Red-tailed Hawk a bird of prey or raptor primarily found in North American regions. A raptor is a species of bird that preys on animals which are large in comparison to the hunter.
The red-tailed hawk is probably the most common hawk in North America. It is generally brown and has a red tail. These birds have long, broad wings and short, wide tails with a reddish-brown colour.
Red-tailed hawks are top hunters and they hunt from perches or the air. It likes to have high areas to perch and search for prey like trees or telephone poles.
You can easily see them atop telephone poles or wires or flying over an open field. ‘Buteo jamaicensis’ is the scientific name for the red-tailed hawk. It is commonly known as a chicken hawk.
Red-tailed hawks are carnivorous. It preys on rodents, snakes, lizards, insects, and small mammals. The Red-tailed Hawk occupies a wide range of habitats that include deserts, grasslands, forests, agricultural fields, and urban areas.
These birds build their nests in tall trees or cliff ledges. The red-tailed hawk is a legally protected bird in the United States, Mexico, and Canada.
Interesting Facts About Red-tailed Hawk
1. It is one of the Top Predator
Red-tailed hawks possess powerful talons and beaks, which are strong enough to hunt their prey. They hunt on rodents, snakes, insects, lizards, small mammals, and other birds. Their diet varies with season and location.
They also eat snakes, small birds, and even insects. They are occasionally seen hunting in pairs and blocking off escape routes for their prey. They have very sharp eyesight, as they can locate their prey 100 below them. When diving for prey, these birds can hit speeds of over 100 miles per hour.
The red-tailed hawk can live in a wide variety of habitats from forests to cities. It is native to North America. They can be found in a number of different places including open woodlands, deserts, grasslands, fields, parks, and along roadsides. Red-tailed hawks can stay in their territory for their whole lives. Their territory is about 2 square mile and range unto 10 square miles.
Red-tailed hawk mate for life, which means once the pair is formed they stay together for the rest of life. In other words, this bird is monogamous. When it reaches the age of three, it starts finding a mate. Usually, male hawks impress female one. Once a pair is formed, they build a nest together.
During courtship, the male and female fly in wide circles while uttering loud cries. They generally lay 1-5 eggs, usually in April, and eggs are incubated by both parents. Juveniles don’t grow in their red tail feathers until around their second year of life. Almost half of all red-tailed hawks do not live to the age of one in the wild.
The red-tailed is the largest hawk, usually weighing between 2 and 5 pounds. Red-tailed hawks follow the same physical guidelines as raptors, where the female is larger than the male. The male bird weights an average of 2.3 pounds with a length of 24 inches, while the female weighs an average of 4.4 pounds with a length of 26 inches. The reed-tailed Hawk’s wingspan range is about 3.5 ft to 4 ft 8 inches.
5. Habit and Behavior
Red-tailed hawks are diurnal. They spend long periods soaring high above the ground looking for prey. Red-tailed Hawks, like other birds of prey, have amazing eyesight that they can see the colours we cannot and can locate their prey even from 100 feet height. They have a lifespan of around 20 years.
The female is more aggressive than the male around the nest, while the male is more aggressive concerning the territory boundaries. Female spends lots of time in the nest, while male hunts for food. Red-tailed Hawk also steals prey from other raptors.
6. Red-Tailed Hawks Can be Trained
Red-tailed hawks are trainable and a favourite bird for falconry. Falconry is the term used for the birds of prey that are trained to hunt. They fly for hunting and return to the owner.
There are rules for falconry in the US, which includes the exact time and ages a hawk can be taken for training. The majority of hawks captured for falconry in the United States are Red-tails. Falconry is practised primarily by a rich society.
7. Population Distribution
These are almost 2 million red-tailed hawks in North America, which accounts for 90% of their global population. Red-tailed Hawks are not endangered but are threatened by hunters, loss of habitat, and pollution. The Red-tailed hawk is federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which includes laws that prohibit the public from hunting or capturing red-tailed hawks.
8. Great Horned Owl is its Predator
The red-tailed hawk has a predator though it is one of the top predators itself. The Great Horned Owl is its natural predator. They are natural enemies and will battle over nests and even eat each other’s young if given the opportunity. Because of their different behaviour, one is diurnal and other is nocturnal, they co-exist in many areas.
9. There are over 14 Subspecies of a Red-tailed Hawk
There are about 14 recognized subspecies throughout North America. They are mostly found in the US and Canada but also found much farther in the West Indies. Red-tailed Hawks have very variable plumage, sometimes related to the region they live and subspecies that they are.
10. Important to the Ecosystem
Red-tailed hawks play an important role in local ecosystems by controlling populations of small mammals, such as rodents and rabbits. They are considered to be an important part of the food chain in these areas. They benefit farmers by hunting on crop-destroying rodents.
11. They Have a Food Pouch
Red-tailed hawks don’t need to eat every day. Red-tailed hawks have a crop, which is a pouch located halfway between their mouth and stomach. Excess food is stored in there and released as needed for nutrients and energy.
12. They Produce Fierce Sound
The Red-tailed hawk has a very distinctive and piercing scream that is very recognizable. Their rasping sound can be heard while soaring. They have different sounds when they are flying and soaring. The scream is the loudest while defending the nest. The Red-tailed hawk’s cry is used in TV or movies.
13. Cultural Values
The red-tailed hawk is considered sacred among Native American territories. Its feathers are often part of various rituals and ceremonials. Some also believe that this bird is connected to the spiritual world.