RED-TAILED HAWKS (Buteo jamaicensis) RAPTOR RAPTURE


 RED-TAILED HAWKS: RAPTOR RAPTURE

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Red-tailed hawks are one of the commonest and largest  BUTEO species in North America, the Caribbean and further afield. There are fourteen widely-distributed subspecies. Their omni-habitat flexibility helps to maintain their prolific populations. They are equally at home in forests, grassland, open country, desert and even cities, at most altitudes. Red-tailed Hawk CP 7Red-tailed Hawk CP 1

This red-tail is preparing for flight. It had been sitting upright (see above), scanning for prey. Suddenly it hunched forwards, poised for take-off, the light of late afternoon sun catching its leg feathers. Moments later it raised its wings and was gone in an instant – the next photo an unusable blur of feathery speed.Red-tailed Hawk CP 6Red-tailed Hawk CP 3

6 RED-TAILED HAWK FACTS TO STARTLE YOUR AUNT WITH

1. The RTH displays SEXUAL DIMORPHISM in size – females average 25% heavier than males

2. Immature birds have yellowish irises. As the bird matures the iris darkens to a reddish-brown hue

3. They are easily trained to hunt: most hawks used for (tightly regulated) falconry in the US are Red-tails

4. They use tall trees, high rocks, utility poles or buildings as perch sites to scan large areas for prey

5. City hawks helpfully prey on rock pigeons and rats. ROSIE lives in Washington Sq NYC & has a web-cam

6. One urban RTH, known as PALE MALE, became famous as the first Red-tail in decades to successfully nest and raise young in Manhattan. He was immortalised by MARIE WINN in her book Red -Tails in Love: A Wildlife Drama in Central Park [RH Note: Good read]

Red-tailed Hawk CP 4Red-tailed Hawk CP 5

6 RED-TAILED HAWK FACTS TO SURPRISE YOUR UNCLE WITH

1. The fierce, screaming cry of the RTH is often used as a generic raptor sound effect in TV shows & films

2. Eggs are incubated primarily by the female. The male helps out when the female leaves to hunt or stretch her wings. The male brings food to the female while she incubates

3. RTH young are known as eyasses (“EYE-ess-ez”), a falconry term for a raptor still in its downy stage

4. About 6 / 7 weeks after fledging RTH young begin to capture their own prey. They reach breeding maturity around 3 years of age

5. Red-tailed Hawks can live for more than 2o years – the oldest recorded was 29

6. RTH feathers are considered sacred to many American indigenous people. The feathers of the RTH are regulated by the “Eagle Feather Law” which governs possession of feathers and parts of migratory birdsRed-tailed Hawk PPB 6Red-tailed Hawk PPB 5Red-tailed Hawk PPB 1AFTERWORD These photos were all taken recently in New York, in Central Park (The Ramble, a birding hotspot) and in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. They are therefore a bit of a cheat in a website based mainly on Abaco. But I have never managed to photograph a RTH on the island, so these pics are illustrative of what I might have photographed had I (a) seen a RTH (b) had my wits about me (c) for long enough to find my camera (d) to photograph it before it flew away (e) and sufficiently well to be able to use the result [Header and due credit to Wiki]

See also NICOLEs excellent birding website at http://www.oiseaux-birds.com/card-red-tailed-hawk.html

(PS apologies to those who have neither aunts nor uncles. I have no wish to be amitist or avunculist. Have you a cousin you can try?)

BIRDS OF ABACO (BAHAMAS) IN NEW YORK CITY (& VICE VERSA)


Brooklyn Gulls

BIRDS OF ABACO (BAHAMAS) IN NEW YORK CITY (& VICE VERSA)

Many moons ago, I wrote about the bird species that a New Yorker might recognise during a trip to South Abaco. It would depend, of course, on the time of year and migration patterns. And whether a resident of  the Big  was remotely interested in going to Abaco to look at birds. As if! As it happens, Mrs RH is about to go to NYC, and tolerantly offered to take me as ‘trailing spouse’. Naturally, I said no at once [only joking]. So I am resurrecting the earlier material and polishing it up a bit for 2013. There is much good birding to be done in and around the City (Central Park ~ Riverside and Inwood Parks ~ Prospect Park Brooklyn ~ Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge ~ Staten Island ~ shorelines generally) though I shan’t be spending all my time doing that. Or even much of it. But I will see what species I can casually bag in a week.  

