Chicken Hawk Bird Facts
‘Chicken Hawk’ is not the name of a single bird. Instead, ‘Chicken Hawk’ or ‘Chickenhawk’ is an informal name given to three types of hawks. These are the ‘sharp-shinned hawk’, the ‘Cooper’s hawk’, and the ‘red-tailed hawk’.
The chickenhawk belongs to the family ‘Accipitridae’. Cooper’s hawk belongs to the genus ‘Accipiter’. Their species is ‘A.cooperii’. The scientific name of these birds is ‘Accipiter cooperii’.
The sharp-shinned bird also belongs to the genus ‘Accipiter’. Their species name is ‘A.striatus’. The binomial name given to them is ‘Accipiter striatus’.
The red-tailed hawk is a typical member of the genus ‘Buteo’. Their species name is ‘B. jamaicensis’. Their binomial name is ‘Buteo jamaicensis’.
What does a Chicken Hawk look like?
The chickenhawks are well known for their unique physical features. All three types of chicken hawks have hooked bills. The Cooper’s hawks have a square kind of head. They have long tails shaped like a wedge. Their legs and claws are long and thick. Their bills are sharp. Their bodies are smaller in comparison to their tails.
Red-tailed hawks, as the name suggests, have red tails. Apart from this unique feature, their bills are shorter. They have small heads in contrast to their bodies that are muscular. These birds are the second biggest birds in North America. They are smaller only than the ‘ferruginous hawks’.
The sharp-shinned hawks are smaller than the other two chicken hawk birds. They have long and slender legs. It is a bird of prey that tears the feathers of its game.
These birds come in various colors.They come in blue-grey, brown-grey, and tawny colors. The color of their plumage changes after they molt.
How Big Do Chicken Hawks Get?
In chickenhawk birds, females are larger than males.
Cooper’s hawks have variable sizes.. Grown males can vary from 35-46 cm, while females grow between 42-50 cm. Their wingspans are in the range of 62-99 cm. They have an average wingspan of 84 cm. Males weigh around 302-402 grams, while females weigh between 479-678 grams.
Red-tailed hawks are larger birds. These hawks can weigh anywhere between 690-1600 grams. In length, they measure around 45-65 cm. Their wingspans range from 110-141 cm.
Sharp-shinned hawks are the smallest in size among the chicken hawks. Males are around 23-30 cm in length. Females are between 29-37 cm in length. Males have a wingspan of 42-58 cm and weigh between 82-115 grams.Females have a wingspan of around 58-68 cm and weigh between 150-219 grams.
Where does a Chicken Hawk Live?
Chickenhawks are all found in North America. The Cooper’s hawks are present in regions between southern Canada to Mexico. We can discover red-tailed hawks in north Canada, Alaska, Panama, and the West Indies. The sharp-shinned hawks exist in the United States and Canada.
Temperate deciduous forests and mixed forests are natural habitats for Cooper’s hawks. They also live in forested mountains. They prefer open woodlands. The red-tailed hawks can adapt themselves to a wide variety of habitats. These include deserts, grasslands, coniferous and deciduous forests. They can also live in regions of different altitudes. We can find sharp-shinned hawks in a variety of woodlands and forest types. They occupy areas in the temperate, boreal forests.
The chickenhawk birds can also live in urban areas. As a result, sightings of these birds are now becoming common. This is especially true for the red-tailed hawks and Cooper’s hawks.
How long does a Chicken Hawk Live?
Chickenhawk birds have an average lifespan of around 3-8 years. Red-tailed and Cooper’s hawks are long-lived birds. They can sometimes live over 20 years in the wild.
Chicken Hawk Food / What do they eat?
The chickenhawks are birds of prey. They are carnivorous birds. They eat rodents, lizards, squirrels, snakes, frogs, and even smaller birds! They also hunt rabbits, bats, fish, and insects. Chickenhawks are ferocious and aggressive predators. They are often referred to as villains and tyrants!
Reproduction in Chicken Hawk Birds
Chickenhawks are hushed birds. But during the mating season, chickenhawks are very vocal. They give out mating calls in search of potential mates. They also dance in the sky to attract attention. The mating between a male and a female lasts about ten seconds.
After mating, both the male and female hawks look for a safe and protected site to build their nests. They ensure that when the eggs are laid, they are away from danger. All three chicken hawk species have an average incubation period of 30 days. After 30 days, the female lays eggs. A female lays around 1-8 eggs at once. She lays an average of 4 eggs in one clutch. Usually, the female sits on the eggs to incubate them.
Mate for Life
Male and female chicken hawks are monogamous. Unlike many other animals, they only choose one mate for their entire lifetime.
Distinctive looking Eggs
The eggs that chicken hawks lay have unique characteristics.
Cooper’s hawk eggs are pale sky blue to almost white. The eggs have a smooth surface. Sometimes, the surface is spotted. The eggs of red-tailed hawks are white. They sometimes appear with a faint buffy wash. The eggs are, at times, covered with blotches. These patches can be buff, dark brown, purple, or reddish-brown. Sharp-shinned hawks have eggs that are white to bluish-white. Their eggs are also blotched. The blotches are brown.
Baby Chicken Hawk
The incubation period in chickenhawks lasts for around 30-35 days. The hatchlings are born within 2-4 days. New hatchlings of chicken hawks are white. Their eyes are bluish-grey. Their exposed body parts are tan to pink in color.
Their growth is slow for a few days, after which they grow rapidly. The female broods over the young chicks while the male searches for food. The chicks learn from their parents and stay in their nests for about 3-6 weeks. After this period, they become independent.
How fast can a Chicken Hawk Fly?
Chickenhawks, being larger birds, can fly at good speeds. Their speeds can vary from 54 to 118mph. Red-tailed hawks, being the largest out of the three species, can fly up to 118mph.
Chicken Hawk Behaviour and Traits
Chickenhawks have well-developed muscle mass. This helps them carry heavy prey and during acceleration. They usually spend their time soaring in the sky or perched on tree branches. These birds are observant of human behavior. They tend to stay alone and don’t tolerate behavior that disturbs them. They are aggressive, especially during hunting. They also show aggression towards other hawks that enter their territory.
Heavier than their Cousins
Chickenhawks are bigger than other hawks and also much heavier. An average hawk weighs up to 600-700 grams. On the other hand, a red-tail can weigh up to 1.6 kilograms.
Hawks, in general, are silent birds. They only become vocal during the mating season or to ward off enemies. Chickenhawks are well known for their distinctive cry. They give out a screeching shout to warn enemies or intruders. They have different cries when they call for a potential mate. A red-tail makes sounds like sheeeeee, tsee-eeeee-arrr, or kree-eee-ar. Adult Cooper’s hawks make harsher sounds like keh-keh-keh.
Neat and Clean
Chickenhawks keep their nests clean. Carcasses of prey and blood are regularly cleaned. The baby chicks have also evolved to excrete over the edge of the nest. Parents also take turns and go out to expel. This helps maintain the nests and allows them to remain clean.
Predators of Chicken Hawk Birds
Other hawks often predate chicken hawk birds. Hatchlings of chicken hawks are especially vulnerable. These birds are natural enemies to owls. They commonly attack each other. They are also predated upon by eagles, crows, raccoons, and snakes.
Interesting Facts about Chicken Hawk Birds
- Contrary to their name, chicken hawk birds are not known to attack and prey on chickens.
- There is a red-tailed hawk known as ‘pale male’. It is from Manhattan and is quite famous. So much so that a book is being written on it!
- ‘Tiercels’ is a name given to male chicken hawks. ‘Formels’ are female chicken hawks.