Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk


Profile Red-tailed Hawk
[Authority] Gmelin, 1788 | [group] Kites, hawks and eagles | [order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Buteo jamaicensis | [UK] Red-tailed Hawk |

[Authority] Gmelin, 1788 | [group] Kites, hawks and eagles | [order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Buteo jamaicensis | [UK] Red-tailed Hawk | [FR] Buse a queue rousse | [DE] Rotschwanz-Bussard | [ES] Busardo Colirrojo | [NL] Roodstaartbuizerd | copyright picture

copyright: J. del Hoyo

When this large, broad-winged, wide-tailed hawk veers while soaring, the rufous
on the topside of the tail is evident (on adults). From below the tail is pale, but may transmit a hint of red. Overhead, a dependable mark on all but blackish birds is a black or dark patagial bar
on the fore edge of the wing. Immature birds have grayish tails that may or may not show narrow banding. They also show the patagial bar. Underparts of typical Red-tails east of the Rockies are -zoned- (light breast, broad
band of streaks across the belly), except in some birds of southwestern Texas (-Fuertes- Red-tail). On the Great Plains, the pale kriderii
form is found. There is much variation farther west; these Red-tails tend to be darker. One might encounter the blackish harlani,
as well as deep rusty and melanistic birds. The latter usually have the telltale rust on their tails. Red-tails usually perch conspicuously.
-Harlans- Red-tailed Hawk(Buteo jamaicensis harlani) A variable blackish race of the Red-tail; regarded by some as a distinct species. Similar
to other melanistic Red-tails, but tail never solid red; usually dirty white, with a longitudinal mottling and freckling of black merging into a dark terminal band, giving a white-rumped look.
Some may have a mottling of red on the tail. This race breeds in eastern Alaska and northwestern Canada. Winters southeastward to Texas and the lower Mississippi Valley.
-Kriders- Red-tailed Hawk(Buteo jamaicensis kriderii) A pale prairie form of the Red-tail, with a whitish tail that may be tinged with pale rufous.
This form breeds on the prairies and plains of Canada and north-central United States. Winters south through the southern plains to Texas, Louisiana.

Open country, woodlands, prairie groves, mountains, plains, roadsides.
Found in any kind of terrain that provides both some open ground for hunting and some high perches. Habitats may include everything from woodland with scattered clearings to open grassland or desert with a few trees or utility poles.

Varied; includes small mammals, birds, reptiles.
Mammals such as voles, rats, rabbits, and ground squirrels are often major prey; also eats many birds (up to size of pheasant) and reptiles, especially snakes. Sometimes eats bats, frogs, toads, insects, various other creatures; may feed on carrion.

Behavior: Does most hunting by watching from a high perch, then swooping down to capture prey in its talons. Also hunts by flying over fields, watching for prey below. Small prey carried to perch, large prey often partly eaten on ground.

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence 30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from]

In courtship, male and female soar in high circles, with shrill cries. Male may fly high and then dive repeatedly in spectacular maneuvers; may catch prey and pass it to female in flight.
Site usually in tree, up to 120 above ground; also nests on cliff ledges, among arms of giant cactus, or on towers or poles. Nest (built by both sexes) a bulky bowl of sticks, lined with finer materials, often with leafy green branches added.

Clutch 2 -3, sometimes 4, rarely 1 -5. Whitish, blotched with brown. Incubation is by both parents, 28-35 days.
Young: Female remains with young most of the time during first few weeks, while male brings most food. Young leave the nest about 6 –
7 weeks after hatching but are not capable of strong flight for another 2 weeks or more. Fledglings may remain with parents for several more weeks.

Alaska, Canada, to Panama. Migration:
Northern Red-tails may migrate far to the south, while many at central or southern latitudes (especially adults) are permanent residents. Most migration is relatively late in fall and early in spring.


  1. Measurements
  2. spanwidth min.: 0 cm
  3. spanwidth max.: 0 cm
  4. size min.: cm
  5. size max.: cm
  6. Breeding
  7. incubation min.: 0 days
  8. incubation max.: 0 days
  9. fledging min.: 0 days
  10. fledging max.: 0 days
  11. broods 0
  12. eggs min.: 0
  13. eggs max.: 0
  14. Conservation Status
  15. Red-tailed Hawk status Least Concern


  1. Buteo jamaicensis fuertesi
  2. sw USA, n Mexico
  3. Buteo jamaicensis alascensis
  4. se Alaska, sw Canada
  5. Buteo jamaicensis harlani
  6. c Alaska, nw Canada
  7. Buteo jamaicensis calurus
  8. w North America
  9. Buteo jamaicensis borealis
  10. e North America
  11. Buteo jamaicensis kriderii
  12. sc Canada, nc USA
  13. Buteo jamaicensis
  14. NA, MA widespread
  15. Buteo jamaicensis suttoni
  16. s Baja California (Mexico)
  17. Buteo jamaicensis jamaicensis
  18. Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, n Lesser Antilles
  19. Buteo jamaicensis fumosus
  20. Tres Marias Is. (off wc Mexico)
  21. Buteo jamaicensis hadropus
  22. c Mexico
  23. Buteo jamaicensis kemsiesi
  24. s Mexico to Nicaragua
  25. Buteo jamaicensis costaricensis
  26. Costa Rica, w Panama
  27. Buteo jamaicensis umbrinus
  28. Florida (USA)
  29. Buteo jamaicensis solitudinis
  30. Bahamas, Cuba
  31. Buteo jamaicensis socorroensis
  32. Socorro I. (w of Mexico)
Join the discussion