This photo is of a ring-billed gull, taken a while back in a freezing february (-15°) on the northern end of Roosevelt Island* in the East River. The whole front of the vessel in the background was thickly coated in frozen sea-ice, which covered the entire foredeck. However, you might just as easily catch one of these gulls on a perfect sunny day on the shores of Abaco…  [*Optional tourist note: it's a great ride there on the aerial tramway. Visit the quaint clapboard Blackwell Farmhouse, built in 1796 and recently restored - it's the oldest surviving building in the City, nestling shyly amidst a forest of new apartment blocks]Ring-billed Gull NYC

 If you happen to live in New York, you may quite possibly spend some spare time birding in Central Park, or checking out the red-tailed hawks of Washington Square. And if you are planning a trip to Abaco, you might suddenly wonder just how different the bird life will be there. Will there be any familiar species at all?

 New York City has nearly 200 regularly recorded bird species, most of which will be found in Central Park at some time of the year, if not all through it. South Abaco has around 126 species, excluding extreme rarities and accidentals. Is there much overlap, I wondered? And the answer is that there is plenty, rather more than I expected. 61 species in common, by my reckoning, including the Great Egret below. The the most notable feature is the almost complete coincidence of warblers.

Great Egret Abaco BC 1Photo credit © Brigitte Carey, Abaco

 I used the excellent (but not exhaustive) AVIBASE checklist for South Abaco, now featured on the Delphi Club site in the new BIRDING  section, and worked through a comparative list of the NYC species (see the birding website links for NYC / Central Park above). The result is below: a New Yorker using the South Abaco checklist may see any of the birds ringed in red. And it would work vice versa, of course. Why New York? It’s the only other place outside Europe that I have ever ‘birded’ (only extremely casually – no book, no notes, no pishing, a few photos – just for enjoyment). Peaceful bird time in the Ramble in Central Park is time well used… Before we get to the list, here’s a bit of local NYC colour that you won’t find on Abaco – a male Northern Cardinal in the snow in FebruaryCardinal NYC CP

NYC BIRD SPECIES THAT APPEAR ON THE SOUTH ABACO BIRDS CHECKLIST

 I photographed this red-tailed hawk in Central Park. We’ve seen one on Abaco in the National Park, close enough to get a really good photo of. Typically, it flew off before I could get my camera out of the truck. There’s a lesson there somewhere…

Editorial note (not necessarily a shared opinion): Abaco is so good, they only needed to name it once…

BIRDS OF NEW YORK CITY ALSO FOUND IN SOUTH ABACO, BAHAMAS


If you happen to live in New York, you may quite possibly spend some spare time birding in Central Park, or checking out the red-tailed hawks of Washington Square. And if you are planning a trip to Abaco, you might suddenly wonder just how different the bird life will be there. Will there be any familiar species at all?

New York City has nearly 200 regularly recorded bird species, most of which will be found in Central Park at some time of the year, if not all through it. South Abaco has 126 species. Is there much overlap, I wondered? And the answer is that there is plenty, rather more than I expected. 61 species in common, by my reckoning. The coincidence of warblers is the most notable feature.

I used the excellent AVIBASE checklist for South Abaco (as now featured on the Delphi Club site in the new BIRDING  section) and worked through a comparative list of the NYC species (there are very good sites for NYC / Central Park birding). The result is below: a New Yorker using the South Abaco checklist may see any of the birds ringed in red. And it would work vice versa, of course. Why New York? It’s the only other place outside Europe that I have ever ‘birded’ (only extremely casually – no book, no notes, few photos – just for enjoyment). Peaceful bird time in the Ramble in Central Park is time well used… Before we get to the list, here’s a bit of local colour that you won’t find on Abaco – a male Northern Cardinal in the snow in FebruaryCardinal NYC CP

NYC BIRD SPECIES THAT APPEAR ON THE SOUTH ABACO BIRDS CHECKLIST

Here’s a red-tailed hawk I photographed in Central Park… I’ve seen one on Abaco in the National Park, but it flew off before I could get my camera out of the truck. There’s a lesson there somewhere…