RED-TAILED HAWKS: RAPTOR RAPTURE
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.
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.
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]
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 birdsAFTERWORD 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 NICOLE‘s 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?)
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