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Like the great horned owl, the red-tailed hawk is a common bird throughout the Americas. Highly adaptable, they can roost in a variety of places including crowded urban centers despite being shy around humans. In years past, however, the birds did not fair so well as they were frequently targeted for extermination by farmers and ranchers who may not have understood the value of the bird in controlling nuisance mammals like mice and rabbits that could decimate crops.
The hawks are identifiable by their dark gray to reddish brown plumage, often streaked with lighter colors. As their name suggests, their tail feathers are usually a rich rust color which can be better seen when the bird is in flight. Like all raptors, the hawk has a hooked beak and large talons. They are intelligent hunters who will frequently change their hunting methods depending on the prey they are seeking. On occasion, the hawks will also eat carrion and can often be seen soaring over highways and other thoroughfares in search of roadkill.
Red-tailed hawks can be found in a variety of habitats, ranging from canyons to woodlands to forests. They may be spotted in coastal meadows or the foothills of the Coast Mountain Range where their food sources are plentiful. They are also a very common sight along the Columbia River. The hawk’s range is vast, from Alaska in the north to Panama in the south. They will migrate to southern latitudes during the winter months. Around the Oregon Coast Aquarium, red-tailed hawks can frequently be spotted west of the estuary trail bridge over the mudflats.