Critter Corner -
DID YOU KNOW:
Red-tailed hawks adapt to different habitats and are versatile
in their diet. So they have become the most abundant hawk
in North America.
Whatever animal is most abundant and most easily caught will
become part of the red-tailed hawk's diet. They hunt mice,
rats, moles, rabbits, opossums and muskrats. They love
ducks, pigeons, songbirds and quail, and they won't pass up a
meal of snakes, lizards, frogs or insects. They may even
steal prey from a smaller hawk and then catch and include the
smaller hawk in the meal.
During courtship, the male and female fly close together.
The female may reuse the same nest each year. The nest is
about two feet in diameter and built high in a mature tree.
The female adds soft greenery to the nest and lays one to three
eggs about mid-March. The male brings her food while she
is sitting on the nest and then helps her feed the young.
The young are able to fly from the nest about six weeks after
Depending on prey available, a red-tailed hawk
need about two to three square miles to survive. They
prefer mixed forest and farmlands. They need sturdy tall
trees for nesting and roosting and open areas to find food.
Red-tailed hawks are the most common hawk seen along our
Sharp talons and a strong, sharp beak help defend against
predators and protect their nesting and hunting territory from
other birds of prey. Eyes like a hawk isn't an empty
compliment. They can see fine details at a great distance.
No animal can survive without a home. Hawks have no
defense against habitat loss and lack of food.
When hunting, the red-tailed hawk can appear
to fly in place. The hawk faces into the wind and only
wings and tail to hold position as it scans the area for a
tasty morsel. This flight skill is called kiting.
Red-tailed hawks occur in many color phases.
A red-tail's color can range from almost completely black to
almost completely buff.
Immature red-tailed hawks have yellow eyes;
adults have dark brown eyes. The characteristic red
tail develops in the hawk's second year.
Lakeside Nature Center is lucky
enough to have two color phases of the Red-tailed hawk.
Check out the
Harlan's Hawk and the
To learn more about
(Photo credits: Portrait of
Red-tailed Hawk, US Fish and Wildlife Service; Soaring Hawk, EPA
[Bill Schmoker]; Red-tails sitting on telephone pole, Missouri
Department of Conservation; Dark-phase hawk, South Carolina
Department of Natural Resources [Barbara Samuelson])