Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawks do not have red tails. Their lighter colored feathers and often banded tails gradually change as they molt and become adults.
At the EcoTarium
The EcoTarium is home to a red-tailed hawk and a red-shouldered hawk. You can visit Jello, our female red-tailed hawk in the Animal Corner, just outside the lower level entrance. Our male red-shouldered hawk, Archie, lives in the bird house, located along the Wildlife Path.
Hawks are predatory birds (raptors) that are active during the day. They generally live in woods and are ambush predators, meaning they hide until prey comes nearby and attack suddenly. They have good hearing and exceptional eyesight and sharp, curved talons and beaks. These traits, along with being very intelligent, make them efficient hunters. They use their feet to grab and hold prey and their beaks to tear flesh as they eat.
Species of hawks are varied in size and ability. Some can reach a speed of 150 miles an hour when diving. Others migrate thousands of miles a year. Generally, females hawks are larger than males, and individuals form lifelong mating pairs. Like owls, hawks regurgitate pellets of indigestible materials like fur and feathers. Hawks, however, can also digest bone, so hawk pellets contain no bones.
Red-Tailed Hawks are found coast to coast in the U.S. and as far south as Argentina in all sorts of habitats, including fields, forests, deserts, and urban areas. There are 14 recognized subspecies of red-tailed hawk, which vary in color, although they are distinctive because of their size (20 inches tall) and their "red tail". Red-tailed hawks have a piercing scream that is often used as a sound effect in movies to represent birds of prey in general. They are accomplished gliders, often circling for hours on the thermal air currents, staying aloft yet using very little energy. They are good hunters, using the combination of powerful talons and sharp curved beak. Their eyesight is amazing. Hawks are able to spot field mice and other small mammals from hundreds of feet in the air. They can't see color but they are excellent at seeing movement.
The Red-Shouldered Hawk, often mistaken in the wild for the Broad-Winged Hawk, is one of the first hawks to return to its nesting grounds each spring. American Crows and Red-Shouldered Hawks often chase each other and try to steal food; sometimes they even team up and chase Great Horned Owls out of their territory. By the time they are 5 days old, nestlings are potty-trained and have learned to keep their nest clean.