Bird expert drops knowledge about News4Jax tower cam hawk

The red-tailed hawk and its fledgling could start taking flight in 3 weeks

By Garrett Pelican - Digital executive producer

It’s our third day of “hawk watch” here at News4Jax, and admittedly, we’re starting to lose track of how many animals our resident red-tailed hawk has hunted down and brought back for its fledgling.

Here’s a brief recap for those just joining us: the hawk and its baby set up shop this week at the top of our tower cam on Jacksonville’s Southbank and we’ve been monitoring their activity ever since.

We learned a little more about the hawks Wednesday thanks to Larkin Johansen, the senior bird keeper for the Jacksonville Zoo & Gardens, who stopped by The Morning Show to drop some knowledge.

WATCH: Hawk analysis from Jacksonville Zoo's senior bird keeper
SLIDESHOW: Hawk feeds hatchling atop News4Jax tower cam

Johansen said the hawk and its fledgling appear to be red-tailed hawks. Not to be confused with red-shouldered hawks, these birds of prey are identified by the red coloring of their tails and white bellies.

“These guys are opportunistic generalists, so they will feed on anything basically that they can catch – small mammals, other little birds, sometimes reptiles as well,” Johansen told News4Jax.

She said it’s tough to tell the adult hawk's gender without a side-by-side comparison. Females tend to be larger, weighing 2.5 to 4 pounds, while males range from 1.5 to 3 pounds.

“I’m going to assume it’s a female just because of how large she is,” Johansen said.

Based on its plumage and the fact that it’s no longer in the nest, Johansen said the younger hawk likely is a fledgling, which would make it anywhere from 42 and 46 days old.

“Typically, they fledge before they can fly, so it’s kind of a learning curve,” she said. “Probably within the next three weeks, you’ll start seeing them take short flights off the tower there.”

Speaking of that tower, Johansen said it’s a little unusual that the hawks have taken up residence roughly 500 feet in the air. They usually seek out vantage points 13 to 115 feet off the ground.

“This is quite the vantage point for it,” she said, adding that the view is advantageous and it’s located near an open highway where there’s no shortage of small animals for the adult hawk to prey on.

P.S. A hawk still has no name (I’ll see myself out now, ‘Game of Thrones’ fans), but not for a lack of great suggestions. You can help us decide on one by posting your ideas in the comments. 

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