Summer's gone: That makes me sad. But then I realize that fall and winter are the times to watch for raptors that have moved down from the colder regions to our north to spend the winter here in our valley.
Snow birds of a sort. And so on this mundane trip into Delta, I'll watch for raptors, those predatory birds that can be the bane of domestic pets — or pests such as mice!
We approach the big cottonwoods at the junction of Highways 65 and 92. As we slow down, I can see a hawk-shape on the left hand side of the trees . . . watch. The back is dark but the head looks lighter. Now I look back at the bird and I see a darker band across its light colored belly. That trait is often more reliable than looking for the red tail! I recall looking in my "Sibley Guide to Birds" and there were two pages of color variations: dark and light overall, red tail and no red tail, pale plumage as seen from below or dark to reddish plumage.
And I remember being on a raptor trip at the Bosque del Apache. The guide asked, "Who wants to be an expert at identifying raptors?" Everyone raised a hand. Then he said, "Well, about 90 percent of the time, just say 'red-tail' and you'll be right!"
As we approach Delta, there are two more red-tails. One's on a power post, the other is cruising over a recently plowed field. Their preferred hunting strategy is "perch and pounce."About 85 percent of their diet is rodents with other food as they can find it (insects, birds, reptiles and carrion). The female is larger than the male, but if they're separate, I can't really tell who's who. I know that they are found all across our continent and into Central America. The pair remains together for the breeding season, and the female often returns to the same area each year. In fact the scientific name, Buteo jamaicensis, indicates that they're found off shore as well. These two-pound birds are nearly 20 inches long with a 50-inch wing span.
And this is the time of year to become watchful for red-tailed hawks.blog comments powered by Disqus