The most common hawk in North America, the Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) occupies an impressive diversity of habitats, including deserts, roadsides, fields, parks, urban areas and woodlands. The home range of this highly adaptable avian stretches from Alaska to as far south as Central America.
Red-tailed hawks plumage varies widely depending on subspecies and region. Typical adults exhibit the characteristic brick-colored tail feathers along with whitish underbellies, hooked shaped bills, broad tails, yellow legs and feet and a small head seemingly disproportionately sized in comparison to their large muscular bodies.
Red-tailed hawks communicate using a piercing, high-pitched scream, used to warning other raptors or as a means of talking between mates.
Sharp-eyed and efficient hunters, red-tailed hawks prefer high perching places near wide open spaces where they can spot and seize their favorite prey of mice, voles, squirrels, small snakes and rabbits.
Breeding season kicks off a spectacular sequence of aerial acrobatics with red-tailed hawks putting on an impressive courtship display. The mated pair will sometimes clasp talons, plummeting toward the ground at a high rate of speed, only pulling away from each other and returning to normal flight seconds before impact.
Monogamous creatures, red-tailed hawks typically mate for life. Females lay one to five eggs each year, with both parents taking turns incubating the eggs. Eggs hatch in four to five weeks with young leaving the nest in about six weeks and juveniles attain maturity at around 4 years. Red-tailed hawks have been recorded to live to the ripe old age of 29 years.
Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. What is the home range of the red-tailed hawk?
2. What is the most distinguishing characteristic of the red-tailed hawk?
3. What method of auditory communication is used between red-tailed hawks?
4. What do red-tailed hawks prefer to eat?
5. What is spectacular about the courtship ritual displayed by red-tailed hawks?
6. Are red-tailed hawks monogamous?
7. How many eggs are laid by female red-tailed hawks?
8. How old do red-tailed hawks live?
Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. The home range of the red-tailed hawk stretches from Alaska to northern Central America.
2. The most distinguishing characteristic of the red-tailed hawk is the red or brick colored tail feathers.
3. Red-tailed hawks communicate using a piercing, high-pitched shrill scream.
4. Red-tailed hawks prefer to eat mice, voles, squirrels, small snakes and occasionally rabbits.
5. Mated pairs of red-tailed hawks will sometimes clasp talons, plummeting toward the ground at a high rate of speed, pulling away from each other and returning to normal flight only seconds before impact.
6. Red-tailed hawks are monogamous creatures, typically mating for life.
7. Red-tailed hawks lay one to five eggs per year.
8. Red-tailed hawks have been recorded to live to be approximately 29 years old.