Red-Tailed Hawk

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Warrior- Warrior is an Eastern red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis borealis). Eastern red-tailed hawks are typically light in coloration with a white chest and dark belly band of feathers. Warrior is originally from Alabama, but he has lived with us since 2011. While we are unsure of Warrior’s exact age, we know he’s an older bird because of his dark chocolate colored eyes. Warrior enjoys target training, playing with sticks, and watching the trees sway from his window. Warrior’s favorite foods include mice and rabbit.

Sponsor Warrior

Warrior’s sponsors are: Natalie Jobbins, David Strand, Deloris Row

 

sitka

Sitka- Sitka is an Alaskan/British Columbian subspecies of red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis alascensis) from Yakutat, Alaska. He spent a brief period of time living in Sitka, Alaska (where his name comes from) before moving to the Haines.  Alaskan red-tailed hawks are known for their rusty red chest and darker coloration. While Sitka’s age is unknown, he’s been living at the ABEF since 2010. Sitka’s favorite foods are quail and rabbit. His favorite activities include taking walks and watching songbirds from his window. He also enjoys stretching his wings in the sun and taking baths.

Sponsor Sitka

Sitka’s sponsor’s are: Mr & Mrs Harold Oidiorne Jr, David Strand

 

Red-Tailed Hawk Natural History Information

Identification: Red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) are the most common raptor in North America. They are relatively large, stocky hawks with broad, fairly rounded wings and a wingspan of about four feet. Plumage can be incredibly variable (from very pale to almost black)  and there are 16 recognized subspecies across the Americas and Caribbean. The rusty-red tail is the distinguishing feature, however juveniles and some sub-species such as the Harlan’s hawk (B.j. harlani) found in the Pacific Northwest and the Krider’s hawk (B.j. kriderii) found in the Southwest may not have a red-tail. Red-tailed hawks are commonly seen perched on fences, powerlines, streetlights, trees,etc. while looking for their next meal. They are also commonly seen soaring with their wings held at a slight U-shape. Red-tails have four notched primary feathers that can be viewed when they are soaring.

Hunting & diet: Their diet and hunting styles are variable depending on the sub-species’ habitat. Common prey items include rodents, rabbits, birds and reptiles. Red-tails will sit on a perch and wait until they spot a prey animal from a vantage point before swooping down to catch it. If the prey item is large they will likely eat it on the ground, however if the prey item is smaller they will bring it to a post or swallow it whole. Red-tails are also known to soar at high altitudes searching for prey and have been sighted hovering as well.

Size: Males are between 18-22.5 inches tall and can weigh between 1.5-2.5 pounds. Females usually stand between 20.5-25 inches tall with their weight varying from 2-3.1 pounds.

Habitat: Because red-tailed hawks have such an expansive population, their habitat can vary from the deserts of Arizona and Mexico to the tropical rain forests of Puerto Rico to the sub-alpine of the Cascades mountain range. Typically, red-tails prefer semi-open habitat so they can forage, but can get out of site if needed. This includes woodlots, deciduous forests, agricultural areas and cityscapes.  In Alaska, red-tails are found in mixed forests, prairies, woodlots, fields, roadsides and industrial areas in the Central and Southcentral parts of the state. In the winter, red-tails in Alaska will migrate to to southern Canada and as far as Mexico.

Nesting & breeding:  The male will perform aerial maneuvers where he dives down by the female while she is soaring. Like bald eagles, red-tailed hawks are known to lock talons and spin in cartwheels as part of their pair-bonding ritual. Stationary red-tails are generally monogamous, but it is unknown whether migratory populations are. Nest building can occur anywhere between late December and early April, depending on the location. Nests are constructed by both male and female and a monogamous pair may alternate between two and three nests. They build large stick nests and will line the nests with strips of bark or moss. Red-tailed hawks prefer to nests in tall, open areas with access to good views over hunting grounds. Females will lay between two and three eggs which are laid every other day. The eggs have an incubation time of 28-35 days and the nestlings will fledge after about 45 days after hatching.

Other facts: Although it is rare, red-tailed hawks have been recorded breeding with Swainson’s hawks. When actively flying, red-tails have been recorded to fly an average of 37 miles an hour. When gliding along ridges, their average speed is 29 miles per hour. One study suggests that red-tailed hawks spend 93 percent of their time perched.

Most common problems: While red-tail populations have increased since the 1800s (presumably due to deforestation of Eastern forests and the absence of fire maintained habitats in the west),  some studies suggest that red-tailed hawk populations have declined since the 1900s. In North America, collision with vehicles, powerlines, airplanes, trains and wind turbines are a large cause of death for red-tails. Gunshot electrocution, poisoning and and leg-hold traps are also common problems for these birds.