Brooklyn Boro

Brooklyn Bird Watch: May 12

Scientific Name: Buteo jamaicensis

May 12, 2023 Joseph Palmer
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Today, Brooklyn Bird Watch presents a beautiful Heather Wolf portrait-style close-up photo of a juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk, seen in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The Red-Tailed Hawk is the most widespread and therefore the most familiar hawk in North America. It can be recognized by its shriek as well as by its namesake, the distinct reddish-brown tail, while the rest of its plumage is variable. Hollywood directors consider the shriek of the Red-Tailed Hawk to be the definitive sound a raptor makes (or should make) which is why they use the Red Tail shrieks for sound effects, even if there is an eagle or another raptor actually on screen.

The Red-Tailed Hawk is a monogamous bird and often mates for life. These hawks build nests high above the ground and both sexes take turns to incubate the eggs for about five weeks. Chicks leave the nest about six weeks after birth.

As National Geographic describes, the Red-Tailed Hawk’s mating dance is something to see: “Breeding season initiates a spectacular sequence of aerial acrobatics. Hawk pairs fly in large circles and gain great height before the male plunges fast into a deep dive and subsequent steep climb back to the circling height. Later, the birds grab hold of one another with their talons and fall spiraling towards earth.”

Even though the Red-Tailed Hawk is, of course, protected in North America by the Migratory Bird Act, nevertheless, as The Peregrine Fund for Raptor Conservation in Idaho reminds us: “This beautiful raptor continues to face many threats. In some parts of its range, this bird is killed because it preys on chickens or is captured and held in poor conditions because people mistakenly think it will make a good pet. It doesn’t.”
And like other birds nowadays, there is habitat loss and electrocution on power lines and fatal collisions at wind farms.”

However, in good news, the Red-Tailed Hawk’s conservation status is of “least concern.”

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