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Posts tagged “Buteo jamaicensis

Red-tailed Hawks Building & Refurbishing Nests

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Red-tailed Hawks are on eggs, or soon will be.  Whether their nest is in the canopy, on a building ledge, transmission tower or elsewhere, it usually has a commanding view of the surrounding area and unobstructed access from above.

Both members of a pair share in nest site selection, which is often in mixed woods adjacent to open fields. They build their nest together, working most diligently in the morning, and construction is completed within four to seven days. If a nest is re-used, which it often is, it is refurbished with sticks and greenery. Red-tails are very wary during this nest-preparation period and may discontinue nest-building if humans are detected, so should you come upon a nest during this stage, best to remove yourself quickly.

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Overwintering Red-tailed Hawks

12-24-14 red-tailed hawk-juvenile 002Red-tailed hawks are “partial migrants” — some individuals are migratory, and others are not. Many Red-tails living in the northern portion of the species’ range in southern Canada and northern United States migrate to more southerly locations for the winter. A few northern birds, however, remain on their breeding territories even in the most severe winters.

Overwintering Red-tailed Hawks are generally easy to spot, as they often perch on dead trees overlooking open fields and on telephone poles next to highways, where they watch for prey. Mice, voles, squirrels, snowshoe hares and an occasional bird make up most of their diet. If you notice the coloration of a Red-tailed Hawk’s tail, it will tell you whether the bird is a juvenile or adult. Adults have rufous tails; juveniles have barred, brownish tails. Seconds after this photograph was taken this juvenile Red-tailed Hawk killed and consumed an American Crow while being mobbed by more than 50 other crows.

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Red-tailed Hawk Nestling

The Red-tailed Hawk nest that produced two fledglings last year is in use again this spring.  In the past month the nestlings have gone from tiny white powder puffs to nearly equaling their parents in size.  Down is still visible, especially on their heads, but contour feathers are quickly replacing them on other parts of their body. Soon there will be wing stretches and flapping, as well as hopping about on nearby branches in preparation for fledging. 

 


Red-tailed Hawks on Eggs

The red-tailed hawk nest that produced two chicks last summer is once again occupied by a pair of red-tails.  A conifer sprig adorning the outside of the nest was the first clue that a second brood might be in the works.  Yesterday I saw both male and female return to the nest carrying strips of bark, which the female applied to the lining of the nest.  Mid-March is when red-tails typically are building or refurbishing their nest and laying eggs.  They begin incubating as soon as the first (of 2 – 3) egg is laid, with the male and female both participating.  This photograph was taken at the changing of the guard.


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.

 


Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk

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Imagine my surprise when a juvenile red-tailed hawk standing in a nearby field allowed me to approach ever so slowly within inches of it. Tracks in the snow told the story of its diving from the sky and successfully killing and eating a resident vole.  For unknown reasons, it remained near the kill site for at least an hour, offering me an unusual photographic opportunity. Its wings and legs were functioning just fine as it walked and hopped/rowed with its wings occasionally in six inches of snow, so it did not appear injured in any way. Having watched red-tails raising two young  this summer only a couple of miles away, I wondered if this juvenile was one of those fluffy, white nestlings that successfully fledged.