Wild Birds Unlimited – Omaha, NE

September 26, 2017

Common Backyard Hawks

Filed under: Birds,Hawks,Uncategorized — wbuomaha @ 2:03 pm
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For some people, hawks are frequent backyard visitors. But for most of us, their presence is unusual and unexpected. Three hawks commonly seen in backyards are the Red-tailed Hawk, the Cooper’s Hawk, and the Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Redtailed Hawk Flying  c

     The Red-Tailed Hawk is about 19” from head to tail. While perched, the tips of its wings just about reach the tips of its tail. Plumage varies in a continuum from whitish to very dark, but you can tell adults by their rufous-red tails. Juveniles have a brownish tail with narrow white bands.

Coopers Hawk

     The Cooper’s Hawk is about 16½” from head to tail. Its tail reaches well below its wing tips when perched. The outer tail has alternating bands of light and dark gray, with  a  broad  white  band  at  the  tip.   The

Under-tail bands are dark gray and white. Wing feathers of adults are blue-gray, and the chest is white with rufous horizontal barring. Juveniles have more brownish plumage. Their chests are creamy white with vertical brown streaks.

Sharpshinned Hawk

     The Sharp-shinned Hawk appears to be almost a miniature version of the Cooper’s Hawk, with very similar adult and juvenile plumage. However, the Sharp-shinned Hawk is significantly smaller, only 11 inches from head to tail. Its legs appear skinnier than those of the Cooper’s Hawk. The white terminal band on the Sharp-shinned Hawk’s tail is narrower, if visible at all.

All three of these hawks prey on songbirds, with the larger two also consuming small mammals. If you have bird feeders and baths in your yard, it is a good idea to locate them near evergreen shrubs, bushes, or trees which will provide the smaller birds an easy escape when they are threatened by a hawk or other predator.

While hawks are present in your backyard, you will rarely see a songbird. Federal and state laws prohibit the harassment or harming of hawks, so any action that may endanger them is not an option. They are fascinating birds to watch, so enjoy them while they are with you. Usually, they will leave after a few days, and your usual songbirds will return.




December 28, 2013

Roadside Sentry: Red-Tailed Hawk

Filed under: Birds,Hawks — wbuomaha @ 9:37 am
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Hawk Red-tailed
As you drive along area roadways, it is not uncommon to see a hawk sitting atop a utility pole, a road sign, a fence post or a tree. More than likely, it will be a red-tailed hawk.

This large hawk is found throughout North America in a variety of habitats. Red-tailed hawks range from 18-25 inches in length, with the female being slightly larger than the male. Their wingspan can reach four feet. Feather coloring is highly variable, ranging from chocolate brown to nearly all white. Often they are brown with a white breast and a distinctive brown stippled band across the abdomen. The rusty red tail that gives the hawk its name is usually seen only when it is flying overhead. Juvenile birds develop the red tail in their second year.

Common food sources for the red-tailed hawk are mice and other small mammals, birds, snakes, and insects. Adapted for daytime hunting, the red-tailed hawk’s eyes are positioned at the front of the face, giving it binocular vision and excellent depth perception. Once prey is spotted, the hawk will usually launch itself from its perch and glide silently toward its target on open wings. When it is nearly directly above its intended victim, it will fold it’s wings and drop rapidly. Strong leg muscles and feet with four long, curved, sharp talons enable these birds to capture and immobilize their prey. The strongly hooked raptor bill is extremely sharp for tearing the flesh of its prey. If necessary, the hawk will flap its wings and give chase for a few seconds. If the prey is not captured soon after the chase begins, it has a good chance of escaping.

Red-tailed hawks are usually monogamous and most pairs mate for life. They generally begin establishing territories and building nests by early March. The nest is built by both male and female on a platform or tree capable of holding the 25 to 30 inch diameter structure.

The female lays two to three white eggs, sometimes marked with brown. Both parents participate in the 30 – 35 day incubation period, and feed the babies after they hatch. The young fledge in 45-46 days. The pair will raise only one brood per year.
Redtailed Hawk Flying  c
In our area, red-tailed hawks are year-round residents. Hawks from farther north may overwinter in the territories of our local population. Although winter offers fewer daylight hours for hunting, much of the vegetation hours for hunting, much of the vegetation that provides protection for prey in other seasons is absent in winter. Food is critical for these birds to maintain the body temperatures necessary for survival.

Heat loss is often reduced by lifting feathers to trap a layer of warm air near the body. This gives the bird a fluffy or stocky appearance. Additionally, protected roost sites are critical. On cold, windy nights they tend to roost near the trunks of trees with dense branches or evergreens.

Next time you’re out for a drive, watch for these regal roadside sentries. You might even be rewarded with a display of their hunting prowess.

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