Don Torino’s Life in the Meadowlands: Red-Tails of the Meadowlands


Peregrine falcons, Ospreys and Northern Harriers are the raptors that bring out the birders to the New Jersey Meadowlands, magnificent marauders of the skies that are the signature symbols of a restored and healthy habitat. Raptors back from the brink of extinction renew the soul and strengthen our spirit. But sometimes overlooked or put aside without a second look is another raptor, common yes, but no less Majestic or divine: the Red-Tailed Hawk.

Credit: Jill Homcy

Credit: Jill Homcy

The Red-Tail has adapted well to the Meadowlands and to our suburban life, nesting close to human activity and its structures. It can be seen hunting across many habitats, whether it is over the Meadowlands, perched along our highways, in the woods or even in your backyard. The Red-tails’ strength is legendary, but at times we pay little attention and look past them, eagerly wishing for a rarer less common species. But to look past the Red-tail is to deny its majesty, lessen its prominence and negate its splendor.

Many Native American cultures consider the Red-tail a Guardian and protector of the Earth Mother and all her children. It is also believed to be the messenger that tells us when we need to pay attention to the subtle messages found around us. The feathers of the Red-tailed Hawk are considered sacred and are used just as the eagle feathers in many rituals and ceremonies.

Soaring high above us, hunting the Meadowlands, perched in a kind of tribute to its strength and adaptability, the Red-tailed Hawk is a special bird, deserving of more than a second glance. The next time you find a Red-tail in your binoculars remember how hard it has fought to survive,  remind yourself of its struggle to bring on the next generation, and what it means to have such an incredible bird grace the skies of the meadowlands.

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Jill Homcy

Jill Homcy


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