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Facts About Red-Tailed Hawks

The poster boy for all hawks is the Red-tailed Hawk. These hawks are so common that people automatically associate the term hawk with the red-tailed. Have a read at these Facts About Red-Tailed Hawks below!

Although they might not recognize the bird as being of the species, it would not change the fact. These 50 facts about the red-tailed Hawk are a great way to learn more about this magnificent bird of America.

Facts About Red-Tailed Hawks

Explore amazing Facts About Red-Tailed Hawks below and share them with your friends and family!

The Red-tailed Hawk has a distinct appearance.

Although the subspecies may differ in their details, all have common traits regarding appearance. They all have white underbellies with a dark band running across their belly. Adults have dark brown heads and napes with light brown throats. Their feathers on the backs tend to be darker than most other feathers. Paler feathers form a V-shaped mark. Their tails are uniformly brick-red, which gives the species its name.

Their feathers form a dark band below their tails against a background of buff-orange. Red-tailed Hawks younger than adults have darker heads and backs, while full adults have lighter tails that turn red with age. Their wing edges are pale, but all red-tailed Hawks have yellow legs, feet, and beaks.

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They are also distinguished by their weight, which sets them apart from their relatives.

Red-tailed Hawks are the largest hawks in eastern North America and second only to ferruginous. Although they are smaller than their Eurasian cousin, the rough-legged buzzard (a red-tailed hawk), they still weigh slightly more than they do. Red-tailed hawks living in eastern North America are smaller and heavier than those in the west. Red-tailed Hawks that live further north tend to be larger than those who live further south. This contradicts Bergmann’s Rule that animals closer to the Equator tend to grow larger than those farther away.

They make distinct sounds.

They are known for their cries when they fly high or hunt. These cries can last anywhere from 2 to 3 seconds. Some describe their sound as a steam whistle. They start with a loud pitch that then drops abruptly. When they are facing a predator or another hawk, they also cry. This cry is often misattributed to the bald eagle, but it has become the standard cry for birds of prey in general.

Red-tailed Hawks can also make croaking noises to warn potential enemies in addition to their usual cries. The chicks make two-syllable wails when their parents return from hunting. Adults can make water-like, mechanical sounds and even chirp when they are courting a partner. As a sign of relaxation, they may make a duck-like croaking sound.

All over the Americas, red-tailed Hawks are found.

They are the most widely distributed bird of prey in the region. Red-tailed Hawks can be found as far north as Alaska and across Northern Canada, including Quebec. They can be found southward along the Atlantic Seaboard and down to Florida. They live along the Pacific coast in Baja, California, and then move south to the Mexican coast. They can be found in the interior of Mexico and south of Guatemala or Nicaragua. The red-tailed hawks can also be found on various Caribbean Sea islands and extend inland to Central Panama.

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Pale Male is famous for his life in New York City.

Bird watchers recall the story of a red-tailed Hawk who first arrived in New York City in 1991. He tried to build his nest in Central Park’s tree. He was also named after the unusual paleness in his head. This name was kept by him even as he grew up to be an adult. Pale Male built his nest on the building across from him after being forced out by local crow murders. He was the first red-tailed Hawk to build a nest on a building, not a tree.

From 1992 to 2012, Pale Male had eight different mates. Bird watchers gave each one a name. His fame is further enhanced by the fact that he has had many children with his mates. Pale Male is 31 years old and has not had chicks in at least two years. Bird watchers have concluded that he is no longer interested in reproducing in his old age. Some have suggested Pale Male may have died and that a similar bird has taken his place, but there is no evidence to support this.

Living near people can make red-tailed Hawks stand out.

Red-tailed Hawks are known to sit on perches and stare at any object that interests them, even if they’re not flying. Although they can do this for hours at a time, occasionally, they will extend a wing or a leg to keep their hands from becoming numb. They can fly for hours without noticing, though this is still a big draw, especially in large residential areas.

Red-tailed Hawks are also often mated by other birds.

