Raptors of Red Mountain

Black Vulture perched
Black Vulture perched
- Photo Credit: Greg Harber
Broad-winged Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk
- Photo Credit: Greg Harber
Red-tailed Hawk, imm
Red-tailed Hawk, immature
- Photo Credit: Greg Harber
Turkey Vulture in flight
Turkey Vulture in flight
- Photo Credit: Greg Harber
American Kestrel, Male
American Kestrel, Male
- Photo Credit: Greg Harber
Mississippi Kite, Adult
Mississippi Kite, Adult
- Photo Credit: Greg Harber
Red-shouldered Hawk, imm
Red-shouldered Hawk, imm
- Photo Credit: Greg Harber
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
- Photo Credit: Greg Harber
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
- Photo Credit: Greg Harber

When exploring the grounds of Vulcan Park and Museum, it’s tempting to spend most of the time gazing out over the city. But if you look up, you could be treated to a natural spectacle: the soaring hawks and vultures that take advantage of the winds deflected upwards by Red Mountain.

Hawks and other birds of prey are some of the most interesting – and easiest – birds to watch, and each has distinctive markings, making them easy to spot from below. At Vulcan, you’re likely to see Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), Red-shouldered Hawks (B. lineatus), Cooper’s Hawks (Accipiter cooperii) and Broad-winged Hawks (B. platypterus).

These raptors are the top predators in the avian world. Some, such as Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks (A. striatus), eat many birds; others, such as Red-tailed and Red-shouldered hawks, eat squirrels and other rodents. And the largest soaring figures you’ll see aren’t even raptors. The Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) – known to some as buzzards – scour the landscape looking for carrion.

There are several different type of hawks, which are categorized by the shape of their wings and tail, their flight style and method of hunting. For example, the Red-tailed, Red-shouldered and Broad-winged Hawks you might spot at Vulcan are called called buteos – which, though not great at flying fast, can glide and soar for hours. Accipiters, on the other hand – the Cooper’s Hawk is one – are skilled fliers that hunt their prey, which often includes birds, in dense forests.

Hawk’s don’t just provide natural beauty; they’re also great killers of the animals we call pests, including rats and mice.

– Scot Duncan