If you see a raptor perched along the highway, chances are it’s a Red-Tailed Hawk. You certainly may see other raptors, but in my experience the Red-Tailed Hawk is by far the most common.
Why do they like highways? Food. A hawk can spot a rodent crossing an open road a lot easier than if it was running through a grassy field. So the hawks on lampposts and other high perches are waiting to spot rodents exposed when running across the pavement. Sometimes their scurrying is cut short by impassable dividers between highway lanes, making them easier to spot and snatch. Roadkill is even easier.
Unfortunately, this situation leads to hawks being injured or killed in collisions with cars. Once the hawk targets its prey, it is completely focused on the meal and does not see cars coming from the sides. You can help avoid these incidents by never littering on the highway. If an apple core is tossed out of a car window, it will attract a rodent, which in turn will attract a hawk. It’s a deadly chain of events that can be easily prevented… please don’t litter.
Red-Tailed Hawks do not exclusively eat rodents, they also hunt other birds like pigeons.
Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawks have striped tails (see below)… they do not “earn” the red tail until they survive to one year of age and complete their first molt.
If you see two hawks perched together, they are either a bonded mating pair, or young siblings. The striped tails on the hawks below indicate these are siblings.
Kestrels perched along the highway are also looking for rodents, just smaller ones. Although they are sometimes colloquially known as “sparrow hawks”, Kestrels are not hawks, they are falcons.
During the summer, it’s common to see Ospreys nesting on cellphone towers along the highway, but they do not hunt for food on the pavement. Ospreys eat fish, so they exclusively hunt rivers and lakes.
Lastly, some more Red-Tailed Hawks…