WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY – DINNER ISLAND RANCH WMA, FL
Photograph of a Red-Tailed Hawk taken at Dinner Island Ranch WMA. Subject captured with a Nikon D90 camera with a Tamron 28-300mm zoom lens.
The Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is a bird of prey, one of three species colloquially known in the United States as the “chickenhawk,” though it rarely preys on chickens. It breeds throughout most of North America, from western Alaska and northern Canada to as far south as Panama and the West Indies, and is one of the most common buteos in North America. Red-tailed Hawks can acclimate to all the biomes within its range. There are fourteen recognized subspecies, which vary in appearance and range. It is one of the largest members of the genus Buteo in North America, typically weighing from 690 to 1600 grams (1.5 to 3.5 pounds) and measuring 45–65 cm (18 to 26 in) in length, with a wingspan from 110 to 145 cm (43 to 57 in). The Red-tailed Hawk displays sexual dimorphism in size, with females averaging about 25% heavier than males.
Because they are so common and easily trained as capable hunters, the majority of hawks captured for falconry in the United States are Red-tails. Falconers are permitted to take only passage hawks (which have left the nest, are on their own, but are less than a year old) so as to not affect the breeding population. Adults, which may be breeding or rearing chicks, may not be taken for falconry purposes and it is illegal to do so. Passage red-tailed hawks are also preferred by falconers because these younger birds have not yet developed adult behaviors, which can make training substantially more challenging.
The Red-tailed Hawk also has significance in Native American culture. Its feathers are considered sacred by some tribes, and are used in religious ceremonies.