Written by: Karlee May, Digital Media Coordinator
Did you know that the “classic” call attributed to Bald Eagles is actually the high pitched scream of the Red-tailed Hawk? The broad wing span of the Red-tailed Hawk, floating over open land, is a common sight in the skies above our watershed. You may even see not one, but two hawks in the sky because they sometimes hunt in pairs during breeding season. Red-tailed Hawks hunt small mammals, for example, voles, mice, rabbits, and squirrels. Red-tailed Hawks are one of the biggest raptor species in North America, but even the biggest females only weigh three pounds. Red-tailed hawks are aggressive when defending territory. Courting birds swoop and chase after each other. An aggressive posture they use is holding their body and head upright while their feathers are standing erect. They are the most common species of hawk in North America, and you can identify them from their broad round wings, and short wide tail—perfect for coasting on thermals over open country, like farms.
Red-tailed Hawks are famous for their brick red tail feathers. These feathers do not grow in until maturity. Once their prey is spotted they drop head first in a “swoop”. Red-tailed Hawks are vulnerable when they swoop in a hunt to a predator they share with other birds of prey: us. Vehicles frequently hit and kill Red-tailed Hawks. If a passenger throws food out of the window, mice and rats are attracted to the garbage thrown onto road sides. When a Red-tailed hawk swoops to the side of the road, in pursuit of its prey, it can’t see oncoming vehicles, and consequently, the vehicle will hit the Red-tailed hawk. It’s important to practice good stewardship even when you’re in a vehicle, and put garbage in an appropriate place once the vehicle has come to a stop (even biodegradable garbage like an apple core!).
Takenya is one of our resident Red-tailed Hawks, a popular education bird, and the Raptor of the Month for October. Takenya was transferred to Mountsberg from a rehabilitation centre in the Muskoka area where she was recovering from being shot in the wing, reason unknown. Her wing could not be fully repaired enough for her to fly properly so Takenya enjoys life meeting visitors at the Raptor Centre year round! Despite the fact that she is not human imprinted like many of the other education birds, she has become a wonderful education bird due to her calm nature. Takenya has much darker plumage than most Red-tailed Hawks found in Southern Ontario. Our belief is that Takenya hatched in Northern Ontario and was injured during her first migration south.