Red-tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
On 15 September 2012 we visited Holiday Beach Conservation Area on the north shore of Lake Erie for the annual Festival of the Hawks. This location is renowned for the numbers of raptors that pass through each fall, and a hawk watch has been in operation for many years. Birds are banded so that their movements may be tracked and on the day of the festival the public is treated to displays which serve to spread the conservation message and enable people who would otherwise be ignorant of, or indifferent to, birds of prey to appreciate them fully.
This juvenile Red-tailed Hawk in prime condition was banded and an informative presentation was made by the bander, culminating in the hawk being "adopted" by someone who pays a fee for the privilege of so doing, thereby helping to fund conservation. No doubt the bird suffers a few moments of indignity but it will never know the greater purpose it served on that day.
This series of pictures shows the features that identify this bird as a hatch-year bird (to use the term of the banding crew) or juvenile (to use the ornithological term). They are: a white area on the breast, pale yellow eyes, yellow legs and cere, several dark bands on the tail. Large buteos such as this Red-tailed Hawk will take four years to attain adult plumage so this individual will not have its characteristic red tail until then. It still has many obstacles to face before attaining adulthood; let us hope that it survives them all and returns to breed here in southern Ontario.