Red-tailed Hawk – Buteo Jamaicensis

Red-Tailed Hawk


The Red-tailed Hawk is a common bird of prey that can be found throughout the contiguous 48 states, Canada into Alaska. These large hawks are commonly seen sitting in trees alongside roads and highways near large fields bordered by tree line.

The red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is a bird of prey, one of three species colloquially known in the United States as the "chickenhawk,"

“Red-tailed Hawks are the most common and widespread hawk in North America. Red-tail numbers have increased significantly as a result of forest fragmentation that creates the mosaic of interspersed wooded and open areas they prefer. In some areas, this increase has been at the expense of Red-shouldered, Ferruginous, and Swainson’s Hawks.” (1)

Along with the American Kestrel, the Red-tail Hawk is the most commonly captured raptor for falconry in the United States.

Red-tailed Hawks typically put their nests in the crowns of tall trees, cliffs or high on man-made structures where they have a commanding view of the landscape. Both male and female will help in building the nest. The female lays 1 to 3 brown spotted white eggs. Clutch size depends almost exclusively on the availability of prey for the adults. The incubation period is between 28–35 days. The chicks are born helpless and need the parents to provide food and protection. The chicks fledge in 42 days


Red-tailed Hawk plumage can be variable, depending on the subspecies and the region. Red-Tailed hawks are 17”–22” long with a wingspan of 44”-53”. They weight 24-46 oz (1 ½ to 3 lbs.) – females are up to 25% larger than males.

Red-tailed Hawks are most often seen soaring high above the ground, looking for food.


The Red-tailed Hawk occupies a wide range of habitats and altitudes, including deserts, grasslands, coniferous and deciduous forests, tropical rainforests, agricultural fields and urban areas.


The Red-tailed Hawk lives throughout the North American continent, in Central America, and in the West Indies. except in areas of unbroken forest or the high arctic. It is legally protected in Canada, Mexico and the United States by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.


Red-tailed Hawks that breed in the northern parts of Canada and Alaska migrate south in late fall. The winter range stretches from southern Canada south throughout the remainder of the breeding range


Red-tailed Hawks are carnivores and eat small mammals, such as rodent, mice, rabbits, etc. They also eat birds (I was once fortunate enough to witness a Red-tail kill a pigeon  in Troy, NY), reptiles, fish or large insects. They will eat fresh carrion.