- Photo: Ned Harris
In flight, Red- tailed Hawks show dark marks on the leading edge of the wing adjacent to the body. These “patagial marks” are diagnostic and confirm the identity of Red-tailed Hawks.
Red-tailed Hawks are large (19 inches long with a wingspan of 49 inches) raptors with broad wings and a short tail. They are frequently seen perched atop a saguaro or soaring over Sabino Canyon.
Adults have red tails that are acquired one pair of feathers at a time during their second year. Immatures have light brown tails with narrow dark bands of equal width. There are a lot of plumage variations in Red-tailed Hawks with several different races and color morphs. In flight, all ages, races and morphs of Red- tailed Hawks show dark marks on the leading edge of the wing adjacent to the body. These “patagial marks” are diagnostic and confirm the identity of Red-tailed Hawks.
Red-tailed Hawks perch on exposed, elevated natural and human-made perches including utility wires. When eating, they often sit on the ground. They frequently hunt from a perch but are also accomplished aerial hunters. They have a generalist diet and hunt all types of small and medium sized amphibians, birds, mammals and reptiles. They regularly feed on carrion, particularly during lean periods in winter.
Nests are located where there is an expansive view of the landscape and typically placed high in the nest tree. They will often reuse a nest for several years, adding new sticks each year. Nesting is known to occur in saguaros with a large stick nest built in the arms of the saguaro. Typically 2-3 eggs are incubated by both of the adults for 28-35 days. Youngsters branch before fledging in 42-46 days. Fledglings depend upon their parents for another 30-70 days. They are generally monogamous, seeking a new mate only if their original partner is lost.
This photograph of a light morph adult calurus Red-tailed Hawk was taken in April 2008 near Patagonia, AZ. Note how well the dark patagial marks stand out on this individual.
Some Red-tails are year- round residents at Sabino Canyon and more arrive in winter.