Identifying Red Tailed Hawks
Red tailed hawks are birds of prey of the same family as the eagle. Learn which ones are beneficial and much, much more.
Hawks are birds of prey of the same family as the eagle, kite, and osprey. They are short winged and swift flying and have sharp claws and a hooked bill. North American hawks that are considered harmful include the sharp shinned hawks, such as Cooper's or chicken hawk and goshawk. Largely beneficial hawks include the American, rough-legged, broad winged, red tailed and red shouldered hawks which eat insects and rodents. Marsh hawks sometimes kill game. The name hawk is applied to some birds of the Falcon family. Most adult hawks are about 22 inches in length.
Since people and birds are both sight animals, it is good to note that most birds have what is known binocular vision, which is especially well developed in predators who must estimate the changing distances to prey. The eyes are rotated toward the front of the head so that the visual field of each eye overlaps to some degree. There is evidence that hawks can distinguish their prey at two to three times the distance that a human being can detect the same animal.
Red Tailed hawks live mostly in woodland and open country with a scattering of trees or sometimes in desert areas. They are a soaring hawk that, when seen in flight from below, shows a thin but distinct dark leading edge to the inner under wing. Their plumage is variable, with the term red-tailed relating to the upper tail of the adults. Their head, wings and back are dark brown on the outside. They feed on reptiles, rabbits and rodents within their wide range and can be seen in diverse habitats that range from groves to prairies. Their call is distinctive with a call note consisting of a harsh descending keeeer.
These hawks are known for their aerial displays which will include a pair spiral and recross where the male usually circles behind and above the female. The male at times will stoop at the female with their feet touching or interlocking as the female rolls over. They will often be involved in courtship feeding and are territorial.
When nesting, the Red Tailed Hawk will always have a commanding view of the nest area. Nests are usually found in the crotch of a large tree and are bulky concoctions made of sticks and twigs. They are lined with inner bark strips, green leaves and evergreen sprigs. In some cases this hawk will use an old raptor nest as the base for their new nest. They are known to alternate between several perennial nests with females often returning to previous nesting territory. The eggs of the Red Tailed Hawk are white to bluish white and sometimes have brown spots. The hard shell of a bird's egg is composed of a protein skeleton supporting a heavy calcium carbonate deposit. They are well adapted to bear the weight of the parent, conserve moisture, resist the attacks of predators and permit the exchange of gases. The chicks hatch asynchronously when the chick has grown its egg tooth and develops powerful hatching muscles on the back of its head and neck.