Natural Sightings #1624 - Red-tailed Hawk.jpg

A Red-tailed Hawk launches itself out of a tree top.

Randy Weinstein took this photo at his home in Stallion Springs of a Red-tailed Hawk launching itself out of a tree top. The photo was quite awhile in the making, as Randy explained:

"This hawk is on top of a huge pine tree in my backyard, I've been trying to get this shot for a long time. They are so skittish that whenever I approach they immediately take off. This time I was able to sneak out on my balcony, step by step when he would turn his head away, to get to the only spot where this shot was possible."

Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) have a wider range of colors and appearances than any other raptor in North America, but one good clue is the darker head or hood that most of them possess.

While mature adults have the distinctive brick-red tail that gives this species their common name, immature birds that are 12 months old or younger are known as "passage hawks" and their tail is banded with alternately light and dark stripes rather than being red.

From the underside of a Red-tailed Hawk, you can typically see a dark bar on the leading edge of the wing, between the shoulder and wrist, which is clearly visible in Randy's photo.

The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Southern Paiute) word for Red-tailed Hawk is kwanazi, pronounced kwa-NAH-zee. The word kwasa means "tail," so the Native term also called attention to this familiar raptor's distinctive tail.

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: