Red-Tailed Hawks
Inside the Outdoors, July 1,
2016

Before I get into the subject of one of our popular neighborhood birds, a young tyke and I were talking one day as I was heading down to Legion Keener Park. As one friend puts it, “Kids are precious,” and this fellow was no exception.

He stated, “Yesterday, my pappy caught a large carp at Keystone State Park and brought it home and ate it!” I told him to tell his ‘pappy’ congratulations for me. After all, how many people keep carp, anyway? In my experiences, I have yet to meet anyone who ever kept that fish and ate it.

From what people tell me, it is quite tasty if prepared properly. I know a chef mastered the preparation of the Asian carp in St. Louis and restaurants picked up his recipe and the ‘delicacies’ are now found on menus along the Mississippi River all the way up to Chicago.

Next time someone ventures out to do a little fishing and tags a carp, learn how to clean it and then slice it up and eat it. From what I understand, those whom have neglected to try eating this fish are missing some mighty fine eating fish.

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I was approached recently with a question that may be of question to others, as well. So, I thought I’d make the Red-tailed Hawk the subject today.

First of all, for those who may be unaware, they are residents of this area, particularly in the tourist community of Latrobe. It seems a lot of such birds are finding our community attractive and are making their home here.

But then, isn’t what a tourist community is all about?

Known to frequent Legion Keener Park, “the hawk, also known as a buzzard or a red-tailed buzzard may be described as being chunky, light colored, broad-winged buteo with dark patagial marks on the underside of its wings. Some individuals have dark bellybands. Adults have rufous tail; juveniles have barred, brownish tails. The adults are best distinguished by their dorsally reddish tails (www.hawkmountain.org).”

Their wingspan averages between three feet, six inches to four feet, four inches. The length of this raptor may be found between one foot, five inches to one foot, ten inches. This bird weighs approximately two to three pounds. As I see it, we’re not dealing with some spring chicken, here. This is a big bird.

To be found around the area of Legion Keener Park is perfect habitat for them. “The fact that they tend to perch and soar in open habitats and tolerate human-dominated environments makes them one of the most frequently observed raptors on the region,” the website said.

Making reference to the human aspect, “Human actions that have benefited the Red-tailed Hawk in the eastern United States include forest thinning and the construction of the Interstate highway System, both of which have created prime hunting areas. In the American West, fire suppression and power lines provide additional perches for hunting.”

From a hawk’s point of view, it has a lot going for it. “Red-tailed hawks also have benefited from protection from human persecution.”

A matter of fact, when the gentleman approached me and asked the question, “Are Red-tailed Hawks still on the endangered list, I learned the answer is “no.” But the next question surprised me. “Can one kill and eat them? “No,” and “no.” A matter of fact, just for the fun of it, I asked a Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) representative how they tasted if one were to eat them. Neither of us has eaten one, so we both concluded that this bird tastes like chicken!

Another reason Legion Keener Park is so perfect for these birds it that it preys on reptiles, birds and medium-sized mammals, including rabbits. We who walk the Earl Dalton Walking Path know that there are more than a goodly amount of rabbits beginning in the spring of the year well into the end of June.

“Most concentrate their hunting efforts on species that are abundant and easily caught,” it was stated. Case in point. I think I proved my case.

Gruesome as it may seem, as nature has it, “Most prey is taken back to a feeding perch where it is beheaded before it is consumed. Birds, even small birds, are usually plucked of their feathers, but small mammals are swallowed whole. Red-tails frequently feed on carrion, including road kills.

“The Red-tailed Hawk is one of 26 North American raptors that are partial migrants,” the website said. The word, ‘partial’ is used because some of these birds migrate and others don’t. The migratory behavior of the species differs according to the time of season because of weather conditions.”

Overall, the species appears to be increasing its breeding and wintering populations throughout Pennsylvania and much of eastern North America.

“The current ‘world’ population of this species is believed to be approximately 500,000 to one million birds,” the website said.


- Paul J. Volkmann
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