I spotted this hawk on a distant phone pole and wondered why it had it’s wings out in such an unusual position. When I drove closer I could see that this poor hawk was soaking wet! I could also see that this was a Red-tailed Hawk, the most common species of soaring hawks ( a group called buteos).
Though these hawks will occasionally wade into shallow water after prey, they rarely go deep enough into the water to soak their body feathers–soggy hawks can’t fly so good. There was some open water in a wetland nearby where it must got wet while chasing down some prey. If they absolutely have to, such as if they misjudge and fall into deeper water, Red-tailed Hawks can manage to swim using their wings like paddles.
So the hawk got up on the phone pole and spread out it’s wings to sun as much of it’s plumage to get dry. I stayed in my car and kept my distance so I wouldn’t cause it to try to fly away with it’s still wet feathers.
If you look at this hawk’s eye in the top photo you will see that it’s iris is yellow which indicates it is a first winter bird. Older Red-tailed Hawks have brown eyes.