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Red-tailed Hawk

Buteo jamaicencis


Accipitridae, the hawk and eagle family.

Conservation Status:

Least Concern IUCN.


North America.


All habitats.


Often mistaken for Golden Eagles, the buteo shape in flight is similar, as is the dark back when perched, but not the size–Golden eagle wingspans are 7 ft; Red-tailed Hawk wingspans are 4-½ ft. Badly maligned by man, their soaring habits make them so visible that they are blamed for being the “chicken hawk” though they rarely attack domestic animals. Their high, piercing call is often used in movies and on television to represent the sound of “wild country”.

Large dark hawks with sharp talons and hooked beaks, whitish breasts, streaked bellies and rusty-red tails that soar in wide circles on broad wings. In immature birds, all under-parts are streaked and tails are banded. Females are a third larger than males.

They are opportunistic diurnal predators, hunting rabbits, rodents and occasionally a reptile or bird, making them very beneficial to humans. They have excellent vision, seeing distant objects in sharper detail than humans can. Their eye muscles adjust rapidly to maintain focus as they dive on prey.

They are at the top of the food chain. Humans are their only threat.
Courtship displays are seen in late winter. Large stick nests are built on high ledges, trees or cactus, often used year after year, and 2-4 eggs are laid. The young fledge after 6 weeks.

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