Saturday, October 15, 2016

Birds on a Wire: Red Tailed Hawk

Raptors in particular love telephone poles. They provided great visibility, a perch for taking off after a  "meal," and a stand for creating a nest.

Southern Arizona has some great raptor corridors. Sulphur Springs Valley south of Willcox; along the Santa Cruz River near Tubac; and Santa Cruz Flats west of Picacho Peak are three major areas in Southern Arizona. It is not unusual to find over 100 raptors in any of these three locations at certain times of the year.

Red Tailed Hawks are the most common hawk throughout much of North America. I remember reading somewhere years ago that if you see a hawk, there is a 90% chance it is a Red Tailed Hawk. I don't know if that is statistically true, but certainly it is the most abundant raptor.

The Red Tailed Hawk is also the most variable in plumage. As such, you don't always recognize it immediately as a Red Tailed. The plumage is especially variable west of the Mississippi where it could be near black to nearly white -- and all shades in between. As an adult the distinguishing characteristic is the "red" -- more like "orange" tail. However, in juvenile stages the tail is much lighter complicating identification further.

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