Thursday, May 09, 2013

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk - Buteo jamaicensis

Red-tailed Hawks are the most common hawks seen in late spring and summer in Alberta. Among the accipitrids, the Red-tail shows the most variation of plumage and the highest incidence of partial albinism. 

I heard this Red-tail before I saw him on May 8, 2013. The hawk landed at the top of a 30 meter Spruce along the Elbow River. Later the hawk did some searching circles beside me before soaring further west downstream.
These hawks can hover-hunt or wait patiently at a perch. They commonly perch on utility poles by roadsides.  Red-tailed Hawks are also capable of kiting (holding themselves immobile into the wind on set wings like a kite tugging against a string). The only other Buteo with this capability is the Ferruginous Hawk. 
The belly band, dark "arm" patagium, and "wrist" comma are characteristic field marks of a Red-tailed hawk. 
Small rodents are common prey but any small mammal, bird, or lizard is at risk.


The Atlas of Breeding Birds of Alberta. Federation of Alberta Naturalists. 2007.

Baicich PJ, Harrison CJO. Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of North American Birds. Princeton UP. 2005.

Dunne P, Sibley D, Sutton C. Hawks in Flight. Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston. 1988.

Fisher C, Acorn J. Birds of Alberta. Lone Pine Publishing. Edmonton. 1998.

Sibley David A. The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior. Alfred A Knopf, Inc. New York. 2001.

Scotter GW, Ulrich TJ, Jones EJ. Birds in the Canadian Rockies. Prairie Books. Saskatoon. 1990.

Tudge Colin. The Bird. Crown Publishers. New York. 2008.

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