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Red-tailed Hawks

Location: Ithaca, NY

Camera Host: Cornell Lab

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May 21, 2015

Feather Sheaths Visible

Juvenile flight feathers usually start to appear between two to three weeks after hatching and soon replace the natal down. Red-tailed Hawks usually molt into adult plumage (including the red tail) at the beginning of their second year. More...

May 18, 2015

F1 Swallows Squirrel Tail Whole

Red-tailed Hawks can swallow mammals whole. The young nestlings are not quite at that point, but F1 makes quick work of swallowing this squirrel tail in one go. 

May 18, 2015

Windy Day

A windy day on campus and Big Red delivers some oak greenery to the nest. Keeping balance is a challenge. Thanks to viewer Elly K for the great video. 

May 18, 2015

Windy Day

A windy day on campus and Big Red delivers some oak greenery to the nest. Keeping balance is a challenge. Thanks to viewer Elly K for the great video. 

May 18, 2015

F1 Swallows Squirrel Tail Whole

Red-tailed Hawks can swallow mammals whole. The young nestlings are not quite at that point, but F1 makes quick work of swallowing this squirrel tail in one go. 

May 16, 2015

Feeding Time

During a morning feeding session of the nestlings Big Red feeds one of the young hawks, what appear to be, a squirrel tail. You can see some flesh at the base of the tail then small and thin vertebrate at the end, the fur stripped off it. It takes some time for the nestling to swallow the mouthful. 

May 07

F3 Hatched

F3 hatched around lunch time, completing the 2015 Cornell Hawks brood. 

May 05

F2 Hatched

Welcome to the world F2. We think this is the first time Ezra has been present during a hatch. When the chicks first escape their eggs, Red-tailed Hawk hatchlings weigh around 2 oz. They don’t see well or have muscle control and must be cared for by the parents. 

May 04

First Hawk Nestling of 2015

The first egg hatched early this morning at the Cornell Red-tailed Hawk nest, and morning light allowed us a few beautiful glimpses of the nestling as Big Red (the female) leaves and Ezra (the male) takes over the next shift. 

Red-tailed Hawk

Tree

Nest Placement

Red-tailed Hawks typically put their nests in the crowns of tall trees where they have a commanding view of the landscape. They may also nest on a cliff ledge or on artificial structures such as window ledges and billboard platforms.

Nest Description

Both members build the nest, or simply refurbish one of the nests they’ve used in previous years. Nests are tall piles of dry sticks up to 6.5 feet high and 3 feet across. The inner cup is lined with bark strips, fresh foliage, and dry vegetation. Construction takes 4-7 days.

Clutch Size

1-5 eggs

Incubation Period

28-35 days

Nestling Period

42-46 days

Egg Description

White or buffy, blotched or speckled with buff, brown, or purple.

Condition at Hatching

Tiny and helpless, unable to raise head, and weighing about 2 ounces.

Small Animals

Food

Mammals make up the bulk of most Red-tailed Hawk meals. Frequent victims include voles, mice, wood rats, rabbits, snowshoe hares, jackrabbits, and ground squirrels. The hawks also eat birds, including pheasants, bobwhite, starlings, and blackbirds; as well as snakes and carrion. Individual prey items can weigh anywhere from less than an ounce to more than 5 pounds.

Typical Voice

Adults make a hoarse, screaming kee-eeeee-arr. It lasts 2-3 seconds and is usually given while soaring. During courtship, they also make a shrill chwirk, sometimes giving several of these calls in a row.more sounds

See full Species Info at All About Birds

About the Nest

A Red-tailed Hawk pair has been nesting above Cornell University’s athletic fields for at least the past four years. In 2012, 2013 and again in 2014, we installed cameras to get a better look at these majestic birds as they raise their young amid the bustle of a busy campus. So far, we’ve seen the birds bringing prey such as voles, squirrels, and pigeons to the nest.

Big Red and Her Mate

BigRed-ThreeEggs-600x350The female, nicknamed “Big Red” in honor of her alma mater, is slightly larger, with a darker head, nape and throat, and is banded on her right leg. From banding records we know she was banded in nearby Brooktondale, New York, during her first autumn in 2003, making her nearly eleven years old.

 

20130315-EzraOnNest

The male, named Ezra after the co-founder of Cornell University, is banded on his left leg. He’s a bit smaller and has golden-tawny feathers on his face and head, and a paler neck than the female. He is at least nine years old and was first banded in 2006 as an adult bird on Judd Falls Road near the Cornell campus.