A distinctive raptor of the desert southwest, the Harris’s hawk are social birds and one of the only two raptor species that engage in cooperative hunting. Their naturally social behavior has made them a popular choice among falconers.
Their hunting tactic is similar to those used by wolves and lions, where some group members ‘flush’ out their prey and chase them towards other hunters in the group. This strategy increases the Harris’s hawk hunting success and thus leading to higher survival rates in the wild.
The Harris’s hawk will prey on a variety of small mammals, lizards, and even other birds. They can be found year-round in scrubland and deserts of southwestern United States, much of northern and central Mexico, as well as parts of South America. Next time you see a group of Harris’s hawk, keep an eye out for their ‘back-standing’ behavior, where one or more hawks will stand on top of each other!
Lindsay’s Harris’s Hawk
Our Harris’s hawk is Saguaro! In 2017, Saguaro came to us from South Carolina where he was raised by parents that are both animal ambassadors (his mother was also a falconry bird!). Harris’s hawks have been pushed out of California due to habitat loss. Having him as an ambassador allows us to discuss why this has happened and what we can do to help in the future.
His name pays homage to the Saguaro cactus, one of the Harris’s hawk’s preferred perching plants in the Southwest. These hawks will not only perch on top of those towering giants, but they’ll also perch on each other to get a better vantage point, in a behavior called “stacking”!
These days, Saguaro takes part in our new free flight training, which we have been working on during our temporary closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. During this training, Saguaro is off line and fitted with a GPS transmitter! This allows Saguaro to fly easily through the trees above our Raptor Redwood Grove and show off just how agile he is.
Saguaro thoroughly enjoys completing long flights over open ground, catching prey items in mid-air and finding a nice high perch from which he can observe the world.