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Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Red-tailed Hawk is making itself useful

Red-tailed Hawk
The common Red-tailed Hawk feeds mainly on rodents (including squirrels). With its two-foot body and four-foot wingspan, it isn’t agile enough to be a serious threat to many birds (especially in heavily treed areas), although it may get lucky and catch a few.  

It's probably the most common hawk in North America. They have clear regional differences, however. Most of them do not have what call a red tail;  it's tail is rust-colored, tan, chocolate-brown or, especially in younger ones, sort of a dirty white. (They are sometimes called “chicken hawks”but there actually is no such thing). Wherever they live, however, they are relentless hunters of mice, rats, chipmunks, squirrels etc.)

Frozen birds.    If a small bird at your feeder suddenly sees a predator, like a hawk, he’ll normally fly to the safety of a nearby shrub. If safe cover isn’t close by, however, he’ll “freeze” motionless for a minute or two. He's hoping that the predator won't see him, since the predator's attention focuses on motion.
Clearly, the small bird would prefer the safety of vegetative cover. “Freezing” is far less effective, but it’s still better than being attacked and eaten by a hawk.


OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at in Denton.



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