Hawks and Baby Alligators

An excerpt from my 2017 Okefenokee Journal:

Baby American Alligator asleep in the sun; Okefenokee Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. March 7, 2017. ©www.williamwisephoto.com. Please don’t steal my images. Downolad and use legally at Dreamstime.com.

Paddling up the red trail just before 9:30 AM, we came to a pod of juvenile gators. What a serene scene. Many lay sleeping in the sun, content with life and protected by their mother nearby. But not far above them, an unobserved danger glided through the branches. A Red-shouldered Hawk silently perched above the baby reptiles’ refuge and cocked an eye to look down upon the spatterdock where the gators relaxed. Had this hawk become accustomed to picking off baby gators and was coming back for more?

Life can be tough for young alligators. Hawks, large wading birds, mammals and even other alligators will dine upon baby gators. If they make it past this vulnerable state, wild alligators can reportedly live around fifty years. But a very low percentage of hatchlings make it to adulthood.

Red-shouldered Hawk in a nest. You can see the tip of its tail feathers poking over the edge of the nest on the right, and its head, eye and beak just above the nest on the left, right next to the limb. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia.

While we waited to see if the hawk would dive for a baby gator, a second Red-shouldered Hawk flew in. Diverting its gaze from the baby alligators, the second hawk was quickly chased away with piercing screams from the first. My daughter then spotted a nest high up in a Cypress where the hawk returned. I do not know the meaning of the interaction between the two hawks, but I do know the baby alligators were, for the moment, spared from becoming lunch.

iNaturalist observations:

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