We are so happy to host the fabulous author Maria Gianferrari today ~ she is telling us a LOT more about the subject of her newest nonfiction picture book Hawk Rising (June 5th, 2018). Look for the giveaway details at the end of the post!
Guest Post by Maria Gianferrari
I’m delighted to be writing about one of my favorite things: birds, and hawks in particular, even more specifically—red-tailed hawks, the most common hawk in North America.
Kate, aka “the Loud Library Lady” asked me why I chose to write about hawks, and the answer is: I love birds—all kinds of birds. I have always been an animal lover, generally speaking—just look at my books: all of my fiction books star dogs as main characters, and my other books feature wild creatures. However, it wasn’t until 7th grade science class that my love of birds began to bloom, and it was due to my teacher, Mr. LeFebvre who introduced us to what is now known as the Great Backyard Bird Count jointly sponsored by The Audubon Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
I grew up in Keene, a smallish university town in southwestern New Hampshire, down the road from this farmhouse:
Across the street from a sugar house:
And next to a corn field.
I was and still am a nature girl. We played hide and seek in the cornfield; dug muddy clay in the stream; counted turtles in the pond; climbed trees, and slapped cow patties for fun. Once I began learning about birds, I looked for them everywhere. I saw pheasants, and killdeer, and orioles and mockingbirds and vultures, and hawks…
Flash forward many years— I was living in the greater Boston area and while driving my daughter to elementary school, I used to search for this perching red-tailed hawk every morning. If you look closely, you can also see his mate.
And here’s a close-up of him perch hunting from a light pole.
He would sometimes be sunning himself, outstretched wings, which inspired this spread in the book:
To give you an idea, this tree is located in an area where three major highways intersect, and that leads me to a favorite theme which I love to explore in my nonfiction writing: urban ecology—celebrating our wild and seemingly ordinary neighbors. Like its predecessor, Coyote Moon, I wanted to tell a story of a hawk hunting in a suburban setting.
I am inspired by creatures who can co-exist with humans in urban and suburban habitats, and who are highly adaptable. I also love the idea that kids all over North America, whether they live in Maine, Florida, Kansas, Oregon, Arizona, or Texas all have the chance to see red-tailed hawks because of their wide-range which extends north from Alaska and Canada down to Central America.
Red-tailed hawks live in all kinds of habitats: forests, even tropical ones, along fields, in parks, deserts, swamps, scrublands—you name it. They even live in cities like New York, and Philadelphia. If you want to learn more about city hawks, be sure to read these books on New York City’s most famous resident red-tailed hawk, Pale Male.
I also spent many an hour watching Cornell Hawks, Big Red and her then mate, Ezra, raise multiple clutches of hawk chicks over the years on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s webcam.
Here’s a favorite photo of Ezra, sheltering Big Red from the rain shortly after one of their chicks hatched back in 2013.
I was heartbroken when I learned last March that Ezra had to be euthanized after a bad injury. Hawk Rising is dedicated to Ezra’s memory, and his legacy lives on in the 15 chicks that he and Big Red raised together.
This year, Big Red and her new mate, Arthur, are currently raising three chicks together. You can watch them live here. Scroll back to see them preparing the nest, laying and incubating the eggs, hatching and feeding the chicks. I tune in multiple times a day to watch them.
I thought I would end this post with ten cool things about red-tailed hawks:
- Female red-tailed hawks are bigger than males (as is the case with most raptors).
- Red-tailed hawks mate for life.
- Males and females take turns incubating the eggs.
- Females lay 1-5 eggs in each clutch, a group of eggs.
- Pipping is the process of a chick using its egg tooth to break through the shell.
- Another name for a hawk chick is an eyas.
- Chicks fledge, or leave the nest, at around six weeks of age.
- Mammals are the favored prey of red-tailed hawks including mice, rabbits, voles, squirrels, chipmunks and rats. They also eat birds, reptiles, and carrion, other dead animals.
- The shrill cry of the red-tailed hawk, KEEE-EER, is used in movies to represent an eagle’s call.
- When courting, red-tailed hawks perform aerial displays, sometimes clasping talons and spiraling toward the ground.
You will be amazed by Brian Floca’s gorgeous illustrations that bring Father Hawk and the drama of his sibling observers to life.
Thank you again for allowing me to blather on about birds, Kate!
One lucky reader who’s a US resident will be eligible to win their own copy of Hawk Rising thanks to Roaring Brook Press! All you need to do is comment on this post telling us who you would read this book to. Giveaway closes at 5 am CST on Friday, June 15, 2018.