Celebrating the years: Red-tailed hawk style
She was first seen sitting on a dead rabbit just before Thanksgiving on the white line in the middle of Route 17M near Monroe, New York. From then on public interest in her has rarely flagged. When caught the aluminium band that had been placed on her left leg had some stories to tell. These bands are usually placed on the bird's feet at age 6 to seven months for studying their age, aviation and living habits. The band puts her age at 27 years and nine months.
For a red-tailed hawk that is a great age indeed. This makes her the oldest hawk not just in America but perhaps the entire world. A popular bird of prey, they are colloquially known as 'chicken hawks', though they rarely prey only on chicken, in the United States. Its feathers are considered sacred by some tribes in North America and they breed in most parts of North America.
Housed in the Raptor Trust, the premier wild bird rehabilitation centre located in central New Jersey, for the winter, her story is an amazing one. She was incidentally caught by the trust's officials in 1983 who put the band on her foot. Picked up by a motorist who saw her on the road and was afraid she would be hurt, she was discovered to have a respiratory problem and a hairline fracture of a wing that would require treatment and extra care. But this certainly isn't the end of her flying days. Under observation through winter, if she is deemed fit enough she will be released back into the wild.
Red-tailed hawk are very popular in the States for their use in falconry, a highly regulated at federal levels sport. The use of extensive pesticides that once upon a time was threatening their existence has been banned. They have been replaced by products whose use in moderation ensures that the animals, like rats, these birds prey on don't in turn poison them. This 27 year old bird is also remarkable because she managed to escape the various dangers like electric poles, glass windows and speeding vehicles posed by modern living.
Image courtesy of John Harrison