The red-tailed hawk is one of the most common raptors of North America.
It shares a rating with the ferruginous hawk as the largest North American Buteo. Their size is 19 to 25 inches with a weight 2 to 3.5 pounds. They have a wingspan 46 to 58 inches. They can be white, chocolate brown, or black, with brown eyes, and white below, with brown streaks on their lower neck and a broad band of dark streaking across their white belly. And, of course, their tail is brick-red.
Class: Bird (Aves)
Conservation Education Program AnimalMore Info
Range: North America, Central America
Habitat: Forests, prairies, deserts, mountains. Wooded area is required for hunting.
Lifespan: 10 to 12 years
Wild Diet: Small mammals, fish, insects, other birds
Zoo Diet: Meat strips (beef), rabbit, chicken, fish, vitamycin
The bird is mainly migratory over the northern part of its range; most winter in the south, but some pairs remain in, or not far from, the nesting range. Pairs cling to the territories year after year. They mate for life or until the death of one of the pair, at which time the survivor takes another mate. They prey mostly upon rodents. Prey is consumed whole, and indigestible fur and bones are regurgitated in the form of a “casting” or “Pellet” about 12-18 hours after ingestion. This is a critical self-cleaning function of the digestive tract, and birds fed incorrectly in captivity soon die. The hawk’s eyesight is described as being 10 times as efficient as a human’s.
In courtship the pair soars about, screaming. The smaller male may dive swiftly from a great height at the female, whereupon she may turn over in the air and present her talons to his mock combat. Courtship flights come at any time of the year in good weather, but the breeding season is March to May. Male and female share nest-building duty, and have been known to cooperate in breaking a particularly strong branch. Incubation is mostly by the female, although the male relieves her for short periods and brings food to her while she is on the nest.
Gestation: Incubation: 28 to 32 days
Litter: Clutch: 2 to 5 eggs
- Other names for this bird are: Red Hawk; Mouse Hawk: Chicken Hawk; Hen Hawk; Buzzard Hawk.
- The red-tailed hawk has been a declining species due to man's increasing population and subsequent destruction of the bird's habitat, by sports hunters, and by the effects of pesticides in hawk's prey.
- The Genus name, Buteo, is from the Latin buteo, a kind of falcon or hawk. The species name, jamaicensis, is Latin, meaning "belonging to Jamaica", although the bird ranges from Alaska to Panama and the West Indies.