Immature Red-tailed Hawk

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There’s nothing particularly special about this Red-tailed Hawk.  The bird is almost certainly of the southwestern variety of this species.  It has somewhat more white on its back and its head is a bit paler than many of its contemporaries.  As it matures and with successive molts red tail feathers will replace its present barred tail ones.  The plumage on its back and head may darken eventually while the bird’s belly and breast will remain pale.  Perhaps it will eventually show a band of darker feathers across its belly.

Although by no means unusual, it is a handsome bird.  I like the image, particularly the attitude of the hawk’s head, and I’m posting it for that reason.

This hawk is almost certainly a yearling.  Its pale eyes and the absence of a red tail are convincing evidence that the bird is still immature.  Additional proof lies in the fact that it evidently hasn’t yet found a mate.  This is breeding season for Red-tailed Hawks and the adults are in pairs (Red Tails mate for life) and those pairs are quite busy tending nests.  Chicks should emerge at any moment, if they haven’t done so already.  By around June 1 a whole new crop of fledgling Red Tails will be out and about.  As for this young hawk, it will have to wait for next year or perhaps, the year after that, in order to find love and join in the fun.

Image made with a Canon 5Div, 100-400 ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting, ISO 500, f6.3 @ 1/2000.

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