Terry Rombouts-Vasquez took this photo of a Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) as it sat on a post along the Antelope Run biking and walking path. Terry uses the bike path regularly, and says that the adult Redtail is often visible along the route.
Red-tailed Hawks are by far the most widespread, frequently encountered raptors in the Tehachapi Mountains. These are big, broad-winged hawks with wide tails. In young birds the tail is banded with light and dark stripes, but by the time they are two to three years old, their banded tail is replaced by a cinnamon red tail that is the source of their common name.
Redtails will take a wide variety of prey, including snakes and birds, but most of their food generally consists of mammals like mice, voles, rabbits, jackrabbits, ground squirrels, etc.
They both perch hunt, observing their surroundings from an vantage point like a power pole, tree top or post, as well as hunting on the wing.
There is a greater variation of markings and coloration on Red-tailed Hawks than any other raptor in North America. A good telltale sign to look for in adult Redtails, however, is the dark hood covering the head and neck.
Like many birds of prey, the female Redtail is larger than the male and can fool you into thinking you might have seen an eagle. Despite their large size, though, Redtails (like most flying birds) are relatively light and a large adult only weighs about 3 pounds.
The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for Redtail is Kwanizi, prounced Kwa-NAH-zee and like the English name mentions its tail — the Nuwä word for tail is kwasheen.
NATURAL SIGHTINGS is a regular feature of the Tehachapi News edited by Jon Hammond which showcases photos of the natural beauty that enhances the quality of life in Tehachapi. If you have a good quality image of plants, animals, insects, trees, birds, weather phenomena, etc., taken in the Tehachapi area, you may submit it to the Tehachapi News for possible publication. Submissions can be dropped by the News office in the form of a print or CD, or sent by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.