Sandy Williams took these images of a young Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicasensis) that was perched on a fencepost by the newly-planted cottonwoods along the Nature Path in Bear Valley Springs.
Red-tailed Hawks are the most common large hawk in the Tehachapi Mountains, with a healthy population of year-round resident Redtails like this one. Their numbers are supplemented by many more of their kind in winter, when Redtails from higher elevations and more northern climes join the residents to forage locally as well as in the Southern San Joaquin Valley, Mojave Desert and Antelope Valley.
In their first year of life, when they have fledged and are on their own like this one, they are referred to as "passage hawks." They lack the brick red-colored tail of mature adult birds, and instead have a banded tail.
However, they do have the dark hood typical of all fledged Red-tailed Hawks of any age in our area.
Red-tailed Hawks can have extremely varied diets depending on the food availability where they live — there have reportedly been more than 500 different species of mammals, birds, reptiles and other creatures preyed upon by Red-tailed Hawks.
In most areas, more than half of a Redtail's diet typically consists of mammals, including ground squirrels, chipmunks, mice, rabbits and gophers. Young ground squirrels can be a significant prey source for Redtails since both bird and rodent are strictly diurnal, or active during daylight hours. Many rodents are more active at night, when Red-tailed Hawks are sleeping on a roost.
The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for Red-tailed Hawk is kwanazi, pronounced kwa-NAH-zi.
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.