Red-tailed Hawk in Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge
The red-tailed hawk is one species of bird that lives in the Rocky Flats Wildlife National Refuge. It breeds throughout most of North America, from western Alaska and northern Canada to as far south as Panama and the West Indies. It is also the most common type of hawk in North America.
The red-tailed hawk is one of the largest birds you’ll see in North America, yet even the biggest females weigh in at only about 3 pounds. These hawks are dark brown with horizontal streaks in their feather patterning. Their tail, which gives this species its name, is red and light orange.
Red-tailed hawks like to live in big, open spaces. You’ll find them in deserts, scrublands, grasslands, roadsides, fields and pastures, and parks. They’re often seen perched on utility poles, fence posts or trees standing alone or along edges of fields.
As the largest predatory bird in the refuge, the red-tailed hawk preys on a variety of smaller animals including mice, wood rats, rabbits, snowshoe hares, jackrabbits and squirrels. The hawks also eat other birds and snakes. Red-tailed hawks have been seen hunting as a pair as they guard opposite sides of the same tree to catch prey as a team!
The hawks vocalization or cry lasts about two to three seconds and has a raspy, high pitch onset that slurs downwards. Many describe the cry as sounding like a steam whistle. Red-tailed hawks typically vocalize when another predator or rival hawk intrudes their territory.
Learn more about the wildlife at the Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge here!
Photo courtesy of Audubon.