Whether you reside in the dry grasslands of the Midwest, the northern alpine forests of Alaska, or the quiet maple forests of Easton, Conn. you are bound to see a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). This large raptor is one of America’s most widespread species of wildlife, found in all states in the mainland United States. The highly adaptable red-tailed hawk is one of the top predators of the New England forest.
Red-tailed hawks are very busy at this time of year. Many of the young that hatched this spring or summer are now leaving the nest and beginning to hunt on their own. The parents, however, will continue to feed them until fall, and will react hostilely to other birds of prey who enter their territory.
Red-tailed hawks have few predators, but they often clash with great horned owls, who will readily eat juvenile red-tails if given the opportunity. This is why it is not uncommon for red-tailed hawks and great horned owls to be observed clashing when they discover each other’s presence.
Red-tailed hawks can be found in just about any type of habitat, but they prefer open areas and fields. These areas serve best for this species’ style of hunting. Red-tailed hawks will often wait for prey on an open perch, diving and dropping down to catch whatever catches their eye. Red-tailed hawks dine on a wide array of rodents, birds, and even reptiles, including snakes. All of these prey items are most readily available in fields and open land habitats.
While red-tailed hawks can be found year-round, many individuals will migrate south for the winter. The red-tailed hawk is one of the many species that will partake in the annual hawk migration, a massive movement south that sparked birding events and organizations such as the hawk watch led by the National Audubon, and the Hawk Watch International.
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