Thursday, March 4, 2010

The scream of a red-tail hawk

John Blakeman has told us that if the hawks were threatened by the presence of humans around their nest, they might scream. The scream of red-tail hawk is unmistakeable! The red-tail in this clip is eating a quail on the fist of its falconry trainer.

John Blakeman commented on this video clip:

"This is a classic red-tail scream. Unfortunately, the bird looks a bit scruffy, probably an artifact of low-res video and You-tube.

More objectionable to me, however, is the bird's deportment. It thinks something or someone is about to take its food or enter its personal space. It has its hackles up (feathers on the back of its head), in a very threatening manner. To me, this looks to be something of a "marhawk," another of those falconry terms that have come down to us from Middle English or Elizabethan times.

A marhawk is a raptor that has been captured for falconry often as an eyass, and has been poorly "manned," tamed, or accommodated to its otherwise new good life in the falconer's care. A poorly manned hawk, especially when taken as an eyass, or trapped in summer, while it is still otherwise in the care or feeding of its parents, easily becomes defensive, as this bird does.

The hawks belonging to me and my falconry apprentices never, ever scream on the fist. Nor do they ever raise their hackles (feathers on the back of the head) in a display of threat or anger. Our birds are like the haggards being watched at the Franklin Institute, calm and regal, in utter control of themselves.

Still, this YouTube scream is authentic and representative. Red-tails don't have much of a vocabulary, and most people hear only the scream. When uttered from 500 ft above the Franklin Institute, or above one of my rural Ohio woodlots, it's a piercing (but not loud) aural highlight that connotes wildness and nobility. It sends a spike of excitement up my spine every time I hear it, whether on a grainy YouTube segment, or better, when it's heard live from above.

As always with red-tails, nothing like it in all the world."

-- John Blakeman

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