El animale de Taos: The red-tailed hawk



From high above, raining down over the open fields and mesas there is a common sound heard around these parts: keee-eerrrrr. The call is that of the red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis).

This rusty-red tailed, beefy pájaro (bird) of prey is keen-eyed and an efficient hunter, often perched atop a telephone pole or other high places on the lookout for mice, rabbits, reptiles and other prey. Once they’ve locked in on their meal, these hawks swoop down in a steady, mastered dive.

Every red-tailed hawk has a unique coat of brownish feathers. A white V along the back is a classic sign of a red-tailed hawk. They typically grow from 18 to 26 inches long with a wingspan of 38 to 43 inches. The average weight of a red-tailed hawk is 24.3 to 51.5 ounces. They can live in the wild up to 21 years and have been known to easily adapt to life around humans.

These stunning birds are aerial acrobats during mating season. A pair will soar while flying in a large circle. The male will then plummet into a nosedive followed by a steep ascent to circling altitude. After a time doing this ritual, the birds grab each other by the talons and spiral down toward the ground. Red-tailed hawks are monogamous and often mate for life.

The relationship of the red-tailed hawk to spiritualism is symbolic and significant. They are often thought of as spirit animals — angels in the skies sent as messengers. Writes Stacey L. L. Couch, a certified Shamanic practitioner in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, “Red-tails are divine messengers meant to bring guidance from the heavens and ground the guidance out in the physical world.”

Hawks also have a special place in indigenous spiritual beliefs among some New Mexico pueblo tribes. They are often a symbol of power and bravery.


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