Songbirds, ravens, and crows often mow down Red-tailed Hawks to get out of their area. Even though the red-tailed Hawk is larger and more dangerous than any other hawk, the smaller birds must use large numbers to balance the differences in their abilities. For example, the mass murder of crows can result in 75 birds being killed, which is more than enough to take out a single red-tailed Hawk if it chooses to fight rather than flee.

People might think that Red-tailed Hawks are more flapless than they do for other birds.

To conserve energy, they flap their wings as much as possible. The red-tailed Hawk will instead soar as high as possible, occasionally flapping to maintain its altitude. The red-tailed Hawk can still fly at speeds up to 64 km/h. However, they can also fly at speeds as low as 32 km/h. Their maximum speed is reached when they dive at 190 km/h. Most prey can’t escape the bird’s claws at that speed.

They migrate only occasionally with the seasons.

When winter arrives, Red-tailed Hawks from Alaska and Canada always travel to warmer climates. However, birds that live along the ocean’s coasts will not leave their homes in winter because the ocean winds can maintain a comfortable temperature. Sometimes, red-tailed hawks younger than those living in the inland areas may try to stay even during winter. They only do so when they feel certain they will have enough prey. Red-tailed Hawks migrate most often in autumn. Bird watchers have recorded up to 15,000 birds in one migration. Red-tailed Hawks are not required to migrate in the most southern regions of their range, like those in and beyond Southern Mexico.

The majority of red-tailed Hawk’s prey are mammals.

Scientists have estimated that the red-tailed Hawk’s primary food source is primarily made up of rodents. These include chipmunks and groundhogs. Red-tailed Hawks consider squirrels to be their most important prey. Some areas have seen up to 60% of their squirrel populations die in one season. Scientists have observed that attacks on voles and adult marmots do not always succeed. Red-tailed Hawks love to diversify their diets, and it is rare for one species to account for even half of a bird’s food. It’s the adults that diversify their meals. However, younger Red-tailed Hawks are known to eat only one species.

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Sometimes they hunt other birds.

Although they don’t go out of their way for other birds to hunt, they do so when it is available. These cases often involve flightless birds, such as chickens and turkeys. Red-tailed Hawks can also prey on smaller flying birds such as woodpeckers, grouses, and quails. Cranes, geese, and herons are all possible prey. Red-tailed Hawks can also be prey on crows along with jays and kingfishers, cuckoos, parrots, and pigeons.

Sometimes, they may prey upon reptiles.

Although red-tailed hawks are not known to hunt reptiles often, they will do so if there is no other food. Snakes are their most common reptilian prey. This includes the gopher and gopher snakes. This is despite gopher snakes growing too large sizes and reaching weights exceeding 500 grams. They also feed on garter snakes and colubrids. Although red-tailed hawks are known to avoid poisonous snakes, there have been instances when they were spotted hunting rattlesnakes. Red-tailed Hawks in the tropics eat a lot of lizards. They eat iguanas of many species most often and other tropical reptiles like turtles.

Scientists have never seen red-tailed Hawks hunt other types of prey.

Although they have seen amphibians hunting toads, hard evidence has been difficult to locate. The reason is that amphibian bones don’t survive being digested and are not left behind in birds’ droppings. Bullfrogs and salamanders are two other amphibians that they eat. Red-tailed Hawks rarely prey upon insects or other invertebrates. Only the younger ones do so to get light snacks between hunts. These include beetles and crabs, as well as crickets and spiders. Fish are the rarest prey of red-tailed Hawks. There are very few records of them hunting them. They prefer to eat the carcasses of other animals such as carp, catfish, and koi.

They possess a distinct hunting style.

They cruise through the air above their hunting areas, often at heights between 10 and 50 meters. They will occasionally fly low to scare prey away, but they spend most of their hunt in the air. Scientists consider this inefficient, especially if it is done on hilly terrain. Before diving for prey, Red-tailed Hawks may also hide behind rocks and trees or in bushes. Red-tailed Hawks will eat the smaller prey, making it live and whole. However, larger prey is ripped apart before they start to eat.

They are also in competition with other predators for prey.

Their main rivals are their fellow hawks, who often share up to 90% of their dietary preferences. This is why they are territorial and prevent other hawks from taking their food. Owls share the dietary preferences of the red-tailed Hawks but have fewer disputes with them. This is because owls are more active at night, while red-tailed Hawks are more alert during the day. This results in less competition between them.

