Wagner – Red-tailed Hawk
Hatched: Spring 2006
Wagner was brought into our Wildlife hospital in August of 2006 by a gentleman who was being “stalked” by him. This bird had apparently been habituated to humans at a very young age (he was still sporting his juvenile plumage when we received him), and had become accustomed to being fed by humans. Therefore, he had none of the instinctual fear of humans normal for birds of prey. He had even tried to enter this gentleman’s home in search of food. Because of his lack of fear of humans, he was a danger to any humans he approached, as well as presenting a danger to himself because he lacked the instinct to flee from dangerous situations.
After our vet checked him out to make sure there were no medical concerns, it was determined that he was not a candidate for release because of his lack of normal preservation instincts. He would, however, make an excellent education bird. He was transferred to the World Bird Sanctuary’s education department for the training he would need to lead the life of a wildlife ambassador for his species.
He was christened Wagner in honor of a beloved member of our Tuesday Crew who had recently passed away. Wagner prove to be a quick study and was soon appearing in education programs. He is a prime example of why humans should not take animals from the wild or feed wild animals. Once they lose their fear of humans and outcome is usually not good for the animal. Wagner will live out the rest of his days being cared for by people who are experts in the care of raptors. Most habituated animals are not so lucky.
Species: Red-tailed Hawk
Latin Name: Buteo jamaicensis
Description: sturdy looking bird with short, rounded wings and fanned tails; adults have mottled chocolate-colored backs with lighter brown shoulder patches; the tail is brick red, from which they originally derived their name; the breast is white with a dark belly band across the abdomen; however, some birds are so light as to appear albino; immature birds are heavily banded (vertically) on the breast and chest and have a grayish to brownish tail with black bands; immature birds develop the adult coloration after the first year; juveniles’ eye color also changes during this period from a yellowish brown to a dark brown at maturity
Sex: virtually identical; females slightly larger than males
Age: 25 years
Weight: 2-4 lbs.
Habitat: wide range of habitats; woodlands adjacent to open country is preferred; also inhabit deserts, forests, various elevations; migrate in winter as far south as the Gulf Coast and Nicaragua
Status: one of the most common raptors, especially in the midwestern U.S.
Range: throughout North America
Behavior: perch atop telephone poles and tall trees, scanning the ground for prey; build large stick nests usually lined with grass, moss, and pine needles; nest usually located in a large tree between 30-60 feet in height; may have 2 or 3 alternate nests; nests average 28-38″ wide; clutch of 2-4 eggs laid; incubation by both sexes for 28-35 days; young fledge at about 42 days
Diet: opportunistic hunter; primary prey is small mammals (rabbits, squirrels); also takes rodents, snakes and fish
Vocalization: loud, high-pitched scream, “tsee-eeee-arrr”; this cry usually given in territorial defense; the scream can last for 2-3 seconds; they scream while perched or soaring