Red_tail Hawk

Walter Colvin

Showlow, United States

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Digital painting of a redtail hawk. Line Drawing painted with photoshop.

The Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is a bird of prey, one of
three species colloquially known in the United States as the
“chickenhawk,” though it rarely preys on standard sized chickens. It
breeds throughout most of North America, from western Alaska and
northern Canada to as far south as Panama and the West Indies, and is
one of the most common buteos in North America. Red-tailed Hawks can
acclimate to all the biomes within its range. There are fourteen
recognized subspecies, which vary in appearance and range. It is one
of the largest members of the genus Buteo in North America, typically
weighing from 690 to 1600 grams (1.5 to 3.5 pounds) and measuring
45–65 cm (18 to 26 in) in length, with a wingspan from 110 to 145 cm
(43 to 57 in). The Red-tailed Hawk displays sexual dimorphism in
size, with females averaging about 25% heavier than males.

The Harlan’s Hawk (B. j. harlani), often considered a separate
species, is treated below in the Taxonomy section.

The Red-tailed Hawk occupies a wide range of habitats and altitudes,
including deserts, grasslands, coniferous and deciduous forests,
tropical rainforests, agricultural fields and urban areas. It lives
throughout the North American continent, except in areas of unbroken
forest or the high arctic. It is legally protected in Canada, Mexico
and the United States by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Because they are so common and easily trained as capable hunters, the
majority of hawks captured for falconry in the United States are
Red-tails. Falconers are permitted to take only passage hawks (which
have left the nest, are on their own, but are less than a year old)
so as to not affect the breeding population. Adults, which may be
breeding or rearing chicks, may not be taken for falconry purposes
and it is illegal to do so. Passage red-tailed hawks are also
preferred by falconers because these younger birds have not yet
developed adult behaviors, which can make training substantially more

The Red-tailed Hawk also has significance in Native American culture.
Its feathers are considered sacred by some tribes, and are used in
religious ceremonies A male Red-Tailed Hawk may weigh from 690 to 1300 grams (1.5 to 2.9 pounds) and measure 45–56 cm (18 to 22 in), while a female can weigh between 900 and 2000 grams (2 and 4.4 pounds) and measure 48 to 65 cm (19 to 26 in) long; wingspan is about 114 to 133 cm (45 to 52 in). As is the case with many raptors the Red-tailed Hawk displays sexualdimorphism in size, as females are up to 25% larger than males.

Red-tailed Hawk plumage can be variable, depending on the subspecies and the region. These color variations are morphs, and are not related to molting. The western North American population, B. j.calurus, is the most variable subspecies and has three color morphs:light, dark, and intermediate or rufus. The dark and intermediate morphs constitute 10–20% of the population.

Though the markings and hue vary, the basic appearance of the Red-tailed Hawk is consistent. The underbelly is lighter than the back and a dark brown band across the belly, formed by horizontal streaksin feather patterning, is present in most color variations. The redtail, which gives this species its name, is uniformly brick-red aboveand pink below. The bill is short and dark, in the hooked shapecharacteristic of raptors.They have short,broad tails and
thick,chunky wings. The cere, the legs, and the feet of the Red-tailed Hawk are all yellow.

Immature birds can be readily identified at close range by theiryellowish irises. As the bird attains full maturity over the courseof 3–4 years, the iris slowly darkens into a reddish-brown hue. Inboth the light and dark morphs, the tail of the immature Red-tailedHawk are patterned with numerous darker bars.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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