Back to Back Issues Page
Red-Tailed Hawks
January 14, 2013

I'm back.

Almost two weeks without a computer can be trying on a person.

Hopefully this thing is restored like it was supposed to be the first time around.

Now comes the issues of trying to find everything that was supposed to be stored for me.

Thankfully I found my bookmarks and favorites that I first thought were lost for ever.

Even the Geeks thought it was gone.

Thank you for your patience and I missed not responding to letters and forums I am on.

Thank you for your input my friends, it looks like this newsletter will pretty much stay the same on the most part.

There were so many, I couldn't possibly respond to all of them.

As mentioned, that is what scrolling down and the delete button is for.

Now I must figure out how to put captions on the pictures to aid in descriptions.

I'm not savvy and it will take time.

Things are pretty much back to normal around here.

Karen had a fast recovery from the flu, Yolanda and I have been spared.

Christmas is packed away and the home is back in order.

Now to lose the few pounds I gained during the season.

Winter continues to be a strange season.

This past weekend we had rain and temps in the 50's and a cool down for this week.

Pictured is a 'Johnny Jump Up' blooming this past week.

(Pictured below is a 'Strawberry Lipstick' in bloom. Notice the frozen eye.)

A Great Blue Heron still hanging out near the pond (pictured above) this past week as well.

Though some like the idea of no snow, we need the moisture and the insulation for our gardens.

I actually noticed wild kitty willows showing off toes already.

Bird activity comes and goes right now.

With a lack of snow and cold, they can forage in the wild instead of coming to feeders.

It does save on the food bill, however.

Not sitting in front of a computer has given me more time to do house work, cook and my favorite, bird watching.

It is that time of year to keep your eye on the sky and look for hawks.

Especially Red Tail Hawks.


Some people will travel several miles and wait for hours to hopefully see what I was privileged to witness last week.

Many never see it.

I'm driving along (almost home) when I notice the resident Red-tailed hawks flying close and in rapid circles.

I have to pull off to the side for this.

I'm fascinated with raptors and enjoy watching them in flight.

Well, the pair continued to fly up high and dive down and circle in a manner I have never seen before.

What I was witnessing, was a courtship flight or aerial dance.

To my delight, this went on for several minutes.

The only thing missing was when the pair grasp each other feet first and spiral down.

Still, I consider it a privilege to watch nature perform.

Often it is a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

(I've witnessed this a few times in my life.)

Red-tail hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) are the most common hawk in North America.

Many birds of prey start courtship in January and continue through March (Great Horned owls are busy hooting at night and have since December).

During courtship, the hawks will defend their territory from other like birds. In this time, they will construct or remodel an old nest.

At two years old, they are old enough to find a mate and mate for life.

Nests can be anywhere from 35 feet off the ground and higher.

They can be 3 feet wide and older nests grow much like an eagles nest.

In some locations, Great horned owls will take over an old hawk nest and any hawk is smart enough to not mess with a Great Horned owl.

Eagles hold there own, but prefer not to mess with these owls as well.

If you see an active Hawk nest, keep your distance, these birds are quick to abandon if they feel threatened.

Mating takes place lasting a whole five seconds.

She will then lay 1 to 5 eggs with 2 to 3 being the norm.

Incubation can last from 28 to 35 days and both parents lay on the clutch, though she is on the nest more than 2/3 of the time. and he will bring her food.

The young fledge about 45 to 50 days from hatching. Red-tailed hawks are large raptors (birds of prey).

They weigh 1 ¼ - 4 pounds and have a wingspan of 4 feet.

Males and females look alike, but the female is about 1/3 larger.

These hawks have dark brown backs with light-colored bellies streaked with brown.

Their tails are a rusty reddish brown color.

Their tails turn red when they are 2 years old; (before that, their tails are brown).

There are morphs with different coloration and markings.

Hawks have excellent eyesight and can spot a mouse from 100 yards away.

They live as far north as Alaska and as far south as Central America.

Red-tailed hawks don't really migrate as much as it is moving where the food is.

My hawks are year round birds.

Red-tailed hawks do not usually live deep in the woods.

They like to live along the edge of a forest because it is easier to catch mice in an open area.

These hawks and Great horned owls both live on the forest edge, but they don’t have to compete (fight) for food.

(Winter Hawk nest from a distance.)

Since the hawk hunts during day, and the owl hunts at night.

Different times and interests, they never bump into each other!

Red-tailed hawks are active fliers; they flap a lot, and they soar.

(Same Nest up close.)

I like to watch the hawks play in the wind.

When they see a mouse, they dive straight down (stoop) at up to 120 MPH to catch it with sharp talons (claws).

They also hunt by sitting on a perch and watching for prey.

Then they pounce on it! This perch can be a fence post or a dead tree.

A good territory has many perches.

Red-tailed hawks will eat any animal that is raccoon-sized or smaller, even pets.

85% of their diet is made up of mammals, like mice, squirrels, and rabbits.

About 10% of the hawk’s prey are birds like ducks or woodpeckers.

Red-tailed hawks aren't your typical backyard or feeder hawks, they aren't built for the objects they would have to dodge.

The rest of their diet (only 5%) is made up of snakes, frogs, fish, and grasshoppers.

When young hawks are learning to hunt, they find a low perch to sit on and swoop down on the prey.

They are not good enough yet to attack from the sky.

I have no idea where my hawks nest, but if you ever spot a nest, enjoy it from a distance.

Many birds of prey are quick to abandon a nest if humans get to close.

Like all Native and migratory birds, they are protected.

Enjoy them for what they are and remember they help to keep rodent populations in check.

Hawks are vital to a healthy ecosystem.

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

The life that conquers is the life that moves with a steady resolution and persistence toward a predetermined goal. Those who succeed are those who have thoroughly learned the immense importance of plan in life, and the tragic brevity of time.

W.J. Davison

Planning is important, but don't make it the be all, end all.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

John 10:10

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

PS. If you enjoy these letters, please forward them to friends, family and co-workers.

Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

Back to Back Issues Page