Eye color

7-15-16 Carson.jpg

When I first met Carson, our resident red-tailed hawk, I was fascinated by her eyes.  The light grey iris was striking compared to the dark eyes of other hawks I have known.  This isn’t just a difference between individuals; eye color hints at the bird’s age.   Red-tailed hawks hatch with light-colored eyes that darken over time.  Carson is just three years old now, so we expect her eyes to turn a dark mahogany over the next few years.  Some other raptors change eye color, as well.  Eagle eyes change from brown to yellow, while sharp-shinned hawks start bright yellow and transition to a blood red.  We can’t know for sure why this happens, but it may be an important cue for birds looking for a mature mate.


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