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    Red Tailed Hawk/ Species/ Description/Diet/ distribution/ reproduction/Red-tailed Hawk is one of the common and largest birds of prey in North Americ

     Red-Tailed Hawk 

    Red-Tailed Hawk

    Red-tailed Hawk is one of the common and largest birds of prey in North America. This hawk is also known as red hawk, chicken-hawk, Harlan’s hawk or buzzard hawk. The scientific name is Buteo jamaicencis and belongs to the family Accipitridae, genus Buteo. In 1799, the French naturalist Bernard Germain de Lacépède placed the red-tailed hawk in the genus Buteo. The red-tailed hawk belongs to subfamily Buteoninae, with another 54 currently recognized species. 

    At least fourteen subspecies have been recognized, depending on the color, appearance and range. The fourteen subspecies of red-tailed hawk are as follows - 

    Jamaican red-tailed hawk (B. j. jamaicensis) 

    Florida red-tailed hawk (B. j. umbrinus) 

    Socorro red-tailed hawk (B. j. socorroensis) 

    Eastern red-tailed hawk (B. j. borealis) 

    Central American red-tailed hawk (B. j. costaricensis) 

    Tres Marias red-tailed hawk (B. j. fumosus) 

    Harlan's hawk (B. j. harlani) 

    Krider's hawk (B. j. kriderii) 

    Cuban red-tailed hawk (B. j. solitudinis) 

    Alaska red-tailed hawk (B. j. alascensis) 

    Western red-tailed hawk (B. j. calurus) 

    Southwestern red-tailed hawk (B. j. fuertesi) 

    Mexican Highlands red-tailed hawk (B. j. hadropus) 

    Red-tailed hawk (kemsiesi) (B. j. kemsiesi) 

    Description of Red-Tailed Hawk 

    Red-tailed hawk or buzzard hawk is the most widespread hawk. 14 subspecies of red-tailed hawk have different coloration and appearance. The weight of red-tailed hawk is 1.6 pound and body length is 40cm to 65cm and height is 19inches to 25 inches. The wingspan can be 35 inches to 44 inches. 

    Red-tailed hawk gets its common name for its brick-colored tail but not all the subspecies have this characteristic. The Eastern adult red-tailed hawk has brick-colored tail and white underparts with a band of dark marks across its belly while the Western adult has dark color plumage. Red-tailed hawk tail is wide but short and is square-cut. The underside of the tail is pale and the top portion of the tail is cinnamon-red in color.  

    The color of the eyes is dark brown but the one-year-old bird has pale yellowish eyes. The change of coloration from pale yellow to darken can take several years, depending on the subspecies. They have excellent vision which can help them to see a mouse from 100feet up. Their diving speed can be reach 120 mph to catch the prey. When they dive, their eyes help them to focus quickly. Their binocular vision helps them to Triangulate an object to determine the distance of that object is. A translucent nictitating membrane, known as the “third eyelid” which blinks every 4 to 5 seconds horizontally across the eyes to provide moisture and protection and cleans the eyes from dirt and dust. Red-tailed hawk able to see the different colors and as well as those in the UV range which the humans can’t see. Their eyesight is 8 times powerful than a human. They have no sense of smell. Their ears are located behind their ears, both side of their head and covered with the feathers.  

    Red-tailed hawk has four sharp talons in each foot, 3 talons are in front and 1 is in the front. Red-tailed hawk has sharp hooked beak which is dark in color. Their legs and feet are yellow. 

    Although, red-tailed hawks have few predators but their eggs and nestlings are hunted by the great horned owls and crows. Aboutb30% of nesting hunted by the great horned owl. They communicate with screeching, shrill call although they are silent but during breeding season, they are vocal and used raspy voice during courtship. The other communication tool is their body language. When the red-tailed hawk becomes aggressive, it keeps its head and body up straight and their plumages are erect. A submissive red-tailed hawk keeps its head below the ground and flattens its feathers. Red-tailed hawk can live 10 to 21 years in the wild.  

    What do Red-tailed Hawks Eat? 

    Red-tailed hawk is a carnivore. They eat almost any small animals found in its territory. Red-tailed hawks mainly hunt small mammals like rodents and lagomorphs. Without these animals, they also eat fish, bird, invertebrates, amphibians and also reptiles. Rodents make up to 85% of their diet. They hunt and eat about five hundred species. About 100 rodent species are consumed by the red-tailed hawk, including eastern harvest mouse, marmots, squirrel, groundhogs, voles, rats, mole, mice, lizards, chipmunks. They also eat rabbits and hares. More than 200 bird species are in their food menu. They eat pheasant, woodpeckers, American crows, raven, western meadowlark, starling etc. Red-tailed hawk also hunts many kinds of snakes like gopher snake, colubrid snakes, eastern racer, eastern indigo snake etc. Other preys of red-tailed hawk are toads, frog, baby turtles, salamander and also invertebrates like beetle and cricket. Red-tailed hawks captured catfish, common crop, ornamental koi, salmon and also crab but they rarely hunt fish. 

    In winter, amphibian, fish, reptiles and small mammals disappear or go for hibernation, then the red-tailed hawks depend on carrion. Red-tailed hawks swallow the fur, bones or feathers of their prey. Hungry hawk steal or forcefully snatch the food or the leftover carrion from the other birds. 

