Harris hawks are chocolate brown raptors with yellow beaks, reddish brown shoulders and flashy white rump and band at the base of their tail. Frequently seen as a group perched in the same general area on telephone poles, saguaros and trees.
"Lions" of the Sonoran air
The communal life-styles of these hunters has been compared to that of lions and wolves and is in stark contrast to the solitary natures of most hawks, such as the red-tail, and eagles. An unusual example of cooperative living, Harris hawks are found in threesomes or more, with the basic family unit consisting of one female and two males.
Besides sharing a nest, they hunt together and are among the few animals in nature which use a team strategy to catch prey. They have developed several strategies for flushing out and killing prey. Strategy 1. Search and destroy. At twilight, groups of two to six birds gather on saguaros and telephone poles, then take off searching for prey. When a potential meal is located, each hawk takes a turn pouncing on it until the creature is dead. Strategy 2. Flush and strike. A group of Harris hawks has been seen sending in one member to flush out a victim from under a bush while the others surround the area and swoop in for the kill. Strategy 3. Dive bomb and exhaust. The hawks dive in relay fashion as many as 20 times until the exhausted prey is captured.
When they have completed their work, the group then shares the meal like a pride of lions. Harris hawks prey upon rodents, smaller birds, reptiles and toads. Prey critters would include the rattlesnake, Gambel's quail, white-winged dove, spiny lizard, antelope jackrabbit, and desert toad.
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