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High-soaring red-tailed hawks remain regal in life and death

Published on -4/13/2012, 11:37 AM

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Sometimes, it seems like they are everywhere, soaring majestically on the wind currents that make Kansas famous. Or perching stoically on highway signs or even a single T-post holding up four strands of barbed wire fence.

They are the red-tailed hawk. Yet they are wary creatures, lifting off before a vehicle even has a chance to slow down to take either a closer look or perhaps get a photograph.

That's why I simply couldn't pass up the chance to take an close-up peek at one that had died.

How it died is something of a mystery, one that -- as a cynic -- concerns me.

That's because it wasn't along the road when I headed to town one recent Sunday, but it was there, in plain view, less than an hour later when I drove the same route home.

At first I suspected it had been electrocuted. But it had evidently been dead for a while.

Never mind that, I got up close, taking photographs.

I'm sure some people, had they happened by, would have wondered why on earth I was taking so many photos, from so many different angles, of something that was so dead.

It's not often you get a chance to get up close to such a marvelous species.

The talons are breathtaking, as I'm sure they've taken the breath of many small mammals when a hawk swoops down and snatches it up.

Its beak is just as breathtaking, knowing full well, that it could rip to shreds the flesh from the next meal.

I felt guilty letting such a majestic creature lay by the roadside, but I also know the trouble that could follow me if someone wanted to push the issue had I decided to pick up the hawk for delivery to proper wildlife authorities.

There was a time years back when I happened upon another red-tailed hawk that had been electrocuted. It was obvious.

I picked him up, put him in the freezer and then quickly called the game warden, letting him know all the details. I dropped it off as soon as possible.

But had this latest bird been the victim of foul play, I certainly want no part of that.

It's a shame, actually, because parts of the bird could have been put to use, in American Indian religious ceremonies.

At least I have photographs to share.

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