[Tweeters] Northern Goshawk on Steptoe Butte-21 March

Andy Stepniewski steppie at nwinfo.net
Thu Mar 22 10:25:41 PDT 2018

Hi Birders,

Ellen and I made the long drive out to “Plants of the Wild,” in Tekoa WA, right on the Idaho border. This is a big nursery, specializing in native plants. On our return, we headed up Steptoe Butte, a tiny outcrop of the “Rocky Mountains” in the Palouse wheat country. The road winds up this outcrop of ancient quartzite in a corkscrew pattern. The view from the top affords a wonderful view of the surrounding Palouse, the Selkirks to the north and east, and, off to the south, the Blue Mountains. Ascending, we noted a small flock of Gray-crowned Rosy Finches, and flushed a Gray Partridge. On our way down, we had a cool encounter with a Northern Goshawk We first noted it flying down the west slope of the butte, a Red-tailed Hawk sized bird, with powerful flap...flap...flap...glide flight style of an Accipiter. It then perched atop a hawthorn tree affording good scope views. We both noted: brown-backed hawk, thus an immature, with a conspicuous white supercilium. We could see the wavy patterning on its upper tail. The bird was perched looking away from us, so we can't fill in details on its underside pattern. Its head appeared overall "frosty," also consistent with a gos. It then flew down the wooded ravine to the edge of the wheat field where it perched again atop a tall hawthorn within a couple feet of a Red-tailed Hawk. The red-tail seemed to be hunched down within branches in the tree while the goshawk perched above it. At first we thought the goshawk might have struck and injured the red-tail and was sizing up how to finish the kill. After three or four minutes both hawks flew off in separate directions, the red-tail towards a bulky tree nest to the south, and the goshawk off to the north. Reflecting on the drama we had just observed, we think a plausible explanation was the two hawks were engaged in a standoff and as both birds were roughly equal in size, they backed off, avoiding any real skirmish. Whatever the rationale, we were treated to a fantastic "wildlife moment," I believe unique in our years of watching hawks.

Andy and Ellen Stepniewski
Yakima WA
steppie at nwinfo.net

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