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November 26, 2014
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Red-tailed hawk: a raptor aptly named

Streeter displays Neekahna’s chestnut-red tail, which is characteristic of red-tailed hawks over one year old.


October 11, 2012

For several weeks in late August, I had the pleasure of observing a young red-tailed hawk almost daily along Route 97 near Ten Mile River. The bird was usually perched on a wire with its back to the road as it steadily observed a meadow for potential meals—a practice known as still-hunting. One day I found it facing the road and managed to take several photos before it took flight.

I sent the photos to Bill Streeter of the Delaware Valley Raptor Center (DVRC) in Milford, PA, who observed that the bird appeared to be molting into adult plumage, making it about one year and three months old, given two striped tail feathers (first year plumage) that hadn’t molted out yet.

One of the largest hawks, with wingspans of roughly four feet, female red-tails may weigh in at over three pounds. Males weigh approximately two-and-a-half pounds. They eat a variety of foods ranging from snakes to rodents to small birds.

Watch for red-tails along highways, perched in dead trees from which they scan for rodent activity or roadkill. Because they frequently hunt along roadsides, red-tails are at increased risk for collisions with cars. DVRC staff have rehabilitated thousands of raptors that have come to various harms.

Visit www.DVRConline.org or call 570/296-6025 to learn more. Join DVRC on October 20 for its Fall Migration Hawk Watch, beginning at 8 a.m. in Milford and continuing at Sunrise Mountain in Stokes State Forest. Free for members; $5 for adult guests; $2 for child guests under 12 years old. Call above number for details.