Spring has come early this year to Texas (and most other places in the U.S.). Rufous and Roxie must feel this too, because they returned today, about ten days earlier than we have seen them in the past. This will be their third season together, so Roxie is now a successful three-year-old mother Cooper's hawk, having fledged a brood of four chicks in each of the past two years. And Rufous is an old pro by now. This will be his eighth breeding season in our neighborhood, which means he must be at least nine or ten years old. No doubt he is responsible for much of the Cooper's hawk population around the Valley Ranch area. I have seen some of his offspring along the South Valley Ranch Canal and near the Elm Fork of the Trinity River, which adjoins Valley Ranch.
Here are photos of Rufous and Roxie, taken on this first day of their return:
Click to Enlarge.
As I studied this photo of Rufous, I looked for signs of aging. Are there more white feathers on his face and nape? Have his eyes turned even darker red, to a garnet color? Is there a slight droop over his eye? Are his feathers not quite as smoothly groomed as in the past?
Bigger questions arise: How is Rufous' hunting ability? Is he still as fast as ever? And does he still have all that's required of a male hawk to produce offspring? These questions remain to be answered.
|And here is Roxie. She is in her prime, with beautiful adult female plumage, just a tad lighter and browner than her mate's, and deep orange eyes. She is just finishing a meal and is watchful of possible intruders that might try to interrupt her.
I am happy to report that the hawks have immediately returned to the same nest they used last year. Unless they change their minds and begin to build elsewhere, we'll know where to go to see hawklets as they grow up!
Continue to Chapter 2: Roxie Takes Charge
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