Bird of the Week

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Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the red-tailed hawk.
If you see a hawk soaring or perched on top of a tree or pole, chances are it is a red-tailed hawk, by far the most common hawk in our area. Although they have variable plumage, they can be easily identified by their broad, red tails. The undersides can vary from almost all white to dark mottling. Usually you can see a dark “necklace” across the top of the belly and dark bars on the front edge of the wings.
Red-tailed hawks belong to the group of hawks known as buteos, which can be identified by their long, broad wings and relatively short, wide tails. They catch and kill their prey with their feet, which have long, sharp talons.
The female ranges from 19 to 26 inches long and the male from 18 to 24 inches long. In a mating pair, the female is usually 25 percent larger than the male. This difference in appearance between males and females is known as sexual dimorphism. The advantage of this size difference is that the pair can select prey (usually small mammals) of different sizes and not compete with each other for food. Also, the larger, stronger female is better at protecting the nest.
For information on local bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.