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Red-tailed Hawk - Buteo jamaicensis

red-tailed hawk


 Kingdom: Animalia
 Phylum: Chordata
 Class: Aves
 Order: Accipitriformes
 Family: Accipitridae
 Genus:   Buteo 

ICUN Redlist - World Status: Least ConcernLeast Concern


Red-tailed HawkThe red-tailed hawk is 18-25 inches in length with a wingspan of four feet. It weighs 2-4 pounds. It is dark brown to gray brown on its back and on the top of its wings. It has light brown or cream undersides and a cinnamon colored neck and chest. It has a dark band across its belly and a broad, round, rusty red tail. The female is larger than the male.


mapThe red-tailed hawk breeds in most parts of the United States and Canada south to Mexico and Central America. Birds in the northern most part of its range may migrate south in the winter.




Red-tailed HawkThe red-tailed hawk lives in deciduous forests and open areas like swamps, deserts, tundra, plains, and agricultural areas. It prefers places with high perches that it can use to search for food. It can often be seen sitting on telephone poles and wires looking for prey.


Red-tailed HawkThe red-tailed hawk soars over open land searching for prey like small rodents. It has excellent eyesight and can see the slightest movement in the grass below. It uses its sharp talons to kill its prey. It may also hunt fish and reptiles.

Life Cycle

Red-tailed HawkBreeding season begins in March and may run through May. Red-tail hawks reach breeding age when they are three years old. During courtship, both the male and female engage in an aerial display where they glide and soar in circles and then fold their wings in and plummet to the treetops.

Red-tailed HawkRed-tailed hawk pairs mate for life. Both the male and female build a nest of sticks high in a tree or on a cliff. The same nest may be used for many years. The female lays 2-3 eggs and incubates them for about 30 days. The male brings the female food during incubation. Both parents care for and feed the young. The chicks fledge when they are about 45 days old.


Red-tailed HawkRed-tailed hawk pairs are very territorial and remain together for years in the same territory. Territories are usually between a half a square mile to two square miles. The male flies around the territory and patrols for intruders while the female guards the nesting site. The red-tailed hawk has a raspy screeching call that is often used in film and television as the call of eagles and other raptors!

Audio Credit: xeno-canto.org Andrew Spencer cc logo