Red-Tailed Hawk

Category: Birds

One of the most widely-distributed raptors worldwide, the red-tailed hawk is able to live in a variety of ecosystems, including deserts, grasslands, forests, open fields, and even urban areas. If you live in North America, chances are you’ve seen one of these hawks!

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk

Scientific & Common Names

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Aves

Order - Acciptriformes

Family - Accipitridae

Genus – Buteo

Species – B. jamaicensis

Common Names – Red-Tailed Hawk, Chickenhawk, Harlan's Hawk (B. j. harlani subspecies), Krider's Hawk (B. j. kriderii subspecies), Redtail

Characteristics

The red-tailed hawk is a fairly large and stocky bird of prey (or raptor). There are 14 recognized subspecies, separated from each other by their range and differences in plumage coloration. Even within subspecies, there are different colorations or "morphs". They are typically brown above and lighter below, with a reddish-brown tail being a shared characteristic between all of its variations.

Breeding

Male red-tailed hawks perform elaborate mating routines, circling and diving to impress females. Mating pairs stay together for many years, possibly for life. Females lay one to three eggs.

Behavior

These hawks hunt rodents, rabbits, fish, reptiles and frogs with their keen eyesight. They scan for prey either while flying or while perched in a tree. When one locates a tasty animal on the ground below, it will swoop down and seize it in its talons. They occasionally hunt in pairs, with one hawk driving the unsuspecting prey into the waiting claws of the other.

History

Red-tailed hawks are known to have a very strong relationship with humans, and are the most common bird used in falconry. As far as birds of prey go, they’re actually very social, making them easier to tame and train. Because of their relatively large size and lack of dexterity when compared to other raptors, red-tailed hawks are often used to hunt ground animals like rabbits instead of small, flighty birds. Although you can’t go hunting with it, this red-tailed hawk is every bit as sociable as its species would suggest!

Present Status

Red-tailed hawks are a wide-ranging species that can exist in a multitude of diverse habitats. They are a species of "Least Concern" according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. However, they are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in North America.