Natural Sightings #658 - Red-tailed Hawks.jpg

Two Red-tailed Hawks visit a water feature.

Yolanda Dimino took this photo at a pond at her Stallion Springs home of two Red-tailed Hawks who visited the water feature built by Yolanda's late husband, Bill.

Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) are the most common raptor in the Tehachapi Mountains, and in North America, for that matter. They are here year-round, but their numbers actually increase in the winter as Redtails from even higher elevations in the Sierra Nevada and from more northerly locations move down and southward.

The bird on the right is definitely an adult, as evidenced by its namesake red tail. Red-tailed hawks generally molt into their adult plumage, which includes their distinctive red tail, at the start of their second year. Falconers describe hawks that have left their parents but are still young and haven't gotten their adult plumage, as "passage hawks."

The hawk on the left is also likely to be an adult, so they may well be a mated pair. Mated pairs of Red-tailed Hawks typically stay together until one them dies.

Raptors like Red-tailed Hawks will come to a water source to drink if they are thirsty, but they typically get most or all the moisture they need from the prey they consume.

Water may actually be of more interest to them for bathing rather than drinking. Although they are not daily bathers, like many small songbirds are during the warmer months if water is available, Redtails are sometimes observed taking a bath to clean their feathers or cool off during very hot weather.

The Nuwä (Kawaiisu or Southern Paiute) word for Red-tailed Hawk is kwanazi, pronounced kwah-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: