Patagonia's Rufous-Tailed Hawks are Brazen but Dwindling

February 27, 2012
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On your next Patagonia tour keep an eye out for the rufous-tailed hawk. The birds, which were first discovered by Charles Darwin on his famous voyage aboard the Beagle, have a variety of coloration in their bodies, but they all have rust-colored tails, often with black horizontal stripes. Official estimates place the entire population of this unique bird at less than 1,000.

The rufous-tailed hawks feed mostly on smaller birds like the Chilean pigeon and red-breasted meadowlark. They also enjoy snacking on smaller animals, reptiles and insects. Darwin's chronicle of the birds mention that one of the officers of the Beagle saw several of them team up to prey on a wounded bird.

Darwin described these winged creatures as bold, quick-footed birds that are not terribly adept at flight. "They are not truly gregarious, they do not soar, and their flight is heavy and clumsy," he wrote. Darwin claimed they are noisy creatures that make several harsh noises while throwing their heads back. Darwin also suggested that they make for a tasty meal, but don't expect a Chilean restaurant to have hawk on the menu. The population of these birds has dwindled due to deforestation and logging, so they are heavily protected.

When you travel to Patagonia, be on the lookout for these bizarre, brazen birds, and listen for their calls. Of course, International Expeditions’ expert birding guides will help you spot and hopefully photograph the rare rufous-tailed hawk and other species, such as Magellanic woodpecker, Austral parakeet and Chilean flamingos.


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