Red-Tailed Hawk – Size | Facts | Diet | Habitat | Call | Sound

Red-Tailed Hawk

The red-tailed hawk is the commonest chook of prey in North America, however as a result of this buteo member of the Accipitridae family has many plumage colors, it can be one of the difficult to determine. Western populations have more variation, however, luckily, each sort of red-tailed hawk has comparable traits and area marks that may be famous. In this article, I am going to talk about Red-Tailed Hawk size, facts, diet, habitat, call, interesting facts, sound, juvenile, lifespan, wingspan, etc.

Red-Tailed Hawk profile

The red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is a chook of prey that breeds all through most of North America, from the inside of Alaska and northern Canada to as far south as Panama and the West Indies.

It is without doubt one of the most typical members throughout the genus of Buteo in North America or worldwide.

The red-tailed hawk is certainly one of three species colloquially known within the United States because of the “chickenhawk”, although it does not often prey on standard-sized chickens.

The chook is usually additionally known as the red-tail for a brief when the which means is evident in context. Red-tailed hawks can acclimate to all of the biomes inside their vary, occurring on the sides of non-ideal habitats reminiscent of dense forests and sandy deserts.

The red-tailed hawk occupies a variety of habitats and altitudes together with deserts, grasslands, coniferous and deciduous forests, agricultural fields, and concrete areas.

Its latitudinal limits fall across the tree line within the Arctic and the species is absent from the excessive Arctic. It is legally protected in Canada, Mexico, and the United States by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Red-Tailed Hawk Identification

The red-tailed hawk is frequent and widespread however can range from very light or virtually white shades to almost black coloration, which makes correct identification troublesome.

Birders who’re conscious of the important thing traits of those frequent hawks can really feel more assured about recognizing and figuring out them.

On all these raptors, the big bill is strongly hooked with a yellow cere on the base. Genders are comparable with brown mottling on the upperparts, although the quantity of white of their plumage can range tremendously.

The wings are light under with a brown border, inside the bar, and daring darkish “commas” on the wrists, in addition to a particular darkish patch on the patagiaum, the wing’s vanguard.

The head is a lighter brown, and the tail is rust purple with a skinny darkish band close to the tip. The chest and throat are white and the stomach has a large band of brown streaks or spots. The legs are feathered with faint rusty barring and the toes are yellow.

Juvenile red-tailed hawks don’t develop the purple tail till they’re two years old, and as a substitute, their tails are finely barred.

The red-tailed hawk’s signature descending “kreeeeeeeer” screech is often utilized in motion pictures, it doesn’t matter what chook of prey is pictured.

These hawks even have a robust “screee” scolding name and chicks within the nest use a high-pitched begging name to draw consideration from their dad and mom.

Red-Tailed Hawk Habitat and Distribution

Red-tailed hawks are frequent and widespread all through the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, and Mexico in a variety of habitats, together with grassland, tundra, desert, marshes, and forests. These birds may even adapt to suburban areas.

Red-Tailed Hawk Description

Red-tailed hawk plumage might be variable, relying on the subspecies and the area. These coloration variations are morphs and usually are not associated with molting.

The western North American inhabitants, B. j. calurus, is essentially the most variable subspecies and has three foremost coloration morphs: light, darkish, and intermediate or rufous.

The darkish and intermediate morphs represent 10–20% of the inhabitants within the western United States however appear to represent just one–2% of B. j. calurus in western Canada.

A whitish underbelly with a darkish brown band throughout the stomach, fashioned by horizontal streaks in feather patterning, is current in most coloration variations.

This function is variable in eastern hawks and usually absent in some light subspecies (i.e. B. j. fuertesi). Most grownup red-tails have a darkish brown nape and higher head which supplies them a considerably hooded look, whereas the throat can variably current a lighter brown “necklace”.

Especially in youthful birds, the underside could also be in any other case coated with darkish brown recognizing and a few adults might too manifest this stippling.

The back is often a barely darker brown than elsewhere with paler scapular feathers, starting from tawny to white, forming a variable imperfect “V” on the back.

The tail of most adults, which in fact offers this species its name, is rufous brick-red above with a variably sized black subterminal band and usually seems light buff-orange from under.

In comparability, the everyday pale immatures (i.e. lower than two years old) sometimes have a mildly paler headed and have a tendency to point out a darker back than adults with more obvious pale wing feather edges above.

An immature red-tailed hawks of all morphs, the tail is a light brown above with quite a few small darkish brown bars of roughly equal width, however, these are usually a lot broader on darkish morph birds.

Even in younger red-tails, the tail could also be a considerably rufous tinge of brown. The bill is comparatively quick and darkish, within the hooked form attribute of raptors, and the pinnacle can typically seem small in measurement in opposition to the thick body.

The cere, the legs, and the toes of the red-tailed hawk are all yellow, as is the color of naked components in lots of accipitrids of various lineages.

Immature birds might be readily recognized at shut vary by their yellowish irises.

As the chook attains full maturity over the course of three–Four years, the iris slowly darkens right into a reddish-brown, which is the grownup eye-color in all races.

Seen in flight, adults often have darkish brown alongside the decrease fringe of the wings, in opposition to a principally pale wing, which bares light brownish barring.

Individually, the underwing coverts can vary from all darkish to off-whitish (most frequently more closely streaked with brown) which contrasts with a particular black patagium marking.

The wing coloring of adults and immatures is comparable however for typical pale morph immatures having considerably heavier brownish markings.

Red-Tailed Hawk Behavior

Red-tailed hawks are generally seen perched on poles, fences, or timber close to roadsides as they scan fields for prey. In-flight, they maintain their wings pretty degree and their main feathers might splay barely in a “finger” pattern.

These birds might be aggressive when nesting and should harass bigger raptors reminiscent of ospreys or eagles that enter into their territory. They also can often dive at people who method too near their nests.

