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Red-tailed Hawk

Given the right lighting, it’s very easy to see how red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) got their common name (although the tail of juvenile red-tailed hawks is brown for their first two years).  Central Vermont and New Hampshire is at the northern end of the red-tailed hawk’s year-round range – if they live much further north, they usually migrate south for the winter.  This common bird of prey typically inhabits open areas interspersed with trees.   It is usually observed soaring in wide circles over a field, or perched high in a tree, where it sits and waits, keeping an eye out for prey such as mice, voles, rabbits and hares.  Once it spots a small mammal, as the red-tail in this photograph just had, it quickly takes off and uses its talons to capture its next meal.


12 responses

  1. ht

    Terrific photo!

    January 27, 2012 at 12:47 am

  2. Awesome photo!

    January 27, 2012 at 12:48 am

  3. Dexter

    So in places where the red tails are seen year round, I wonder the individuals remain or if the ones we see in the winter are ones that summer to the north, while our summer redtails go some distance south in the winter. I think I read that it happens that way with robins and maybe other birds.

    January 27, 2012 at 12:50 am

    • I am sure that some of our winter red-tails are northern breeder visitors, Dexter, and certainly some of our breeding red-tails migrate south. Thanks for mentioning this phenomenon!

      January 27, 2012 at 6:44 pm

  4. Yet another stunning photograph. I’m always learning something new from reading your blog

    January 27, 2012 at 12:50 am

  5. What a great photo!!!!!!! Thanks for taking it!!!

    January 27, 2012 at 1:07 am

  6. Viola

    Fantastic picture! So much action!

    January 27, 2012 at 3:28 am

  7. Excellent photo, Mary! Driving down I-91 the length of the state sometimes I’ll see a dozen red tails, sitting in trees in the median or off to the shoulder. Highway mortality is a bummer as a result. Last summer I found a juvenile that had been hit and killed, and just another 100 yards or so farther north, an adult male who met the same fate. An irony of man-made habitat…

    January 27, 2012 at 3:54 pm

  8. Jean Harrison

    Fantastic launch shot!

    January 28, 2012 at 4:34 am

  9. On 1/29/2012 around 1:00 in the afternoon I was in Norwalk, Connecticut and while sitting in my car facing a wooded area, a very large bird landed in a tree several feet away even with my view. The bird seemed to be very curious about me, but I didn’t understand how he could see me so clearly through the windshield of the car. I couldn’t help but stare back at this beautiful specimen with soft brown feathers. I noticed distinctive darker markings on his breast, and I couldn’t tell for sure what it was. I never saw one this close up, so this was a rare sighting for me. He seemed very curious and sat there several minutes before he swooped down over the windshield only about 4 feet above me with his head bent down looking directly at me. This was an awesome experience. Researching a bit, I found it do be a Red Tail Hawk. The bird carried some weight and looked soft brown all over. I noticed the wing span was somewhat shorter and thicker than an eagle’s wing span.

    January 29, 2012 at 2:27 pm

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