Hawk is the name commonly applied to kites, buzzards, eagles and many other birds of prey. However, the term “hawk” refers chiefly to the genus Accipiter or the genus Buteo. Among the best known of these true hawks are the European Sparrow Hawk, the Swainson’s Hawk, the Red-shouldered Hawk and the Red-tailed Hawk.
Hawks can be found in nearly all tropical and temperate regions of the world. They range in length from about 1 to 2 feet. The sexes are usually similar except for the size as the females are usually larger than the males. Their plumage is usually red, brown, gray or white with streaks on the body and bars on the wings.
Throughout the ages, Hawks have been watched with awe and wonder. Hawks exhibit power, majesty and strength that have even led some cultures to worship them. They are also called Diurnal Raptors either as Accipiters or Buteos. Accipiters range from small to large hawks with wings that are relatively rounded and short. Buteos are medium to large-sized hawks with long broad wings that allow them to soar easily.
Hawks may either soar in wide circles or fly by alternately flapping their wings and gliding. They may choose to soar over open spaces or keep to the woods where they are able to fly swiftly and easily between trees and bushes as they search for their prey. Hawks are known to have very keen vision and are able to change their direction of flight abruptly. They make use of their long, strong claws or talons and their sharp, hooked bills to capture and tear apart their prey. Hawks are sometimes considered pests because some species feed chiefly on other birds.
The nest of Hawks that are made of twigs and sticks are built on trees. The female Hawks may lay three to five eggs which hatch in about four to five weeks. The young Hawks are covered with a fine whitish down upon hatching and are completely blind and helpless.
The most common and widespread Hawk in North America is the Red-tailed Hawk. It is a bird in open country and is frequently seen sitting in utility poles where it watches for rodents in the grass along the roadside. This raptor is a bird of prey that lives in swamps, taigas, deserts and a variety of biomes.
The Red-tailed Hawk is about 19 – 23 inches long, weighing about 2.5 pounds with a wingspan from 4 to 4.5 feet. It breeds throughout North America from Alaska south and eastward. It winters from British Columbia southwards.
The movies use the raspy cry of the Red-tailed Hawk to represent any eagle or hawk anywhere in the world. A pair of Red-tailed Hawks soars in wide circles at a great height during the courtship display. The male Red-tailed Hawk repeats its maneuvers of diving down and shooting up at a steep angle several times before approaching the female from above.
Red-tailed Hawks are included in the Buteo category along with other species such as the Common Black Hawk, Harris Hawk, Gray Hawk, Roadside Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk among others. The three species of Accipiters in North America include the Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk and the Northern Goshawk. Identifying Hawks can be very challenging due to the wide variety of different plumages.