Hawk suddenly dropped into a downward spiral, a kamikaze move designed to delight his intended beloved. She followed suit, and together they spiraled down and then back up, coming out of the dive flying in parallel as though they were pairs figure skaters and the sky their ice rink.

The video here is just 13 seconds long, if you sneeze, you will miss the death spiral.

Apologies in advance for the choppiness – it was filmed handheld with my Meade CaptureView binoculars back in the days when the video format was only 320×240 and image stabilization technology wasn’t available. If you click the icon to expand the viewing area, the clip will appear very very pixilated, so that’s not recommended.

This week, WordPress had challenged us with the word “unexpected.” The sight of these courting Red Tailed Hawks was very unexpected as I sat at the West Natick commuter train station that afternoon.

A flash of feathers caught my eye, and I happened to have the binocs handy, with the presence of mind to push the record button.

Raising the binocs, I noticed that there were three hawks interacting. Two were males vying for the female’s attention.

After chasing off the competition for her favors, the male engaged the female in this remarkable display of his prowess. It was the first courtship flight I had ever seen with the death spiral move, and also the last.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t post a clip with this much noise, but I am guessing that not many readers here have seen this sort of courtship display before, and hope you’ll be forgiving of the video quality.


Thanks to Cheri Lucas Rowlands and WordPress for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Unexpected.

Thanks once more to Ese for her Ese’s Weekly Shoot & Quote Challenge – Direction. (Ese, I don’t have a catchy quote for this one, the beauty of their spiraling courtship dance leaves me wordless.)

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

Thanks to Debbie of Travel with Intent for her Look Up, Look Down Challenge. (The spiraling hawks definitely made me look up, then down.)

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


A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

(This photo was taken August 21, 2010.)

© 2013 Babsje. (

Red Tailed Hawk

Posted on November 26, 2013, in Birds, Ese's Weekly Shoot & Quote Challenge, NaBloPoMo, Nature, Nature Photography, postaday, Red tailed hawk, Weekly Photo Challenge, Wild Bird Wednesday, Wildlife Photography and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. I think we witnessed this courtship encounter once in Utah’s mountains. No idea which raptor it might have been, but we watched in stunned awe. No cameras handy at all, but we didn’t have video back then anyway.

  2. Wonderful sight, great capture! Coincidentally I have just been describing exactly that RTH courtship display for a book. I wish I could add the video! RH

  3. Very nice. I had never seen that before, of I had, I didn’t know what I was looking at.

  4. Thanks for linking to the Look Up Look Down challenge. It’s great to have a new participant and such an unusual entry. Welcome! Debbie

  5. Great that you were able to capture the birds.

    • Hi Neil – Thanks! It was one of those happy and lucky things, right place at the right time with the right gear. Well, not exactly the right gear, lets just say, “adequate” gear. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

  6. You don’t need a catchy quote, trust me – the moments you have captured speak louder than any words. Amazing!

  7. Wonderful.Thanks for sharing.

    • That was a special moment, watching the Hawks in their courtship. To me, they look like a pair of figure skaters as they come out of the final dive together in harmony. I’m glad you like this video. Many thanks for your kind comment. Best, Babsje

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