Natural Sightings #565 -  Red-tailed Hawk.jpg

A mature Red-tailed Hawk.

Toshimi Kristof took this photo in Bear Valley Springs of a mature Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) as it glared down from a power line at Toshimi and her husband Les as they walked by.

Red-tailed Hawks don't typically develop the bright cinnamon-colored tail for which they are named until the start of their second year of life. First year birds are referred to as "passage hawks," and their tails are lightly barred with dark lines rather than being red.

Hawks are generally considered to have eyesight that is seven times more powerful than human eyesight, though since they are diurnal rather than nocturnal, their eyes don't adjust as well as human eyes in darkness or in very low-light conditions.

Red-tailed Hawks often perch hunt, meaning they will find a good vantage point like a tall tree or power pole, and then they may sit there for more than an hour as they survey their surroundings looking for the movement of a rodent, snake, lizard or other prey animal, and then they glide down and pounce from above with talons outstretched to seize their prey.

Typically Redtails perch on top of the power pole itself or the wooden crossarm, rather than the wire, while the little raptors known as American Kestrels (often known to oldtimers as Sparrowhawks) usually perch on the wire. The wires in this photo must be major supply lines and are especially thick, so they were comfortable even for the large grasping talons of a Red-tailed Hawk.

The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Paiute) word for Red-tailed Hawk is Kwanazi, pronounced kwa-NAH-zee.

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: