What lives in those exposed large, stick nests built on power poles, communication towers, and large trees? Most likely an Osprey.

Osprey image from Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife

As you can imagine, a bird with a nearly 6-foot wingspan builds a big nest. Now imagine the bird adding a bit more to its nest each year. In the end, it is hard to imagine a nest becoming, over time, 10–13 feet deep and 3–6 feet in diameter!

Nest Challenges

Osprey build big nests and will build on any natural or man-made structure that meets its needs. Sometimes, what looked like a good choice doesn’t work out. Osprey nesting has caused power and service outages. There is always a risk of being electrocuted or collisions.

An Osprey’s nest contains more than just sticks we can see. Moss, bark, vines, grass, and lichen make the nest comfortable. But the birds will also add in other interesting things such as fishing line, baling wire, Styrofoam, and sometimes even plastic containers. Baling wire and fishing line can be fatal if the birds or young become entangled.

Nesting platforms and mitigation techniques reduce these conflicts and increase the number of birds and survival. The species is considered a conservation success story.

Where to see them

You can find Osprey nests near a lake, pond, swamp, reservoir, river, etc.  Live fish is key part of their diets unlike other raptors. They will also eat other smaller birds, snakes, voles, squirrels, muskrats, and salamanders.

Feet first!

Osprey are amazing fishers. Part of their fishing success, compared to other hawks, is undoubtedly due to an unusual toe/claw placement that helps them grip fish tightly. Their real success, however, is in technique.

The technique? Osprey dive feet first into shallow waters (up to about 3 feet) and grab a fish. They will also do this in deeper water where fish swim near the surface. Osprey have water-resistant feathers are the only raptors that dive.

Amazing Migration

In recent years, the number of Osprey residing year-around on the Pacific coast has increased. Normally, the birds would migrate as far south as Honduras. Researchers have found that some Osprey will migrate around 160,000 miles in their lifetimes. They are not sure what is causing this change.


Osprey are an amazing raptor and are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) 16 U.S.C. Sections 703-712 of 1918 (as amended). All active nests (incubating adult, eggs, or young present) of migratory bird species are also protected by the MBTA. In Oregon, Osprey are protected by both state statute and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife administrative rules. Oregon Revised Statute (ORS 498) protects osprey from take, disturbance and harassment. Oregon Administrative Rule (OAR) 635-044 0130 categorizes osprey as Nongame Protected Wildlife. It is unlawful for a person to hunt, trap, pursue, kill, take, catch, or have in possession, either dead or alive, whole or in part, any Nongame Protected Wildlife.

References and where to find out more…Check the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife site at https://myodfw.com/wildlife-viewing/species/raptors and be sure to download their “Living with Wildlife” brochure at https://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/living_with/docs/osprey.pdf. Another excellent resource is the All About Birds page by the Cornell Lab (see https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Osprey/id).

Red-tailed hawk (royalty free image courtesy Unsplash)
Sky Dancer

Sitting on a lonely fence post.
Staring down in silence.
Patient. Hunting.

Focus attack to prey.
Feet outstretched; talons sharp.
Killing. Surviving. 

Dangling legs and sharp talons.
The sky dance has begun.
Touching. Singing.

Climbing high to plunge.
Cartwheel dances in the air.
Thriving. Red-tailed hawk.

Red-tailed hawks are one of the most common raptors found across the U.S., northern Canada, and far south into Panama. Go for a ride and look for them hunting atop telephone poles, fence posts, trees—anywhere they can watch for prey and swoop silently.


Adult female Red-tails are slightly larger than the males both in length (26 versus 24 inches), weight (just under four pounds versus under three), with a similar size difference in the over four-foot wingspans.

These are medium sized raptors are the largest in their genus (Buteu) with robust bodies; thick, broad wings; and relatively short, broad tails. The reddish, orange tail color is unique among North American hawks.  

Just for comparison, a similar-sized dog could
weigh 10 times what an average Red-tail might.


Coloration will vary greatly but most adults have a dark brown upper head that almost looks like a hood. Feather coloration creates an imperfect “V” shape on its back. From below the bird is a light-buff orange.

Range and Habitat

Red-tail hawks are considered an American native based on fossil and current distribution studies. Some, but not all, of the birds will migrate, typically going north into Canada and Alaska for breeding.

This raptor is one of the most broadly distributed birds in the U.S. The large, year-around range for non-breeders covers the entire contiguous U.S. with no substantial gaps.

Red-tails have become habituated to almost any habitat in North and Central America. This could include tropical rainforests, to deserts and grasslands, to woodlands. Some are even found in urban areas.

In every case, they will be looking for high nesting and perching sites. Based on the area, ‘high’ may be a shrub or fence post, tall conifer, or telephone pole.

Red-tailed hawk (courtesy of ODFW)


A high perch gives the birds an advantage when hunting. Not only are they able to get a great view, but they are able to jump into an easy soar or quickly swoop down on prey almost silently. Minimizing wing flaps help to conserve energy which may be needed to get their prey back to the nest.

These carnivorous hawks are highly opportunistic feeders. It is not hard to imagine them taking small mammals, reptiles, fish, amphibians, birds, and invertebrates.

Let your imagination run a little wild. They will also take (or try at least) much larger prey carrying up to about five pounds in a load. Larger prey would be dismantled, temporarily hidden, while pieces are taken to the nest.

Remains of larger prey (such as armadillos, lambs, pigs, deer, sheep, and horses) have been found in nest sites. There are also stories of juveniles unsuccessfully trying to take adult wild turkeys and overwintering pairs hunting together.  Amazing!


This bird has a great courtship process that can include daring ‘sky dances’ for and with their mates. These dances occur on the edge of the pair’s territory suggesting that it is also a way to designate territory limits.

Human Interaction

Red-tailed hawks are more social than other raptors and can be tamed and trained for hunting. The sport of Falconry was used in 2000 B.C. and is still practiced today. For more information see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falconry.

Note all parts of this bird are protected and regulated like eagles.

The long-term interaction with humans has created a rich record of data and images for this bird. More than a single blog could ever hold. Consider taking a little time to learn more about this amazing bird—you will be glad you did!

–Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, raptors (https://myodfw.com/wildlife-viewing/species/raptors)
–All about birds, Red-tailed hawk  (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-tailed_Hawk/)
–Ebird, Red-tailed hawk (https://ebird.org/species/rethaw)
–Wikipedia, Red-tailed hawk (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red-tailed_hawk