This life-size oil painting shows the subspecies of Red-tailed Hawk, Buteo jamaicensis borealis, that is found throughout most of eastern and midwestern North America. However, the species overall has a far broader range that includes the West Indies, western North America, Mexico and northern Central America. Northern birds are migratory, and their habitat preferences are so broad that, south of the latitudinal and altitudinal tree lines, there is pretty well nowhere within that range where it cannot be found, as a breeding species or a northern migrant. Much of the population is non-migratory. Within that vast range it is usually the most often seen of the larger birds of prey. And it is very highly variable with lots of geographic variations, and with variation within the species. Immature and yearling birds are different from adults.
I have shown an adult who has just killed one of our most seldom observed and little known wild mammals, the Least Weasel (Mustela nivalis). Both the hawk and the weasel are predators, and may eat the same prey, small rodents, although the hawk’s range of prey is obviously much larger, and can include young raccoons, muskrats, pigeons, bats, and squirrels. Red-tailed Hawks will sometimes take carrion, as well as large invertebrates, plus snakes, and the occasional large amphibian.
They usually make a bulky nest in tall, deciduous trees but also on cliff ledges, and on buildings and other human-made objects such as hydro-electric towers. They also may nest within the upright columns of saguaro cacti in the desert, or in the hollows of trees or tops of broken stumps. The weight of these hawks ranges from about one and a half to over three and a half pounds, females averaging larger and heavier than the males. Both sexes tend to nesting and to chick-rearing duties.
I have dedicated this painting to the memory of a lifetime friend, Miles Hearne (1947 – 2023) who, in addition to being a master of the French horn who, among other musical accomplishments, played in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and was also a dedicated teacher, both of French, and of nature, noted for leading many birding walks and hikes. His passion for birding and nature took him to every continent and his enthusiasm for the natural world was invariably inspiring. To meet him was to enjoy his company.
The painting is 18 X 24 inches in oils on compressed hardboard.
Barry Kent MacKay
Bird Artist, Illustrator
Studio: (905) 472 9731
31 Colonel Butler Drive
Markham, ON L3P 6B6 Canada