RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas – The Rio Grande Valley hosts a remarkable diversity of hawks, owls and falcons year round. Richard Moore show us that incredible variety of raptors is even more impressive during the approaching fall and winter months.
Deep South Texas is home to more than a dozen raptors or birds of prey, from the diminutive elf owl at less than six inches in length to the White-tailed hawk with a wingspan exceeding four feet.
Joining the resident hawks and owls are a number of wintering raptors like the kestrel. The American kestrel is the smallest falcon in the country, and while only some nine inches in length, it makes up for lack of size with fierce hunting instinct.
The tiny raptor will often target prey that is too large to carry off, and this kestrel has slain a plump dove that it is aggressively plucking on the ground.
The osprey is another winter visitor, but prefers a seafood diet, and can often be seen perched on coastal yuccas with a fish securely clenched in its powerful talons.
Lurking in shadowy depths of South Texas woodlands, a Cooper’s hawk peers intently about for avian prey. With short rounded wings and a long tail, the agile hawk possesses remarkable maneuverability for snaring unwary birds in tangled brush.
Joining the resident Cooper’ hawk is another ambush predator, the Harris’s hawk. This formidable hunter, perched in a cloaking mesquite, will take on anything from a cottontail rabbit to large snakes.
Employing a distinctively different style of attack, the black-shouldered kite will hover like a helicopter before diving down on an unsuspecting rodent.
The resident caracara will utilize a variety of techniques to secure its meal from launching an aerial attack or ground assault, and snakes are a favorite on the menu of this versatile raptor.
And, if there is anything left over after all these raptors have devoured their fill, then the turkey vultures will readily clean up the remains.