Red-tailed Hawks are devoted to their mate for life.

Unlike other animals that mate for the rest of their lives, Red-tailed Hawks will often find another mate after their first mate passes away. Red-tailed Hawks also go through courtship rituals even after they are mated. The most common gestures between mates include touching their wings or extending one’s legs into the open. Sky dances may be performed by the Male, who will fly high and use exaggerated beats to his wings. He will then fold his wings in half and dive steeply to reach his maximum height. Sometimes, a male may dive less steeply and ride a rollercoaster across the sky. Sky dances are usually performed on a mate pair’s territory borders. Red-tailed Hawks will often dance in parallel.

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Sometimes, they may reuse their nests.

Many red-tailed Hawks will use the same nest for many years, while others will abandon it to build new nests every year. Red-tailed Hawks will sometimes leave their nest for up to a year, then return to reuse it. Red-tailed Hawks are known for building nests as sturdy as possible. The birds use twigs as their primary building material. However, they also line the interior with bark, pine needles, and corn cobs. Their nests are usually built on trees at least 4m high, but records have been found that nests were built up to 21m. Red-tailed Hawks can also build nests on human structures and place their nests to avoid the wind.

Different eggs are laid by different females.

Their shells are mostly white with light to moderate markings in dark brown, purple, and pale red-brown. The eggs hatch in around one month and can be laid by females. The female stays with the eggs to care for them, while the Male goes out to hunt food for the chicks. The parents work together to cut the meat into smaller pieces to feed their chicks.

It takes about a month for chicks to become young birds capable of flying. However, they stay with their parents. The young birds take about three weeks to master flight and begin to hunt independently. Red-tailed hawks are usually not allowed to leave their territory until they are between 4 and 6 years old.

Red-tailed Hawks love to clean their nests.

One, they won’t leave any droppings behind in their nests. Red-tailed Hawks will only allow uncooked meat to remain in their nests for two days before throwing it out. This prevents the meat from becoming rotten and could even give them some diseases.

Other birds may adopt Red-tailed Hawk chicks.

Red-tailed Hawk Facts: Here’s a touching example. Bald Eagles. In particular, scientists have observed cases in which abandoned red-tailed hawk chickens were found by mated bald eagles and taken back to their nests. These chicks are quickly accepted by their adoptive siblings and parents. The adopted bird thrives even though it is more competitive than red-tailed Hawks due to its larger size.

Red-tailed Hawks are young and have their habits.

Red-tailed Hawks are more social than adults. Young red-tailed hawks just emerging from their nests often gather in one area. They avoid encounters with other birds of their species or predatory birds. Young red-tailed birds will often seek a hiding place if they see an older predatory bird. However, young red-tailed Hawks can also be overconfident and attack prey too large for them. But they soon learn to choose their battles.

The poster boys of the species are the Jamaican red-tailed Hawks.

They are scientifically known as Buteo jamaicensis and live in the West Indies of the Caribbean Sea. This region includes Jamaica, Hispaniola, and the microstates in the Lesser Antilles. This region also includes the US territory of Puerto Rico. All of these countries have significant populations of Jamaican red-tailed Hawks. The island of Jamaica is where they were first discovered. This subspecies is also the smallest, measuring only 70 cm at the wings’ ends. Their maximum weight is also only around 1 kg.

The Western Red-tailed Hawks have the largest breeding range of any species.

The subspecies breed in 75% of North America’s total breeding range. They range north from Alaska, British Columbia, and Northwest Territories to Sonora in Mexico and south to Canada. They can also be found east of Manitoba, Canada, and west of the US, states of Colorado and Montana. New Mexico and Utah are their closest neighbors. The Western Red-tailed Hawk also has darker colors than other subspecies. Their tails have black crossbars, which contrasts with their brick-red color.

Harrison Jones
Harrison Jones
Harrison has been a freelance financial reporter for the past 6 years. He knows the major trends in the financial world. Jones’ experience and useful tips help people manage their budgets wisely.


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