The Black-collared Hawk is an Accipitor, related to our Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned hawks from North America. It is seen, almost exclusively, sitting in snags beside rivers in the Amazon, watching for fish in the water. According to Birds of Peru, it is “uncommon but widespread” across Amazonia. We saw at least a dozen different individuals on our Wildside Nature Tours Amazon River Boat Adventure…all from the skiffs as we explored creeks off the main river.
Our local guides like Black-collared Hawks because they are easy to play with: 1) catch or buy a small fish, 2) find a Black-collard Hawk in fishing stance along a creek, 3) throw the fish out from the skiff as far as you can. 4) watch the hawk dive and take the fish from the surface of the water. We had a fisherman with us…not a native…but one of our number who trailed a line in the water every day, and eventually, on our last day, caught a small catfish. We joked that if we had been dependent on him, we would not have had any fish for the Black-collared Hawks…but native fishermen were happy to sell us a few small fish most days. Most of the time, of course, the fish just sinks and the hawk just sits and, presumably, yawns…not interested. Or the fish drifts too far downriver for good photos before the hawk decides to take it. We tired with 4 hawks and only once got to see the full dive and catch.
Some of you might be a bit uncomfortable at this point already, and I will admit I have strong feelings about baiting any animal for the convenience of any photographer, including me. I don’t like it. I will also admit to being thrilled to see the dive of this beautiful hawk…something I would very likely never have seen without the efforts of our guides. There are ways of justifying this behaviour in this particular case…the hawks were put in no danger; we provided them with what amounted to an easy meal; while uncommon, the population of Black-collared Hawks in Amazonia as a whole is large and healthy; given the amount of tourism in the region, there is no chance the Black-collared Hawk will become dependent on human feeding, etc etc. And it is no different (and undoubtedly has less impact on the birds) than putting out bird feeders in the back yard and filling them with thistle and sunflower seed so that we can enjoy their company…but still, I do feel compelled to point out that we were feeding the hawk so that we could see…and photograph…it in its dive.
That said, it was certainly a thing of beauty to watch, and thrill to capture. Sony Rx10iii in my special action and flight mode (wide area continuous focus, minimum shutter speed ISO set to 1/1000th, -.3 EV.) Processed in Polarr and assembled in FrameMagic on my iPad Pro.