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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

BirdNote: The Zone-tailed Hawk

Air Date: Week of September 2, 2016

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The Zone-tailed Hawk (right) and Turkey Vulture (Photo: Eric Bruhnke)

Turkey vultures soar over the landscape, searching for dead animals. But the Zone-Tailed Hawk, an American raptor that’s a vulture look-alike, soars with them, its sharp eyes searching for mice and birds that ignore the carrion-seeking birds. Michael Stein has today’s BirdNote.

Transcript

[BIRDNOTE THEME]

CURWOOD: Vultures may not be everybody's favorite birds, as they are seen picking at dead things. But as Michael Stein explains in today's BirdNote®, for one American hawk, vultures can provide useful cover.

[Zone-tailed Hawk cry, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/140253, 0.15-.18]

STEIN: The Zone-tailed Hawk of the American Southwest looks a lot like a Turkey Vulture. It’s dark all over, has a long tail, and soars on long, upward angled wings while tilting from side to side. And – this is where it gets intriguing – Zone-tailed Hawks often soar among groups of Turkey Vultures.
But there’s a crucial distinction between the two, especially if you happen to be a dove or lizard exposed on the terrain below. While the vultures are searching for carrion, the Zone-tailed Hawk in their midst is hunting live prey.

[Zone-tailed Hawk cry, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/140253, 0.15-.18]


Zone-tailed Hawk (Photo: Tim Lenz, CC BY 2.0)

By consorting with vultures, a Zone-tailed Hawk gains a distinct advantage as a predator. Because while doves and lizards would quickly flee the flight silhouette of a Red-tailed Hawk, they seem to ignore the shadow of a vulture overhead, a bird that poses no threat. So floating among the vultures, a Zone-tailed Hawk is a sort of wolf in sheep’s clothing – and can sneak up on its prey undetected.

Just how Zone-tailed Hawks developed this relationship with Turkey Vultures isn’t clear. But we do know that Zone-tails occur only within the geographic range of vultures. And they don’t just soar with them – they also nest and roost near their scavenging accomplices.

[Zone-tailed Hawk cry, http://macaulaylibrary.org/audio/140253, 0.15-.18]

I'm Michael Stein.

###
Written by Bob Sundstrom
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. 140253 Recorded by Gerrit Vyn.
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie
© 2016 Tune In to Nature.org September 2016 Narrator: Michael Stein

http://birdnote.org/show/zone-tailed-hawks-mimic-vultures

 

Links

Listen to the original story on the BirdNote® website

More on Zone-tailed Hawks from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

 

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