Red-tailed hawks are birds of the open range. They like deserts, scrublands, grasslands, open fields, and roadsides where they can take off, soar, and see their prey. They even like their chicks to have the same vista. The parents will build a nest in a tall, open tree that doesn't obstruct the view of the ground or the sky. This construction project can take four to seven days. If a tree isn't available, they may even chose a billboard platform, again along the open road.
Red-tailed hawks are large birds (you can see that the one below is sizable compared the SUV it uses as a perch), and as in all raptors, female birds are larger than male birds. However, they are amazingly light for their kite-like flying, sometimes only three pounds.
Red-tailed hawks are buteos, otherwise known as field hawks. They have broad wings, wide bodies, and short tails compared to their bodies. They can soar without beating their wings. Another buteo profiled on this website is the smaller red-shouldered hawk.
The red-tailed hawk is an American bird; it lives year-round throughout the continental United States, and some like to visit Canada in the summer. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, you can see the hawks in open fields or along lonely roads throughout the U.S. Check high in the sky where they circle on thermals or look to fence posts and poles. Sometimes during cold weather, they will wait there, like delayed jets, searching for thermals to take them skyward.
One of the most evocative aspects of the hawk is its "kee-ar" call, a sound that reminds me of longing and also triumph. When you think of old Western movies, especially when the main character is on a long journey to what seems like nowhere but nonetheless has potential for heroism, this is the sound effect. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has recordings.
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