- Bird Of The Month -Red tailed Hawk
Scientific name: Buteo jamaicensis
How to identify:
Red-tailed Hawks are large hawks with typical Buteo proportions: very broad, rounded wings and a short, wide tail. Large females seen from a distance might fool you into thinking you're seeing an eagle. (Until an actual eagle comes along.)
Most Red-tailed Hawks are rich brown above and pale below, with a streaked belly and, on the wing underside, a dark bar between shoulder and wrist. The tail is usually pale below and cinnamon-red above, though in young birds it's brown and banded. "Dark-morph" birds are all chocolate-brown with a warm red tail. "Rufous-morph" birds are reddish-brown on the chest with a dark belly.
Habitat: The Red-tailed Hawk is a bird of open country. Look for it along fields and perched on telephones poles, fence posts, or trees standing alone or along edges of fields
Where to find one: You'll most likely see Red-tailed Hawks soaring in wide circles high over a field. When flapping, their wing beats are heavy. In high winds they may face into the wind and hover without flapping, eyes fixed on the ground. They attack in a slow, controlled dive with legs outstretched - much different from a falcon's stoop.
How to attract one to your yard: You're unlikely to see this bird in your backyard (unless yours is a big one). Red-tailed Hawks eat mostly mammals, so they're less likely to visit a popular feeder than a Cooper's or Sharp-shinned hawk is. It's very rare for a Red-tailed Hawk to go after dogs or cats.
Interesting fact: The Red-tailed Hawk has a thrilling, raspy scream that sounds exactly like a raptor should sound. At least, that's what Hollywood directors seem to think. Whenever a hawk or eagle appears onscreen, no matter what species, the shrill cry on the soundtrack is almost always a Red-tailed Hawk.
For more information on Red-tailed Hawks, visit one of the three Moana Nursery store locations: 1100 W. Moana Ln. & 11301 S. Virginia St., Reno and 7644 Pyramid Hwy., Sparks.
Carmel Ruiz-Hilton is Manager of Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shops at Moana Nursery in Reno/Sparks
Go to the WBU site for more Bird of the Month newsletters & articles.