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk Diet and Feeding

Red-tailed hawks are carnivorous raptors that hunt all kinds of prey. Small and medium mammals, reptiles, small birds, and huge bugs might all be a part of their common weight loss plan, relying on what prey species are most considerable at any given time and in any hawk’s particular territory.

These hawks routinely perch on timber or energy poles adjoining to open areas whereas they look ahead to prey, and they’re going to shortly swoop down on unsuspecting morsels.

They can even scan for prey whereas hovering above fields.

They might take smaller prey back to a perch to feed, whereas bigger prey is eaten on the bottom with the raptor hunched over it in a mantling place to cover the meal from potential rivals.

After consuming, these birds will keep perched and calm as they digest, and can regurgitate pellets to expel materials they can’t digest.

Red-Tailed Hawk Vocalization

The cry of the red-tailed hawk is a two to three-second hoarse, rasping scream, variously transcribed as kree-eee-ar, tsee-eeee-arrr or sheeeeee, that begins at an excessive pitch and slurs downward.

This cry is commonly described as sounding just like a steam whistle. The red-tailed hawk often vocalizes whereas looking or hovering, however vocalizes loudest and most persistently in defiance or anger, in response to a predator or a rival hawk’s intrusion into its territory. At shut vary, it makes a croaking guh-runk, probably as a warning sound.

Nestlings might give peeping notes with a “soft sleepy quality” that give technique to occasional screams as they develop, however, these are more possible a comfortable whistle than the tough screams of the adults.

Their latter starvation name, given anyplace from 11 days (as recorded in Alaska) to post-fledgling (in California), is totally different, a two syllabled, wailing klee-uk meals cry exerted by the younger when dad and mom depart the nest or enter their visual field.

A strange mechanical sound “not very unlike the rush of distant water” has been reported as uttered within the midst of a sky-dance.

A modified name of chirp-chwirk is given throughout courtship whereas a low-key, duck-like nasal gank could also be given by pairs when they’re relaxed.

The fierce, screaming cry of the red-tailed hawk is often used as a generic raptor sound impact in tv reveals and different media, even when the chook featured will not be a red-tailed hawk. It is very utilized in depictions of the bald eagle

Red-Tailed Hawk Courtship and pre-laying behaviors

Pairs both court docket for the first time or interact in courtship rituals to strengthen pre-existing pair bonds before going into the breeding.

The breeding season often begins in late February via March however can start as early as late December in Arizona and late January in Wisconsin or to the alternative excessive as late as mid-April as in Alberta.

In this pre-nesting interval, high-circling with a lot of calls will happen. One or each member of a pair could also be concerned.

The courtship display typically includes dangling legs, at occasions, the pair will contact one another’s wings and the male’s toes might contact the feminine’s back, she might often roll over and current talons, meal passes are not often reported. High hovering happens seasonally.

Circling above territory tends to be executed noisily and conspicuously, serving to insure in opposition to attainable takeovers. Spring circling of a pair could be a prelude to copulation.

A typical sky-dance includes the male hawk climbing excessively in flight with deep, exaggerated beats after which diving precipitously on half-closed wings at a great pace, checking, and taking pictures back up, or typically plunging much less steeply and repeating the method in a full rollercoaster throughout the sky.


Red-tailed hawks are monogamous birds that can return to the identical nesting website every year. The nest is a pile of sticks lined with vegetation, smaller sticks, or different tremendous materials, and is often positioned in a tall tree or on a cliff ledge.

Red-Tailed Hawk Eggs

2-3, typically 4, not often 1-5. Whitish blotched with brown. Incubation is by each parent, 28-35 days. Young: Female stays with younger more often than not throughout the first few weeks. Male brings most meals, and feminine tears it into small items to feed to the younger.

After about 4-5 weeks, meals are dropped within the nest, and the younger feed on it themselves.

Young depart the nest about 6-7 weeks after hatching, however not able to robust flight for one more 2 weeks or more. Fledglings might stay with their dad and mom for a number of more weeks.


Female stays with younger more often than not throughout the first few weeks. Male brings most meals, and feminine tears it into small items to feed to the younger.

After about 4-5 weeks, meals are dropped within the nest, and the younger feed on it themselves.

Young depart the nest about 6-7 weeks after hatching, however not able to robust flight for one more 2 weeks or more. Fledglings might stay with their dad and mom for a number of more weeks.

Red-Tailed Hawk Conservation

While red-tailed hawks usually are not thought of threatened or endangered, they’re vulnerable to poisoning. Poorly managed pesticide and rodenticide use is a grave risk to those raptors because the birds will ingest contaminated prey.

They are additionally prone to collisions with energy traces and wind generators, and can often be hit by vehicles if the birds are looking or feeding on the aspect of the street.

Tips for Backyard Birders

These usually are not frequent yard birds, however, birders with giant, undeveloped acreage might entice red-tailed hawks by leaving lifeless timber and fence posts accessible as perches.

Ensuring that grassland or close-by fields are left undisturbed for small mammals and different prey can even assist entice looking hawks to space.


Canadian chook populations and people within the excessive northern United States might migrate seasonally relying on climate severity and meal supplies. In most of their vary, nevertheless, red-tailed hawks don’t migrate.

Other Recommended Articles

Red-Tailed Hawk Identification

Red-tailed hawks usually are not troublesome to seek out inside their vary if birders drive on rural roads and verify roadside perches for watchful raptors.

Areas with much less growth are more apt to yield red-tailed hawk sightings, although these birds can be present in suburban and even city areas the place prey reminiscent of mice and pigeons is plentiful.

In-flight, search for the distinctive wing sample of those hawks whereas hovering for simple, assured identification. Learn more about the birds of the Mojave desert.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *