Red-tailed Hawk (Harlan)
Scientific Name: Beauteo jamaicensis
Appearance: This red tailed hawk is a very dark chocolate brown all over, with the feathers on his back having an almost gun-metal blue overwash. There is no distinguishing "belly band" or whitish breast. The tail is very dark red with a dark, almost black terminal band. At 2 years old, Harlan has bright yellow eyes, which may or may not change later to the more common brown color seen in other lighter- morphed red-tails.
Size: weight ranges from 1.5 pounds for a male up to 3.5 pounds for a female. Wingspan ranges from 43 to 52 inches, body from top of head to the tail averages 19 inches.
Range: Red tails can be found all over the United States and Alaska. Northernmost red-tails tend to migrate, the others can stay in their ranges all year.
Food Preferences: small rodents, rabbits, squirrels, insects & larvae, fish, snakes. Food preferences of individual red-tailed hawks can be highly variable. For example, "Nick" likes the bigger prey such as large rats and squirrels, "Harlan" loves to eat mice and small rats.
Hunting Technique: Most often will sit on a promising high perch and wait for prey to come near, but also pursues prey at high speeds, dives on it from high in the air, or steals prey from other raptors or crows. Has been documented eating fresh carrion, also can hunt on foot - running down their prey or hopping on it from a short distance.
Breeding & Habitat: Red-tails prefer both open and wooded areas. Monogamous, mate for life.
Nesting: platform nest of twigs and sticks, often lined and decorated with fresh twigs and strips of bark from nearby trees. The nest can be reused by the same pair for many years.
Eggs: usually 2 -3 white to bluish-white eggs, spotted with brown or sometimes unmarked, laid in late March. There is usually at least a day-long interval between laying each egg. If for some reason the first clutch of eggs is destroyed, red-tails will sometimes lay a second set 3 - 4 weeks later, usually in another nest.
Chicks: Incubation lasts about 34 days per egg, young are immobile when they hatch, with downy feathers and open eyes. The young first leave the nest after they are 42 - 46 days old and will stay with the parents for an additional 30 - 70 days.
Status: dark phase red tails are very rarely seen in West Virginia, although they are plentiful in western states and Canada.