Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

We encountered this bird below tearing apart a jackrabbit (probably a fresh road-kill) along Cascabel Road in January 2005. As we pulled the truck to a stop right beside it, the bird reluctantly flew off (only then displaying its markedly red tail feathers), but only went a short distance, to land on a mesquite branch across the road, where it waited at about eye-level while we got these photos. It had a companion also watching from atop a power pole not far away. (Click on each image to enlarge it.)


This one was also sitting on a hill above Cascabel Road in September 2004. The light was poorer on this occasion. (Click on each image to enlarge it.)




At left, a large hawk's nest in Sierra Blanca Canyon Wash viewed in March 2005. Note that the nest -- the mass near the top of the cliff (about 60 feet high above the wash), imitates the shape of the cliff-hanging shrub down below it. (Click on the image for a closeup of the nest.)



The bird was definitely nest-sitting, because it kept returning despite our presence seated below, nearby -- first it came to the cliffs above (to the right of the nest, shown below left, then to the left of the nest, then watching for some time at several places), and then as we waited motionless, finally returned to the nest (below right): (Click on each image to enlarge it.)



When we got too close and it flew away, our image identified the nesting bird definitely as a Red-tailed:

While Red-Tails usually maintain considerable distance from humans, occasionally -- as in late May 1998 -- one will threaten human observers who intrude upon its local province. This one below circled the Rabbit Ears Saguaro Hill in Lower Hot Springs Canyon several times, where a Saguaro Juniper photographer was standing while filming photostation images of the canyon. It moved gradually closer in circles, and finally (at quite close range) buzzed the cameraman, who held his mid-90s-era camcorder protectively over his head. The bird uttered a piercing keeeer! cry as it passed. The image at right was the last "still" obtainable before the attacker swooped in, and then flew smartly away and out of sight. (You can click on each image to enlarge it, though these are crummy images.)


Below, two good views of a sitting Red-Tail in the evening light of November 9, 2007. Here the redness of the tail is quite clear. (Particularly note the diagnostic white-speckled pattern on the scapulars.) (Click on each image to enlarge it.)


Below, three views of an adult Red-tailed, having just launched from atop a power pole near milepost 18 on the Cascabel Road February 20, 2008. The middle photo especially shows the characteristic wing-feather color patterns and the broad wing shape of this marvelous raptor. (Click on each image to enlarge it.) Compare the red-tail's broad wings in flight with those of the Ferruginous Hawk.



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