- Author: Maureen Clark
Red Tail Hawks Buteo jamaicensis
We have the pleasure of having red tail hawks near our house. Every year around November the Red Tail hawks show up for a visit. Sometimes they stay through the winter but most years they don't. The female comes back around January 15th like clockwork and waits for the male to show up. They clean up the nest and add new branches, which takes about a week. This year, the hawks kicked out the owl twice. Hummingbirds often create nests below the hawks and benefit from the hawk's protection from other birds such as blue jays.
The tierces (male) and hen (female) will court. They fly with their legs beneath them and swoop after each other, sometimes locking talons. The lifelong pair will fly in large circles and gain great height, then the male plunges into a deep dive and does a subsequent steep climb back to circle some more. It's a lovely sight to see. This year will be the seventh year they have come to mate. We love to listen for the females' call as she sits incubating the eggs, waiting to spot her companion. She'll start screeching “kree-ee-ar” and in a minute or two, we'll see the male, coming in to bring her a meal. One day he brought in a big, big snake and we heard it thump into the nest as he dropped it. He then took a portion and had a meal too. Their nest is huge! It's probably 5 feet deep and 6 feet in diameter. It's much larger than usual. We are keeping the windows open in anticipation of hearing the eyas (newborn) hawks. The eyas will stay in the nest for approximately 42-46 days after hatching. The parents will sleep in the nearby trees near the nest, up to 100 feet away, watching carefully over their youngsters. One year they had two eyas. As we watched them grow, one of them was clearly a female. She was twice the size of any of the fledglings we'd seen over the years. She was timid and didn't want to practice flying from the nest. The father was in the nearby redwood calling to her to come and try to fly to the neighboring tree. Then the female would try to. Her brother was going from the adjacent tree and back to the nest. It took 3 days of enticing before she finally got up the courage to fly over. The parents will teach the eyas for 1-2 years to prepare them for life. Hopefully, the parent hawks will bring many eyas into the world and they live to find a mate and continue the circle of life.
Nest is usually 6.5‘ high and 3' across. Construction takes 4-7 days. Clutch size is 1-5 eggs, with 1 brood per year. Eggs are 2.2-2.5” x 1.7-2.0”. Incubation 28-35 days. Nestling period 42-46 days. Hatchlings are 2oz, can't raise their heads, and are helpless.
Adults weigh 1.5 – 3.5 lbs. and are 18-26” tall with a wingspan of 38-43”.
The call sounds like kree-ee-ar. Most movies use a Red Tail hawk call when representing eagles and other hawks.
Vision - can see a mouse 100 feet from up in the air. Fly 120mph to catch said such prey. They tilt their head back and forth to triangulate an object and see how far away it is. They have a third eyelid that moves side to side to keep eyes moist and clean.
Courting – they fly with their legs beneath them and swoop after each other, sometimes locking talons.
They fly in large circles and gain great height, then the male plunges into a deep dive and does a subsequent steep climb back to circle some more. They mate for life.
They have soaring behavior and “kite” in stationary hover in the wind.
They eat voles, mice, rats, ground squirrels, rabbits, snakes, fish, insects, and carrion. Birds like pheasant, bobwhite, starlings, blackbirds. Can carry prey up to 5 lbs. Which is larger than them.
I hope you get a chance sometime this year to stop and watch the Redtail hawks.