The Red-tailed hawk is a bird of prey, or raptor, that lives in North America. Its scientific name is buteo jamaicensis.
What do they look like?
The Red-tailed hawk is generally brown in color with a red tail. Its underbelly is lighter than its back and it has a short, curved black beak. Their tails are short and wide, and their wings are fairly wide and thick. Females are generally 25% larger than males and grow to a length of just over 2 feet with a wingspan of nearly 4 feet. They can weigh up to 3 ½ pounds.
Where do red-tailed hawks live?
The red-tailed hawk can live in a wide variety of habitats from forests to cities. It likes to have high areas to perch and search for prey like trees or telephone poles. It can be found in most any area in North America from Alaska all the way to Florida.
Red-tail hawks mate for life and can often live in the same nesting area for years. They generally lay 1 to 3 eggs. The mother spends most of the time with the eggs, but the father will fill in from time to time. They feed the newly hatched chicks for 6-10 weeks. Once the chicks can leave the nest, the parents will teach them how to hunt for food.
Red-tailed hawk flying Source: United States Department of Agriculture
What do they eat?
Red-tailed hawks are birds of prey, meaning they hunt animals for their food. Just about any small animal will do, but they do eat more small mammals than fish, primarily rodents like mice, chipmunks, and squirrels. They also eat snakes, small birds, and even insects. They hunt mostly by sitting on a high perch and then swooping down quickly to catch their prey in their talons. When diving, these birds can hit speeds of over 100 miles per hour. They have excellent eyesight in order to see their prey from a high distance.
Can they be trained?
Red-tailed hawks are very trainable and a favorite bird for falconry. Falconry is when birds of prey are trained to hunt. They fly free and hunt, but return to their owners afterwards. There are a lot of rules in the United States about falconry. These include the exact age and time a hawk can be taken from the wild to be trained.
Fun Facts About Red-tailed Hawks
Sometimes they are called chicken hawks, buzzard hawks, or red hawks.
They make a loud powerful cry that is often used on TV or in the movies.
The conservation status of the Red-tailed Hawk is lower risk or least concern.
Its feathers are considered sacred by some Native American tribes, especially the tail feathers.
The Great Horned Owl is often a competitor for food and territory in the wild.
They have a lifespan of around 20 years.
They can't move their eyes in their sockets and have to move their heads to look around.
Having a red-tailed hawk around can be helpful in keeping down the population of rodents.
Red-tailed hawk Source: United States Fish and Wildlife Service