Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
A small-sized bird of prey -one of three species colloquially known in the United States as the "chickenhawk" though it rarely preys on 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.
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. 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 vertical streaks in feather patterning is present in most color variations. The red tail (which gives this species its name), is uniformly brick-red above and pink below. The bill is short and dark in the hooked shape characteristic of raptors. 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 their yellowish irises. As the bird attains full maturity over the course of 3–4 years, the iris slowly darkens into a reddish-brown hue. In both the light and dark morphs, the tail of the immature Red-tailed Hawk are patterned with numerous darker bars.
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 hawks in their first year. Adults, which may be bred are not permitted to be taken for falconry. Falconers prefer to train first year hawks which have not been locked into uncooperative adult behaviors.
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. Source: Wikipedia.org .
Sheffield Mills, Nova Scotia. 07 February 2009.