Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Red-tailed Hawk

The most common hawk in North America is probably the Red-tailed Hawk.
Marz, the Red-tailed Hawk, watching vigilantly for his cue to fly to his trainer at Stone Zoo (photo Teri Graves)

They are commonly found sitting on fence posts near fields or soaring in the sky with their broad, and rounded wings.  They are typically brown above and pale below in color with that very well-known red tail.  Juveniles have a brown banded tail.  There are also multiple morphs or variations.  The dark-morph birds are chocolate brown and rufous-morph birds are reddish-brown above and dark below.
Nelson, a Krider's Red-tailed Hawk, is a WBS resident bird (photo: Gay Schroer)

There is also a color variation of the Red-tailed Hawk called "Krider's" that is pale with a whitish head, streaked belly, and a pinkish tail.  Harlan's variation of the Red-tailed Hawk is very dark with marbled white, brown and grey in the tail.  These last two morphs are more commonly found in the western United States.

Red-tailed Hawks prefer open country where they can soar or perch on high objects as they search for prey, but they are found in every habitat in the United States, including deserts and woodlands.  When flying, they use thermal updrafts to climb, maintain altitude, and circle the sky.  Often times the Red-shouldered Hawk is mistaken for the Red-tailed Hawk.  They have a similar appearance when in flight.
Flip, a Red-shouldered Hawk.  In flight this species is often mistaken for a Red-tailed Hawk (photo: Gay Schroer)

Red-tailed Hawks are typically a solitary species, but they will share in the hunt with their mate or offspring.  One may keep an eye on their prey while the other makes the attack.  Their diet consists of small mammals such as mice, rabbits, and squirrels, as well as snakes and even other birds.  Like most birds of prey, they will also feed on carrion.
Marz the Red-tailed Hawk at Grant's Farm (photo: W. Leigh French)

The World Bird Sanctuary has several resident Red-tailed Hawks, and even a Krider's Hawk.  As with all of our resident animals, they are available for adoption in our Adopt A Bird program.  To see a gallery of some of our hawks, Click Here.  If you don't see the bird you would like to adopt in our photo gallery--don't despair.  Just call 636-861-3225 and ask for Marion.

Submitted by W. Leigh French, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist

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