Thursday, August 14, 2014

Red-tailed Hawks

The other day someone asked me which bird is my favorite. Tough question because there are so many amazing species! However, if I really had to pick one, it would be the Red-tailed Hawk. Luckily, RTHAs are extremely common here in the winter and can also be seen regularly throughout the rest of the year.

One problem with RTHAs is that they aren't always easy to identify: Sometimes their tails aren't red and sometimes the birds are positioned so you can't even see their tail. So you need to look for other distinctive features. 

When trying to identify a RTHA that's flying overhead, look for dark marks on the leading edge of its wings. You can see the marks clearly in this photo.

If an adult bird is perched and facing you, the best ID mark will normally be its streaked belly band.

Many birds are difficult to ID when they are perched with their backs to you. As it happens, this is one problem you don't normally have with Red-tailed Hawks: Their backs typically have a very distinctive pale V-shaped marking. BTW, the younger the bird, the more prominent this marking usually is.


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