You know what a Red-Tailed Hawk looks like, even if you don't realize it. They're the hawks that you see soaring high above fields and hills while looking for lunch, or perched on a telephone pole scanning the ground for dinner. Admittedly, there are many species of hawks that soar and perch on power poles, but Red-Tails are among the most common.
|Harlan's Hawk from schmoker.org|
Another famous thing about Red-Tailed Hawks is their call, but you may not have known who you were listening to. The most common raptor noise in movies and on TV is the call of the Red-Tailed Hawk, but it's usually played in the movie when a Bald Eagle is on screen, or when a Turkey Vulture is seen hovering over a dying cowboy (also inaccurate). In fact, there are so many comical misuses of the Red-Tailed Hawk's call that I have decided right now to write an entire separate article about it, so stay tuned! I promise it will be funny and educational.
|Educational Red-Tailed Hawk at the RMRP|
Another reason they're pretty well-known is because they live all over North America. Seriously. You'd be hard pressed to travel anywhere on this continent and not find Red-Tailed Hawks. They're almost as ubiquitous in North America as the Peregrine Falcon, but not quite. Red-Tails live in every sort of ecosystem except continuous forest (they leave that to forest-dwellers like Goshawks) and the Arctic. But everywhere else, from tropical islands to the Grand Canyon, you can find Red-Tails. In fact, the densest population of these birds is in El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico.
Red-Tailed Hawks primarily eat rodents and other small mammals, but they'll also snack on birds (especially pigeons in cities) and snakes. In fact, the Red-Tailed Hawk has a super-cool way of hunting poisonous rattlesnakes. They spread their wings and tempt the snake with their feathers, kind of like a matador taunting a bull with a red cape. When the snake strikes at the wing feathers, the bird reaches in with a foot and grabs the snake. The National Geographic video below shows the matador move, and although they missed any footage of the snake striking at the wings, it's still cool to watch.
A few other facts that don't require an entire paragraph:
- They're monogamous, only finding a new mate when their previous mate dies.
- Great Horned Owls like me are occasional predators of Red-Tailed Hawks, but not the other way around (that's right, I'm the top of the food chain).
- They're also known as chickenhawks, even though they're not very well known for hunting chickens.
Although nothing much is happening these days, the Cornell Red-Tailed Hawk Webcam is an excellent way to get a closer look at these birds. Cornell installed two HD webcams at the Red-Tail nest on their campus, and you can tune in any time during breeding season to watch the male and female hawks build their nest, lay the eggs, incubate them, hatch them, and then raise and fledge the chicks. Be sure to check it out next season!
The Humans at the RMRP admit dozens of Red-Tailed Hawks every year. Many of them come in hit by cars, shocked on power lines, or [this year] sick with West Nile Virus. Please send healing thoughts to those birds currently in the RMRP's care! If you would like to support the care of these incredible birds, click the "Donate Now" link on the right side-bar!
|Educational Red-Tailed Hawk for the RMRP|