Hawk Previously Unseen In Joshua Tree National Park Now There

A zone-tailed hawk was observed for the first time in Joshua Tree National Park in May.
The zone-tailed hawk, known by its scientific name, Buteo albonotatus, is a medium-sized hawk native to deserts and other warm and dry areas of the Americas. A sleek that can be found year-round in various regions of South America and in the U.S. during the spring and summer, the zone-tailed hawk is visually similar to the turkey vulture, which in the United States is a common scavenger. Because its plumage, flight style and broad black wingspan resembles that of the turkey vulture, it sometimes blends into groups of vultures.Unlike the turkey vulture, which does not actively hunt live prey and feeds primarily on carcasses, the zone-tailed hawk is an active hunter. Ornithologists believe the zone-tailed hawk adroitly mimics the turkey vulture in an effort to fool their prey. The small animals upon which a hawk might feast can be and apparently are lulled into a state of complacency because they know that turkey vultures will not attack them. Thus, hidden among the scavengers, zone-tailed hawks are ignored by those upon whom they intend to dine. Having spotted its prey and waiting until the right moment, a zone-tailed hawk will launch its attack, abruptly going into a steep and high-speed dive, taking its kill by surprise.
Zone-tailed hawks feed upon small terrestrial tetrapods of all types – amphibians, reptiles, lizards, iguanas, small mammals such as raccoons, opossum, mice and rats.
The mating season of the zone-tailed hawk varies geographically but is almost always in the first half of the year. During breeding season, the hawks will construct large nests, consisting of a bulky collection of sticks, and twigs lined with green leaves, usually built at or near the top or in the main fork of a tree, generally 25 to one hundred feet above the ground. The female will lay between one and three white eggs, often marked or streaked with brown, which hatch in roughly one month, 28 to 35 days. While the female incubates, the male will hunt and return to the nest with food for his mate. One bird, generally but not exclusively the female, will stay with the young, while the other hunts. Eventually both birds will leave to hunt, and within about six to seven weeks the young birds will take flight.
The traditional range for the zone-tailed hawk stretched from South America through Central America and into Mexico, with rare appearances north into the Southwestern U.S, including southern Arizona, New Mexico, California and Texas. According to U.S. Park Service, zone-tailed hawks have been expanding northward over the last few decades and have been spotted, though extremely rarely, as far north as Virginia and Nova Scotia.
On May 13, in the Lost Palms Oasis, a zone-tailed hawk was spotted on a wildlife camera. That was the first confirmed sighting in Joshua Tree National Park.
There are more than 250 different species of birds that have been recorded in Joshua Tree National Park, which blends two distinct desert ecosystems, those being the Mojave and the Colorado. The vast majority of birds known to frequent the park are not there year-round but are migrants and vagrants.

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