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July 23, 2011 / Leslie

Weekend Birding: Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawks are the most common hawk found in North America. They can usually be seen circling high above open fields or perched at the top of tall tree or telephone pole.

Variations in color and pattern will occur in these hawks depending on what part of the continent they are located on but one identifying feature they all have in common is a reddish brown tail. Juvenile red-tailed hawks, no matter where they live, do not have red tails. They are a lighter color which will change gradually over several molts.

A few weeks ago I was attending a bird walk and as we were listening to a presentation on Purple Martins a young hawk landed in a nearby tree. He stayed for the presentation so I took photos of him too. This was most likely a juvenile hawk because of the light colored tail feathers and lack of red coloring.

Another hawk showed up and began making a scolding call lasting 2 to 3 seconds. It was a loud, rasping scream. This is the call movie studios use to represent the call of an eagle. Eagles have a lovely sound, nothing like what Hollywood leads us to believe. I later learned there was a red-tail nest in the area so they were probably just keeping an eye on us!

The photo on the right (click for larger view) is a red-tail that sat in a tree in front of my house for about an hour. Every bird in the area was alert and chirping their warning calls and even circling the tree in an effort to get the hawk to leave. They aren’t commonly found in backyards but occasionally I will see one in the tall trees or pines.

Interesting Facts:

  • Their diet consists of mostly small mammals and birds.
  • They can spot a mouse from a height of 100 feet.
  • Both the male and female build the nest.
  • Males and females look alike although females are usually 1/3 larger.
  • Mated pairs typically stay together until one of the pair dies.


For more bird photos check out my previous Weekend Birding posts.

I link up my bird photos on Saturday Snapshot hosted by Alyce at At Home With Books. Visit her blog to see more great photos or add your own.


Leave a Comment
  1. carol / Jul 23 2011 2:27 am

    Fantastic photos!
    Thanks for sharing these with us.

    Have a good weekend



  2. Margaret @ BooksPlease / Jul 23 2011 3:51 am

    Beautiful photos. What a fascinating bird walk you had!


  3. Paulita / Jul 23 2011 5:30 am

    Your bird photos are amazing. We have hawks in our backyard quite frequently here in Ohio. Maybe that’s because the lady next door has a busy bird feeder so the hawk comes from a little salad bar of birds to choose from.


    • Leslie / Jul 24 2011 1:58 am

      I get smaller hawks, usually Cooper’s Hawks, in the backyard. They sit on the fence or even on my deck rail and watch the bird feeders.


  4. BermudaOnion / Jul 23 2011 7:03 am

    I love your bird photos. I was in our kitchen one day and saw a hawk (at least I think it was a hawk) perched on our deck. I called for our son to bring the camera downstairs, but the bird was gone by the time he came downstairs. We saw the bird on our deck one other time and didn’t get a picture then either.


    • Leslie / Jul 24 2011 2:01 am

      I try and keep my camera close by but I’ve had that happen too… very frustrating when the bird won’t wait for me and flies away.


  5. laurelrainsnow / Jul 23 2011 7:15 am

    I only occasionally see birds around my neighborhood, but in the park nearby, there are some. I haven’t been on any bird walks, but they do sound intriguing. Love the photos….and I have always been a bit intimidated by hawks. Your story and these photos make them less so. Thanks for sharing.



  6. Louise / Jul 23 2011 7:31 am

    Another fascinating post. How lucky to have the hawks come right up to you.


    • Leslie / Jul 24 2011 2:04 am

      The hawk was pretty high up in the tree. My camera has a zoom lens. I wouldn’t want to get too close to him with that beak.


  7. Lisa@ButteryBooks / Jul 23 2011 8:10 am

    Impressive pictures. Love the blue sky in the background.


  8. dixie / Jul 23 2011 8:50 am

    I love hawks. We have one that hangs around our neighborhood. We have empty fields nearby, and I think it must find good eating in the tall grasses. Thanks for sharing!


  9. irene / Jul 23 2011 8:55 am

    I too love these birds. Love seeing them on the top of poles. Love also that the mates stay together.


  10. dyane / Jul 23 2011 9:18 am

    really interesting info and great photos Leslie….thank you for sharing the bald eagle sound….nice package of info you put together each week I’m enjoying it very much.


  11. diane / Jul 23 2011 9:53 am

    I think these birds are a gorgeous species. I see them around here and there is one in a tree where I park at work frequently….Love this photos


  12. wldmtngrl / Jul 23 2011 10:42 am

    I always feel lucky when I see one of these beautiful birds. Didn’t know about the size difference between females & males. Interesting. There’s usually a reason for sexual dimorphism and I wonder what it is in this case.


    • Leslie / Jul 24 2011 2:11 am

      Both male and female hunt, so that’s not the reason. I think the female is larger because she is the one who protects the nest, eggs and chicks while the male protects the territory.


  13. Alyce / Jul 23 2011 11:08 am

    I’m so glad you shared the difference between the hawk and eagle calls – I had no idea! We have a lot of hawks around here, but I haven’t seen one that close in the wild (at least not when I’m not driving). Most of the time we see them on telephone wire next to local farms.


  14. Amy / Jul 23 2011 2:16 pm

    He’s a beautiful bird, the markings are wonderful. I love, though, how when one sat in front of your house the other birds chirped warnings calls to each other tried to get him to leave. Nature is fascinating!


  15. Vicki / Jul 23 2011 2:26 pm

    I love your bird photos!
    Here’s My SS


  16. Bev@My Reader's Block / Jul 23 2011 2:36 pm

    What absolutely marvelous pictures! I have some hawk pictures, but I’m not able to get near the close-ups that you do. Spectacular!

    Here’s my Snapshot:


  17. gautami tripathy / Jul 24 2011 7:50 am

    Awesome photos!

    Here is my Saturday Snapshot post!


  18. Marie / Jul 24 2011 3:08 pm

    This is such a magnificent bird. We have at least one living in our rural neighbourhood, but we don’t see it that often. Great photos!


  19. Wallace / Jul 26 2011 11:19 am

    We have a lot of hawks out here and it’s amazing to watch them. I can never see what color of tails they have (maybe if I had a better zoom camera?) but I notice their stomach coloring. Some brown, some white. Does that mean anything or is it just random (like blonde hair vs. brown)?



  1. Weekend Birding: Red-tailed Hawk Nest « Under My Apple Tree
  2. Weekend Birding: Red-tailed Hawk « Under My Apple Tree

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