The birds are back

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Shubie Shorts, By Theresa Adams

Red-tailed hawks found all over North America

A red-tailed hawk.

The Shubenacadie Provincial Wildlife Park, part of the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, is home to about 50 different species of birds. Over the park’s six decades in operation, we’ve provided Nova Scotians and visitors with the opportunity to observe birds ranging from large raptors such as the Bald Eagle to the small Kestrel, and we can’t forget our showy and famous peacocks. Our feathered friends are always popular and I wanted to take this space and acquaint you with one of my favourites, the red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). This large hawk, with a wingspan of 1.1m to 1.3m and weight of 0.69kg to 1.46kg, is found throughout Nova Scotia and is one of North America’s most common. There are many variations in colouring among the different sub-species of this hawk, with distinctive rust-red tail feathers found on mature adults. Red-tailed hawks are carnivores and hunt small rodents by perching on trees or power poles at the edge of open fields or soaring in wide circles. They’ll also hunt and eat small birds, and are capable of catching snowshoe hare.

Mating for life, the female lays two to four eggs that typically hatch in May and both parents take turns sitting on the eggs for the four-week incubation period. Red-tailed hawk nests are usually constructed of large sticks on the outside and smaller, finer materials inside as a lining.  The nests are located well above ground, often in stands of hardwood trees, and will be used year after year by the same pair.

The red-tailed hawks that currently reside at the park all have permanent disabilities. They came to us with various injuries and have fully recovered, but are unable to return to the wild due to the nature of those injuries. The majority of our hawks suffered severe wing trauma and are unable to fly.

For more information on the work involved in bird rehabilitation, the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre ( is an excellent resource. For more information on the birds and mammals at the park, please go to our website

Each year, wildlife rehabilitation centres see countless numbers of songbirds and small mammals injured by feral and domestic cats. Birds are often an early indicator species, which means changes in their populations provide warnings and valuable information about environmental changes. Birds are also an important part of food chains and contribute to the biodiversity of an area.

Losing birds to feral and domestic cats is unnecessary and easily preventable. For information about how to keep your cat indoors and other ways to protect your backyard bird habitat, go to

Theresa Adams is the assistant education coordinator for the Shubenacadie Provincial Wildlife Park.


Organizations: Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

Geographic location: Shubenacadie Provincial Wildlife Park, Bald Eagle, Nova Scotia North America

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