Floridian Nature

Learn about Florida's beautiful and unique nature.

Florida Birds: Florida Hawks
Florida red tailed hawkRed-Tailed Hawk- The red-tailed hawk is the most common member of the genus Buteo found in the U.S. An opportunistic feeder, this hawk will take almost anything as prey but it is most successful in pursuit of rodents. In fact rodents make up about 85% of their diet. Although common in many areas, the red-tailed hawk is declining in many areas due to habitat loss, egg shell thinning due to pesticides and especially due to conflict with humans. The Red-tailed hawk ranges throughout North America to central Alaska and northern Canada, and south as far as the mountains of Panama. Although not truly migratory, they do adjust seasonally to areas of the most areas of the most abundant prey. Red-tailed hawks are known for their brick-colored tails, but there are 14 subspecies of various colorations, and not all of them have this characteristic. These birds of prey are also known as buzzard hawks and red hawks. Red tailed hawks are keen-eyed and efficient hunters. Red-tails prefer open areas, such as fields or deserts, with high perching places nearby from which they can watch for prey. But these birds are adaptable and also dwell in mountains and tropical rain forests. Hawks have even embraced human habitats. The Red tailed hawk often perches on telephone poles and takes advantage of the open spaces along the roadside to spot and seize mice, ground squirrels, rabbits, reptiles, or other prey. Red-tailed hawks are monogamous and may mate for life. They make stick nests high above the ground, in which the female lays one to five eggs each year. Both sexes incubate the eggs for four to five weeks, and feed the young from the time they hatch until they leave the nest about six weeks later.

Florida red shouldered hawkRed Shouldered Hawk- Red Shouldered Hawks are found in moist open forests, bottomlands and other wet lands throughout most of the U.S. It is perhaps the most vocal American hawk.  The hawk eats a variety of prey including small mammals, birds, frogs, snakes, lizards, snails and insects. The Red-shouldered Hawk is divided into five subspecies. The four eastern forms contact each other, but the West Coast form is separated from the eastern forms by 1600 km (1000 mi). The northern form is the largest. The form in very southern Florida is the palest, having a gray head and very faint barring on the chest. Although the American Crow often mobs the Red-shouldered Hawk, sometimes the relationship is not so one-sided. They may chase each other and try to steal food from each other. They may also both attack a Great Horned Owl and join forces to chase the owl out of the hawk's territory.

sharp shinned hawk in FloridaSharp Shinned Hawk- Sharp-shinned hawks can be found throughout much of North America, including Mexico. In South America, they are found from Venezuela to northern Argentina. Most of the North American populations migrate to the southern parts of their range in winter. Sharp-shinned hawks are forest birds. They are found in pine, fir and aspen forests (among others). They can be found hunting in forest interior and edges from sea level to near alpine areas. Sharp-shinned hawks can also be found near rural, suburban and agricultural areas, where they often hunt at bird feeders. Sharp-shinned hawks are the smallest hawks in North America. Males are 24 to 27 cm long and weigh 87 to 114 g. Females are larger, measuring 29 to 34 cm in length and weighing 150 to 218 g. Males have a wingspan of 53 to 56 cm and females 58 to 65 cm. Sharp-shinned hawks have bluish-gray to slate colored upperparts, with darker coloration on the crown. Their underparts are white with brown bars and their short, rounded wings are dark above and light below. Females have fewer bars on the breast, and their upper parts are more brownish. Sharp-shinned hawks have a short, dark colored, hooked beak and yellow legs and feet. Their tail is square-tipped when not spread and has three to five dark stripes with a small white stripe on the tip.

rare south Florida short tailed hawkShort-Tailed Hawk- The population of Short-Tailed Hawk in the United States is very small with 300-400 birds concentrated mainly in the southern part of the state of Florida with the dark color morph being more common. Sightings outside of Florida are extremely rare. The Short-tailed Hawk is a small hawk of grass and woodland habitat in Florida and it occurs in two color morphs. The light phase is dark above and white below; the dark phase (more common in Florida) is black above and below except for the light bases of the primaries. Both phases have banded, black-and-white tail, yellow cere, and yellow legs and feet. Immatures are like adults, but with more numerous tail bands. The rare and wary short-tailed hawk is easily identified in either color phase, as it is the only hawk in the area that is pure black or pure white below. Although not designed for speed, the Short-tailed Hawk is a habitual bird hunter, preying on medium-sized birds of open country, such as Eastern Meadowlarks and Red-Winged Blackbirds. The red-tailed hawk  is often seen hanging in the wind high overhead, and when it spots likely prey, it makes spectacular dives or "stoops" into the open forest. They may also take occasional lizards, wasps, grasshoppers and small mammals.
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