Micro-Season: “The Young Hawk Learns To Fly”

We have entered the micro-season of “The Young Hawk Learns to Fly ”.  This is the third micro-season of the mini-season of Minor Heat.  The micro-seasons within Minor Heat are:

  • Hot Winds Blows (Jul. 7 – Jul. 13)
  • The First Lotus Blossoms (Jul 12 – Jul 16)
  • The Young Hawk Learns to Fly (Jul 17 – Jul 23)

These seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibuka Shunkai and are specific to Japan. However, just because the calendar focuses on Japan doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable to others.  No matter where you live you can use these seasons as a starting point for your personal exploration of the world around you. 

As a way to celebrate this season, we will explore what types of birds are considered hawks, the life cycle of birds, and then read haiku by Basho, Issa, and Shiki.

What Types of Birds are Considered Hawks

“Hawk” is a broad term used to identify small and medium-sized birds usually associated with the Accipitridae family of the Accipitriformes order.  However, “hawk” might also be used to describe birds in the Falconidae family, or used to describe birds in the Buteo genus.  The birds in the Buteo genus are also sometimes called buzzards.(1,2)

Hawks are characterized by their diurnal (active by day) hunting behavior and have sharply curved talons and hooked beaks used for tearing flesh. They also have excellent hearing and eyesight.   

Hawks typically have long tails and short-rounded wings that allow them to chase their prey.  Hawks feed on other birds, small mammals, reptiles, and insects. Some of the species that are identified as hawks are:

Red-tailed Hawk: Photo Credit Rhododendrites, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Red-tailed Hawk: Photo Credit Rhododendrites, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Life Cycle of a Hawk

Hawks, like all birds, have several stages in their life cycle. The specific time a bird spends in each part of the life cycle is dependent on the bird species.

The following stages are meant to give a general outline of the growth process from egg to adult.

The Egg:

Female birds usually lay anywhere between 1 to 17 eggs depending on the species.  The length of time it takes for the egg to hatch is dependent on the species and the environment. Smaller birds usually take 10-15 days to hatch, whereas larger birds can three to four weeks. The bird with the longest incubation time is the Wandering Albatross with around 85 days. The second longest incubation period is the Emporer Penguin with around 70 days.(3,4)

A Hatchling:

A hatchling is a bird that has just emerged from its egg.  Generally, a bird in this stage has very few feathers, its eyes are still closed, and has to rely on its parents to regulate its body temperature. A hatchling spends all its time in the nest.(3)

A Nestling:

This bird is a little bit older than a hatchling. A bird at this stage has more feathers, its eyes may be open, but remains in the nest and is unable to fly.(3) 

Eyas” is a term used specifically for a young hawk who hasn’t learned to fly. If a young hawk or falcon is taken from its nest for the purpose of training, it is also called an eyas.(5)

A Fledgling:

A fledgling is a bird that is able to leave the nest and has developed its first set of flight feathers.  A fledgling is just starting to learn how to fly and is only able to fly short distances. Fledglings are more active than nestlings and often hop around outside of the nest. A fledgling is still dependent on its parents for survival.(3) 

A Juvenile:

A juvenile is a young bird that has left the nest and no longer has the downy feathers of the nestling or fledgling. At this time their plumage is still a little duller and less defined than the adults. Typically, juvenile birds are not yet capable of breeding.

Immature or sub-adult: 

The terms “immature” or “sub-adult” are used to describe any bird that has not reached the adult stage including juveniles. Hawk Watch International explains this stage by stating:

“‘Juvenile’ is a bird in its first plumage as we mentioned, but the term “immature” defines a bird that is any age other than adult. So, “immature” is a broad term that includes or lumps juvenile and sub-adult plumages. A juvenile is an immature bird, but an immature bird is not necessarily a juvenile. The term “sub-adult” describes a plumage that occurs after the juvenile (1st-year) plumage but before the adult plumage.”(6)

 Songbirds usually have a short period between juvenile and adult. Whereas eagles and hawks may take a few years to transition between the two stages.


An adult bird is one that is capable of breeding and has developed its distinct adult plumage, which doesn’t go through any more significant changes no matter how many molts the bird experiences.(6) This definition could be a little confusing because some adult birds change their colors depending on the season.(3) I think the distinction here is that the bird has stopped with the significant color and pattern changes that are associated with growth.

Northern Goshawk: F. Dahlmann, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Northern Goshawk: F. Dahlmann, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The Northern Goshawk

The authors of the 72-season app state that “The Young Hawk Learns To Fly” is probably referring to the Northern goshawk.  The Northern goshawk is the larger relative of the Sharp-shinned hawk and Cooper’s hawk.  The Northern goshawk has an average length of about 23 inches, a weight of 23 lbs, and a wingspan reaching up to 46 inches. 

The Northern goshawk can be found on most continents in the Northern Hemisphere.  Northern goshawks will inhabit both deciduous and coniferous forests and nest in tall trees.  They have a fondness for wooded spaces next to fields, wetlands, and other openings.  They like these locations because they provide the perfect environment for hunting. Northern goshawks hunt by diving out of tall trees and grabbing small birds and mammals like grouse, rabbits, and squirrels.

Interesting Facts About The Northern Goshawk

Below are some interesting facts about the Northern Goshawk provided by The Cornell Lab

  • The name goshawk comes from the Old English word for “goose hawk,” a reference to this raptor’s habit of preying on birds. Falconers have trained goshawks for more than 2,000 years; the birds were once called “cook’s hawk” for their success at snaring meat for the pot.
  • John James Audubon was impressed by the Northern Goshawk’s hunting prowess, writing “When the Passenger Pigeons are abundant in the western country, the Goshawk follows their close masses, and subsists upon them. A single Hawk suffices to spread the greatest terror among their ranks, and the moment he sweeps towards a flock, the whole immediately dive into the deepest woods, where, notwithstanding their great speed, the marauder Succeeds in clutching the fattest.”
  • Attila the Hun wore an image of a Northern Goshawk on his helmet.
  • The oldest known Northern Goshawk was at least 17 years, 7 months old when it was found in Michigan in 2013. It was banded in the same state in 1995.

Want more cool facts about the Northern Goshawk? Visit AllAboutBirds.com.

Hawks In Haiku

The search for today’s haiku was a little more challenging than others. I was, however, able to find a few haiku from Matsuo Basho, Kobayashi Issa, and Masaoka Shiki.

I hope you enjoy this selection.


by a stroke of luck, I saw
a solitary hawk circling
above Iragosaki 
the hawk’s eyes now
dim that it is dark
so the quail sings

Both of Basho’s haiku were found on matsuo-basho-haiku.com.  I would check out their page for a really great explanation of the “hawk’s eyes” haiku.


even the painted devil
won't look...little bird warming
the hawk's nest

David G. Lanoue writes about this haiku, “The editors of Issa zenshû explain: ‘On cold winter nights, hawks capture small birds and sit on them to keep their bottoms warm, releasing them in the morning’. Is this mere folklore or real animal behavior?”


toward those short trees
we saw a hawk descending
on a day in spring

This haiku was found on Upaya.org website. It is part of a 10 Shiki haiku collection generated for Upaya’s 2018 retreat titled, “The Way of Haiku: Shiki and Modern Japanese Haiku Writers.”

I wonder if Shiki was observing a hawk on the hunt?


  1. “Hawk”; Wikipedia
  2. “Hawk”; Britannica
  3. “The Life Cycle of a Bird”; BirdSpot.co.uk
  4. “How Long Does It Take for a Bird to Hatch”; BirdwatchingPro.com
  5. “Eyas”; Dictionary.com 
  6. “Terminology Mix-ups”; HawkWatch International
  7. “Northern Goshawk”; Wikipedia
  8. “Northern Goshawk”; The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America
  9. “Northern Goshawk”; AllAboutBirds
  10. “Birds of Prey”; matsuo-basho-haiku.com
  11. David G. Lanoue; HaikuGuy.com; search “hawk”

Want to support our work? Visit the Naturalist Weekly bookstore and browse our curated lists of books of poetry and haiku. Or pick up a gift card that can be used throughout the store.   

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26 thoughts on “Micro-Season: “The Young Hawk Learns To Fly”

Add yours

      1. Hi Mark,
        All is well here on Skye. Unfortunately, there is a distinct lack of sunshine today. I managed to buy a brilliant Japanese haiku book, which I love. The images are fabulous too.
        I hope all is well with you too.

    1. I haven’t seen one in real life either. The Sibley guide says they are very uncommon in the east and more common out west and in Canada.

  1. Another great post Mark.

    Here’s a few of my haiku about hawks …

    sultry winds
    sweeping the hills
    a kestrel’s cry

    balloon fest
    a windhover
    glides away

    watching goshawk the forest s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-s beneath her shadow

    lingering mist …
    the forest shifts beneath
    a goshawk’s wings

    motionless a buzzard glides across the cloudless sky

    1. Hi Clive, What a great collection of haiku! I really like the “lingering mist”.
      Thanks for the kind words and sharing your work. I hope all is well.

  2. Great info about these beautiful fierce birds. Lots of red tailed hawks here, and I once had a sharp shinned hawk lurking on a low branch near my front window. I read that they stake out birdfeeders.

    I hate to think it’s only minor heat here this week! My microseason is “Weaned fawns graze” next week is full on “ripe wineberries edge the meadows”

    1. I hear you the Minor Heat! It has been unseasonably warm here in the Northeast.
      I am ready for berry season! I was out on a hike today and it looks like we still have several weeks before ripe berries.
      Thanks for the comment and sharing. Have a good weekend!

  3. wonderful pictures and sharing of the amazing hawks and the many species Mark. We have a lot of coopers on our property and occasional red tails. I love their whistles! 💖

    1. Hi Cindy, That must be amazing! I usually see broad tail hawks. The other species are not so common around here. Thanks so much for the comment! I hope you are doing well.

    1. Wow! That is a powerful poem and seems to capture the essence of the hawk in the woods. Very good find! Thanks so much for sharing this.

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