Name helps identify the red-tailed hawk

Published Feb 13, 2013 at 04:00AM

Scientific name: Buteo jamaicensis

Characteristics: A large and broad-winged hawk with plumage that is highly variable. Adults have a brick-red tail, while the juvenile’s tail is brown with numerous dark bands.

Breeding: Builds a stick nest in a tree or cliff face; sometimes adds fresh evergreen foliage to the nest. Lays two to three eggs on average; young take about 45 days to fledge.

Range and habitat: Widespread across much of North and Central America and the West Indies. Inhabits woodlands, open country, farmland and urban parks from sea level to the mountains.

Food: Hunts from an elevated perch or while soaring overhead. Prey consists of rodents, small mammals, snakes, birds and even insects.

Bird facts: Genus name Buteo means “a kind of hawk” and jamaicensis refers to Jamaica, where the first scientific specimen was collected. Named for their reddish tails, these hawks are often seen perched on power poles or fence posts. Their distinct harsh cry sounds like keeee-aar. During courtship, the males and females engage in dramatic aerial displays; at times the adults lock talons and spiral downwards seemingly out of control.

Current viewing: Agricultural fields and open areas throughout Central Oregon.

— Damian Fagan is a birder, writer and past President of the East Cascades Audubon Society. He can be reached at damian.fagan@hotmail.com.

Sources: Oregon Department of Wildlife Resources and The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds by John Terres

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