Kirsten Bartlow joined us in studio for a look at the red-tailed hawk.
How would you best spot a red-tailed raptor?
The best way to find this raptor is to go for a drive, keeping your eyes peeled along fence posts and in the sky-chances are good that the first hawk you see will be a red-tailed hawk.
Do red-tails live in Arkansas year round?
Red-tails live throughout Arkansas year round. During winter months, their northern cousins migrate south in search of more agreeable living conditions and hunting grounds. Mammals make up the bulk of their diet and frequent victims include mice, wood rats, rabbits, and voles. They also dine upon bobwhite, starlings, blackbirds, snake and carrion.
What do they look like?
Identifying red-tailed hawks can get a bit tricky-their coloring varies considerably and not all fall into line with having a red tail. Juvenile birds don’t earn their namesake until their second year. Generally, they are rich brown above and pale with a streaked belly below. They are a large hawk and have broad, rounded wings and a short, wide tail.
How big are they?
Birds are amazingly adapted for life in the air. 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. A similar-sized small dog might weigh 10 times that.
What do they sound like?
Their hunched, oval shape is easy to spot perched on utility poles and lone trees along the edges of open country. And, their tell-tale scream is the stuff of movies-literally. The loud, drawn out “kee-eeeee-arr” is the audio filler in most movies regardless of the species of raptor on the screen. Admittedly, the red-tails call is a more satisfying sound than many raptor’s including the bald eagle’s wimpy-sounding, high-pitched whistle.
What is there courtship like?
Courting red-tailed hawks put on a display in which they soar in wide circles at a great height. The male dives steeply, then shoots up again at an angle nearly as steep. After several of these swoops he approaches the female from above, extends his legs, and touches her briefly. Sometimes, the pair grab onto one other, clasp talons, and plummet in spirals toward the ground before pulling away