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The Red Tailed Hawk

2012 November 20

By Amy Miller

The lone hawk sat on our swing five feet from a gaggle of neighborhood children. “It’s a juvenile,” my-son-the-raptor-expert declared.

About 50 times the size of the hummingbird fluttering over the nearby hibiscus, it didn’t look like a juvenile to me.

“That’s why it’s so close and not afraid of us,” Benjamin informed me.

One week it’s stink bugs, the next it’s red-tailed hawks. Humbling the things your kids know (and you don’t).

When I asked Benjamin how he knew it was a red-tailed hawk, he looked at me like I had asked him the color of Grant’s white horse? Besides large red tails, these hawks have predominantly auburn bodies and a few dark feathers along the outer lines of the wings.

The next day the “definitely a red-tailed hawk” landed in a tree outside my window. Never before had a bird of prey been so near for so long to our family homestead. I stopped friends driving by, called neighborhood children from their dinners and took a number of pictures thinkable only in the digital age. The hawk posed for the pictures, presented its profile and for a week was almost a pet.

And so I took an interest and learned that hawks are territorial and will defend their hunting area; and that red tailed hawks belongs to the group of hawks know as buteos. I learned that buteos rely on eyesight and stealth. They grab prey – usually small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects- then drive talons in to ensure the prey is dead. Accipiters – the other type of hawk – are fast and built to fly quickly through the woods with shorter wings.

It is the talons, hook-shaped beaks and good eye-sight of raptors, like eagles, hawks, vultures, owls and falcons, which  sets them apart from other animal-eating birds, like crows, robins and woodpeckers.

When our new pet decided to move on, it soared high, as hawks do, to save energy they otherwise would use to flap its wings.

These birds, native to North America, are particularly adaptable. They are found in deserts, forests and grasslands and they may migrate or they may stay put. The older birds with established territories sometimes choose to stay. After I hadn’t seen the hawk in awhile, I assumed it had joined the majority that migrate south.

Then, a week ago, the hawk reappeared, back on the giant maple with its leaves almost all fallen. I welcomed our pet back home.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, seven chickens, two parakeets, dog and a great community.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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8 Responses leave one →
  1. Arman.- permalink
    November 20, 2012

    Migrant : Go Beyond The Last Planet……!

    Ultra high technology should bring the human go beyond other planet. The human doesn’t satisfy to stay in one place,and so moving to next places in or out of the planet. Like the birds, they are naturally back to the native place, the earth……!!!

  2. dinyar dalal permalink
    November 20, 2012

    Thank you very much for posting this wonderful story about red tailed hawk. I did not know anything about it before this. I am a bird lover. I love Hawks, Crows and especially Eagles. I want you to know that you made my day!
    Thanks again.

    Note: I have enjoyed reading ALL previous postings as well.

  3. Barry Everett permalink*
    November 20, 2012

    Red Tails are indeed like old friends, or even family members. I have seen them in every part of the United States, and in every type of terrain and neighborhood. I can sometimes see them soaring among the buildings outside my window on the 12th floor in downtown Dallas. They can live to 21 years or so, and range from the Arctic Circle to the Equator in North America, including the Caribbean. Thanks for the post.

  4. Carol Mitchell permalink
    November 20, 2012

    I too am Fascinated with birds of prey particularly hawks and am lucky to have a resident Red Tailed Hawk that sits in a barren tree above the pond in my backyard. I know when “he” has made a catch because it sings (more of a screech) of it’s good fortune to all who will listen! There was a pair of them this spring and I hope they will continue populating and enriching our community with their offspring forever.

  5. Bob Hilscher permalink
    November 22, 2012

    Hi there. What a great story. I know what its like to be humbled by a Red-tailed Hawk. I live in Toronto, Canada, and recently, my wife, Jean, and I came upon an adult Red-tailed Hawk in Markham, Ontario. We have read that stalking a hawk is no easy task,that you have to sneak up on them when they are looking the other way. Well, this Hawk was only looking one way when it landed, and that was right at us! Fortunately, we had our camera with us and got some good pictures and video. We have posted them for anyone interested at: http://frametoframe.ca/photo-essay-red-tailed-hawk-sighting-markham-ontario

  6. Pinoy Technologies permalink
    November 26, 2012

    Thank you very much for the dicussion about “The Red Tailed Hawk”. That was very inspirational and very interesting discussion.

  7. Selda permalink
    November 28, 2012

    Great story. I just wonder if you ever figure out why the red tailed hawk keep visiting you guys. At one point I though you may have some pets that hawk was targeting.

    Selda

  8. Amy permalink
    December 4, 2012

    Hi Selda, I never figured it out but in talking to others I have learned that this is not so unusual.

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