Red-tailed Hawk


Photo by Carl Moore

Red-tailed Hawk: Length 22″ , wingspan 50″

Our most common buteo; wings broad and fairly rounded; plumage extremely variable. Looks heavy billed, unlike rough-legged and Swainson’s hawks. Variable pale mottling on scapulars contrasts with dark mantle, often forming a broad-sided V on perched birds. most adults, especially in the east, show a belly band of dark streaks on whitish underparts; dark bar on leading edge of underwing, contrasting with paler wing linings. Note reddish upper-tail; paler red under-tail. Great Plains race krideri known as “Krider’s Red-tailed,” has paler upper-parts and whitish patches at base of primaries on upper-wing. Many southwestern entirely light underparts. Widespread dark and rugous morphs of western race, calurus, have dark wing linings and underparts, obscuring the bar on leading edge and belly band; tail is dark reddish above. In harlani, “Harlan’s Hawk,” formerly considered a separate species, dark morph has dusky white tail, diffuse blackish terminal band; shows some white streaking on its dark breast; may lack scapular mottling; rare harlani light morph has typical tail pattern, but plumage resembles krideri. “Harlan’s hawk” breeds in Alaska and east to northwestern Canada; winters primarily in central U.S. Juveniles of all morphs except harlani have streaked and spotted with brown below. Distinctive call, a harsh, descending keeeer,

Photo by Carl Moore

Habitat variable: woods with nearby open land; also plains, prairie groves, and desert, Preys on rodents.

I find this bird while camping in the Mohave Desert, an hour outside of Vegas along the California border near Baker, CA. Driving along the 15 I exit on rasor road take the unpaved road back into the desert for about 20 minutes before I come across some tamask trees creating a little oasis in the barron land. Upon setting up camp I see a bird moving around in the trees, I am anxious thinking that this may be an owl.

I was grateful to see the sun rise the next morning and see the bird still in the trees above. I quickly realize that this is no owl and quickly think I am looking at an eagle, but the location is all wrong for an eagle so I think hawk. But once looking at the bird guide book I was getting more confused on what type of bird this is. Then after several debates with friends I have come to the conclusion that this is a beautiful red-tailed hawk.

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