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How to track a Redtail Hawk. A hawk on the wing and in the wind.

Updated on February 12, 2013

See the sun at the bottom and the cold shadow near the top.

The majesty of a canyon
The majesty of a canyon | Source

Out here they call the wind Mariah

Probably most folks do not pay much attention to the wind in canyon country. Canyon country is where you find your hawks. Even the huge canyons cut for freeways are attractive for the hawk. I have never been in a canyon where there was not daily wind patterns. They vary but always for the same reason. I have stood in a canyon about 200 feet deep for about mile, and the hawks love it. It is called downtown LA. And I have stood in awe of their flight at a freezing 10 degrees in a canyon known as the Grand Canyon.

There are four essentials to a canyon. A bottom or low end. A top or high end. A canyon floor and canyon walls. There are four essentials for a hawk in a canyon. Different temperature between the floor and the top of the walls. Different temperature between the bottom and the top. And the proverbial night and day.

A symbol of greatness

Freedom
Freedom | Source

The perfect waves in the sky.

All of the above create the canvas on which the Hawk draws it’s art. When the sun comes up it will heat one portion of the canyon before the others. Then through the day change what it heats up and lets cool. When the sun goes down it will cool in a likewise fashion. Hot air rises and cool air flows downward. So a perfect canyon, starts at about 2000 feet and climbs to about 6,000 feet. And the sun hits the lowest portion and valley below first and last. This will create an upward wind with the heating and a downward wind with the cooling. With that you get a perfect swell. Yes it is like the tides and waves caused at some distant point and then hammering the land. These confluences can make ordinary streams of air at around 60 mph and much higher on occasion.

Understanding the habits and canyon.

All of the above create the canvas on which the Hawk draws it’s art. When the sun comes up it will heat one portion of the canyon before the others. Then through the day change what it heats up and lets cool. When the sun goes down it will cool in a likewise fashion. Hot air rises and cool air flows downward. So a perfect canyon, starts at about 2000 feet and climbs to about 6,000 feet. And the sun hits the lowest portion and valley below first and last. This will create an upward wind with the heating and a downward wind with the cooling. With that you get a perfect swell. Yes it is like the tides and waves caused at some distant point and then hammering the land. These confluences can make ordinary streams of air at around 60 mph and much higher on occasion.

To know the wind is to know what will be.

So the hawks know this and do their best in the high slip streams, and diving down 100 feet in seconds to catch prey. For sure I have seen one doing well over 100 in a dive. I know because I go to batting cages and try to hit 90 mph little balls.

So the tracking begins by tracking your chosen canyon. I have a couple of fun ones that nearly border a freeway/street up a side canyon. My favorite current location is one below a dam with the old construction roads somewhat intact. I wear running shoes. I lost track of time the other day and spent about four hours.

Track the habits of the bird not the bird.

What you do is walk your canyon at the same time every day for a week. Note the location of the birds. Now go back an hour later. And on the next day an hour later. You see you are not so bad ass that you can track an Elk or an Eagle in one day, the same for hawks. You take a couple of weeks and you know what their habits are and you do not just follow the sound and sight, you follow their pattern. The concept is so simple that it is a delight.

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    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      xstatic, they bless you. I have known of folks who just could not see them, not matter how hard they tried. While the birds keep a distance, they are like dogs that can sense who you are. I suggest they like who you are.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Really interesting writing on the hawk and canyons. They never fail to catch my eye as they soar or sit in trees along roads searching fields for prey. The river nearby draws many beautiful Ospreys and even Bald Eagles to grace our skies.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Theres, you know all these thing in your being. You smell the air at dawn, at dusk and the permeation of who is you. My hawks welcome you.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 4 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Hello Eric - Very interesting and informative. I knew a little about thermals, but nothing about canyons or hawks. Now, I do. :) Theres

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you for visiting and commenting ahorseback. As a child I would get to stay some weekends with school friend, Raymond Yellowhorse, that lived in that area. I am thinking that is Second Mesa, but it has been a while. Watching those birds we could find lost sheep. This is definitely a place of worldly spirits.

    • ahorseback profile image

      ahorseback 4 years ago

      Eric , I think that the most amazing place I have ever stood is at the Navajo National Monument valley outside of Cottonwood to Keyenta ........The halks , ravens , and the living spirits there ! Wow !............:-}

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thank you for your comment and headsup. Looks like revision time,,,, again.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thermals are as wonderful as the birds that ride them...check a couple of paragraphs near the end. You have two duplicates.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Mr Happy, good to hear from you, thank you.

      Yes I addressed the canyon terrain because near development, often that area cannot be developed, so it is accessible to man and bird alike. The canyon picture here actually shows 3 canyons within the Grand Canyon -- Which is the ultimate spot to watch our spirit brothers soar.

    • Mr. Happy profile image

      Mr. Happy 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Very interesting piece of writing!

      I have never seen a canyon but I have seen countless Hawks and Eagles - their Spirit guides me and I am so ever grateful for that.

      Thank You for honoring the Hawk Spirit through your writing about the Hawks. Much appreciated it. : )

      All the best!

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thanks Bill. I am scheduling for the south rim of the Grand Canyon in late April. It will be wonderful.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Is there anything more majestic than watching a hawk or eagle ride those thermals? Love it and can't wait to get back to the mountains for some hiking. Well done my friend.

    • Ericdierker profile image
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      Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I am certain that it will my friend. Thank you for dropping by and commenting. The spring is the best time for my outdoor fun!

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 4 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      That seems like a really fun thing to do. I hope it continues to bring you lots of enjoyment.