    Where do Red-Tailed Hawks Live? 

    Red-tailed hawk is the most common and widely distributed raptor in Americas. These roadside raptors are often seen atop light post, telephone poles, on the trees. The red-tailed hawks are regularly seen in Caribbean, Central America, United States and Canada. Red-tailed hawks can be found in several countries such as Cuba, Haiti, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, Belize, Jamaica and many more. Their range extend from Alaska to Panama and from California to the West Indies. They live in any habitat but avoid thick forest and tundra. Red-tailed hawks prefer to live in scrub, plains, pastures, desert, grasslands, patchy deciduous and coniferous woodlands, parks as well as tropical rainforest and also prefer to inhabit open areas with elevated places to perch.  

    Jamaican red-tailed hawk (B. j. jamaicensis) lives in Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Lesser Antilles, Hispaniola in Northern West Indies but they are not found in Cuba or Bahama. This subspecies of red-tailed hawk is also found in Carribean National Forest in northeastern Puerto Rico. 

    Alaska red-tailed hawk (B. j. alascensis) is found from southeastern coastal Alaska to the Queen Charlotte Islands. They are also found in Vancouver Island in British Columbia.  

    Eastern red-tailed hawk (B. j. borealis) can be found in Texas, Nebraska, Oklahama, Kansas and few populations are also found in Dakotas and eastern Wyoming. In winter, migrate from southern Ontario to southern Maine and Gulf coast and Florida. 

    Western red-tailed hawk can be found as a breeder in British Columbia, central interior Alaska, west of Yukon, near the town of Inuvik in the Northwest Territories, northwestern Sonaro in Mexico, central Manitoba, Montana, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico. In winter, the population that live in  southwestern British Columbia, migrate to Southwest to Guatemala and northern Nicaragua. 

    Central American red-tailed hawk is found from Nicaragua to Panama. 

    Southwestern red-tailed hawk reach as the breeder from northern Chihuahua to southern Texas. In winter, they migrate in New Mexico, Arizona and southern Louisiana. 

    Tres Marias red-tailed hawk is native to Islas Marias, an archipelago of four islands of Mexico, located about 100km off the coast of Mexico. 

    Mexican Highlands red-tailed hawk is native to the Mexican Highlands. 

    Harlan’s red-tailed hawks reach for breeding from Central Alaska to northwestern Canada as well as in the Yukon, western Alaska and north-central British Columbia. 

    Red-tailed hawk is native to Mexico, Chiapas and Nicaragua. 

    Krider’s red-tailed hawk is found from southern part of Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and western part of Ontario to south-central Montana, western part of Nebraska, Wyoming and western Minnesota. In winter season, they migrate from south Dakota and southern part of Minnesota, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and Louisiana. 

    Socorro red-tailed hawk is found in Socorro Island, 370mi off the western coast of Mexico. 

    Cuban red-tailed hawk is found in Cuba and Bahama. 

    Florida red-tailed hawk is found in peninsular Florida, Tampa Bay, Kissimmee Prairie and Florida Keys. 

    Reproduction of the Red-tailed Hawk 

    Red-tailed hawk is monogamous and mate with the same partner for year-round. They do not change their mate but when one of the pair dies, then the other bird mate with another bird. Red-tailed hawk starts breeding at two years of age. The pair start their courtship with much calling and high-circling at heights of over 1000 feet. In this time, the male approaches the female by touching her wings and back. These flights lasting about 10 minutes. Then the both hawks land on a perch and the female tilts forward and allows her partner to mount her horizontal back. Mating takes place about 5 to 10 seconds. Red-tailed hawks choose the crown of a tall tree about 5m to 22m off the ground and make their nest on it. The male and female make their nest but the female bird give more time to make the shape of the nest bowl. Female red-tailed hawk lays one clutch of eggs, consisting one to four eggs around the early April each year. Some evidence shows that the number of eggs is produced depending on food availability. Female red-tailed hawk lays one egg every other day. Both male and female incubate the eggs for 28 to 35 days. Usually, the mother red-tailed hawk spends more time to incubate the egg, even all night. In this time the male bird brings food for her but sometimes the mother bird also leaves the nest for hunting and eating. The color of the eggs is mostly white but sometimes buffy with purple, dark brown making on the shell. If the first clutch of eggs is damaged, early in the breeding season, the female often lays a second clutch of eggs. The embryo gets oxygen into the egg through the pores present on the egg shell. When the embryo ready to come out of the egg, the use its “egg tooth” which is a strong and sharp projection, temporarily found on the bill of the chicks. It repeatedly tapping on the inner shell of the egg at the same spot to break the egg shell. This process is called pipping. Its pipping muscle is used to finish this process. The chick uses its legs and wings in a circular motion to create a hole on the egg shell and enlarge it, and then push the shell with its legs and comes out from the egg. Newly hatched chick is very tired, wet and vulnerable but after their down feathers dry, it becomes mor active. The mother red tailed hawk broods the hatchlings while the male bird brings food for the mother and chicks. The mother red tailed hawk tears the flesh into small pieces and feeds her chicks. When the chicks are 7 days of age, they start to peep and bounce. The parents feed the chicks for 8 weeks until the young learn hunting by their own. After 42 to 46 days, the young birds leave the nest. 

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