General InformationMap and DirectionsWhat's HappeningWhat Lives Here?

Eastern Red-tailed Hawk
Buteo jamaicensis

Ryerson Woods has its own resident Red-tailed Hawk. See if you can get a peak at her in the wooden flight cage (called a mews) near the Arena. She doesn't have a name... we don't like to think of wild animals as pets and want to remember to handle her with care. We use our hawk in educational programs, providing a living example of a predator and showing the unique adaptations that birds of prey have for survival.

Ryerson's hawk was found in the summer of 1988 near the Heller Nature Center in Highland Park. We could tell from her light eye color and immature, striped tail feathers that she was only about 4 months old. We suspected she was female because of her larger size, and when she began laying eggs we knew it was true, She had probably been hit by a car, injuring her right wing. As a result, she is unable to gain altitude to soar and hunt, though she can fly short distances. Because she is unable to hunt for herself, we feed her quail, rats and mice.

Every spring, the hawk freshens the lining of a large nest of sticks and evergreen branches that we provide for her and becomes very territorial of her mews and food. In the wild, her nest would probably be in the highest tree near the edge of the woods, built in the crotch of a branch at the trunk, 25-70 feet up the tree. The male hawk builds the nest. The female jumps on it to be sure it is strong enough and lines it each year with fresh bark, corn husks or other soft materials.

Maybe you will see the beautiful reddish brown feathers in her tail when you come to visit.

(Ryerson Woods has both federal and state permits to house the hawk.)

A few more facts about Red-tailed Hawks:
ed-tailed Hawks
are the largest and most powerful of the eastern hawks. Adult females reach between 3 and 4 pounds with wingspans of 46-58 inches; males only 2 to 3 pounds. As with most raptors, the females are about 1/3 larger than the males. They prefer to live in an area of mixed forest and open land where they can hunt a wide variety of prey including mice, rats, moles, squirrels, prairie dogs, rabbits, bats, snakes, turtles, crawfish and even spiders and crickets.

Considered the most aerial of all raptors, the hawks can fly up to 40 mph, dive at 120 mph and ride the air currents, whirling, tilting, soaring and flying gracefully in the sky. Hovering above, with the keenest eyesight of any living animal (they see 8 times more clearly humans, for greater distances and in color), red-tails can spot dinner a football field's length away.


Red-tailed Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk
(Sue Auerbach, photographer)

Copyright 2001-11
Pustelnik Designs and Friends of Ryerson Woods