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How far will a Nebraska Red-tailed Hawk travel?

Red-tailed Hawks are common residents in Nebraska.  It is easy to be lulled into the notion that local Red-tails don’t move around all that much because there is always one or two around.  When one leaves for greener pastures, how would anyone ever know?   One of my mantras is that birds are always full of surprises and here is another one.   Last fall we placed a band on a Red-tailed Hawk that was recovered in Sarpy County, Nebraska, and rehabilitated by our friends at Raptor Recovery Nebraska.  This particular Red-tail was a juvenile (hatched in 2012) and had some soft tissue damage.  It was subsequently released in good shape on 29 September 2012 near were it was originally found.  This is often the end of the story for many banded birds.

Fast forward 7 months.

In mid-June of this year, I received a call that this very Red-tailed Hawk was back at a rehabilitation facility, but this time is was in MELBOURNE, BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA!   The distance between Sarpy County, Nebraska and Brevard County, Florida is about 1,300 miles.  Prior to this revelation, I really did not think a Nebraska Red-tailed Hawk would travel to the east coast of Florida; places like Kansas, Oklahoma, or Texas seemed more logical.  Since it was a first-year bird it is a non-breeder and perhaps it was just wandering around the continent until it reach sexual maturity and returned “home”.  Nonetheless, this is an interesting observation and once again, another surprise.

About Joel Jorgensen

Joel Jorgensen is a Nebraska native and he has been interested in birds just about as long as he has been breathing. He has been NGPC’s Nongame Bird Program Manager for eight years and he works on a array of monitoring, research, regulatory and conservation issues. Nongame birds are the 400 or so species that are not hunted and include the Whooping Crane, Least Tern, Piping Plover, Bald Eagle, and Peregrine Falcon. When not working, he enjoys birding.

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