I’ve seen a few mentions of eye color being used to age Red-tailed Hawks on the internet recently, so I thought I’d write a short blip relating to the subject (FYI—here is another related post).
Yes, it is true that 1st-year Red-tailed Hawks (and most buteos) have pale yellowish eyes and adults have dark brown eyes, but this color change from yellow to brown happens over several years, and transforms more quickly in some birds than in others, and varies by species as well. So, it is almost always true that a Red-tail with dark brown eyes is an adult bird, but be careful of adults only a year or two old that have an eye just as pale as any 1st-year bird. This a reminder to be extra careful using eye color only to age birds.
Here are three examples of adult Red-tailed Hawks that have a pale yellow eye; enjoy!!
This post was written by Jerry Liguori. You can read more about Jerry and his legacy at HawkWatch International here.