My Red-tails

Baby Red-tail Photo courtesy Terry Stevens and Liberty Wildlife

Each year in early January we begin to see two red-tailed hawks soaring in ascending spirals around the peak of the nearby mountain. Sometimes I don’t notice them until I hear the signature scream, k-eeeeeer, sounding across the blue distance.
Red-tails mate for life, and the female will generally seek out last year’s nest when breeding time rolls around. Even though he is familiar to her, the male must win the female again every year. Courtship involves elaborate aerial acrobatics, complete with daring dives and barrel rolls.
This pair nests on a ledge on a south facing ridge high above the neighborhood. Nearby South Mountain and numerous rocky ridges provide homes for cottontail rabbits, rock squirrels and various rodents. Red-tail hawks mainly eat small mammals, scanning with binocular vision for prey while roosting on a snag, cactus or power pole. Once they launch an attack their stoop speed can reach 120 mph. You begin to comprehend the size of this predator when she sails suddenly over the ridge, her white breast gleaming and the broad wings held steady. A slight shift of flight feathers rocket her past a stony outcropping and she vanishes. The female may have a wingspan of 56 inches, close to five feet!
I’m guessing there are a couple of hungry babies in the nest by now, as I see the hawks throughout the day. These magnificent animals play an important role in controlling rodent populations, so I wish them success in their parenting. We are glad you are such a good mom Mrs. Red-tail!


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