Red-tailed HawkButeo jamaicensis

adult, Eastern
Tom Vezo/VIREO
adult, Southwestern (Fuertes' Hawk)
Sid & Shirley Rucker/VIREO
adult (Harlan's Hawk)
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult (Krider's Hawk)
Brian K. Wheeler/VIREO
adult, Western, dark morph
Greg Lasley/VIREO
juvenile, Eastern
Richard Crossley/VIREO
adult, Western, dark morph
Greg Lasley/VIREO
adult, Western, light morph
Greg Lasley/VIREO
adult, Eastern
Lloyd Spitalnik/VIREO
adult, Western, dark morph
Rick and Nora Bowers/VIREO
adult, Eastern
Rob Curtis/VIREO
adult, Western, light morph
Greg Lasley/VIREO
adult, Western, light morph
Blake Shaw/VIREO
adult, Western, dark intermediate morph
Brian K. Wheeler/VIREO
adult (light Harlan's Hawk)
Brian K. Wheeler/VIREO
juvenile, Eastern
Richard Crossley/VIREO
adult with nestlings, Western, dark morph
John Cancalosi/VIREO
adult, Eastern
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult (Harlan's Hawk)
Arthur Morris/VIREO
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

Description

18-25" (46-64 cm). W. 4' (1.2 m). A large stocky hawk. Typical light-phase birds have whitish breast and rust-colored tail. Young birds duller, more streaked, lacking rust-colored tail of adult; they are distinguished from Red-shouldered and Swainson's hawks by their stocky build, broader, more rounded wings, and white chest. This species quite variable in color, especially in West, where blackish individuals occur; these usually retain rusty tail.

Voice

High-pitched descending scream with a hoarse quality, keeeeer.

Listen

typical calls #1
juvenile squeals #2
typical calls #2
juvenile squeals #1

Habitat

Deciduous forests and open country of various kinds, including tundra, plains, and farmlands.

Range

Breeds throughout North America, from Alaska east to Nova Scotia and southward. Winters across United States north to southern British Columbia and Maritime Provinces.

Discussion

The Red-tail is the most common and widespread American member of the genus Buteo, which also includes the Red-shouldered, Swainson's, and Gray hawks, among others. Like other hawks of this group, it soars over open country in search of its prey but just as often perches in a tree at the edge of a meadow, watching for the slightest movement in the grass below. The Red-tail rarely takes poultry, feeding mainly on small rodents. Certain western birds with grayish, faintly streaked or mottled tails were formerly considered a separate species called "Harlan's Hawk."

Nesting

2 or 3 white eggs, spotted with brown, in a bulky nest of sticks lined with shreds of bark and bits of fresh green vegetation, placed in a tall tree or on a rock ledge.

Similar Species

adult male, dark morph

Rough-legged Hawk

19-24" (48-61 cm). W. 4' 4" (1.3 m). A large, long-winged hawk that often hovers. Tail white at base with a dark terminal band.

adult, Florida

Red-shouldered Hawk

16-24" (41-61 cm). W. 3'4" (1 m). A large, long-winged hawk with white barring on dark wings, rusty shoulders, pale underparts barred with rust, and narrowly banded tail.

adult, light morph

Ferruginous Hawk

22 1/2 -25" (57-64 cm). W. 4' 8" (1.4 m). A large hawk. Light-phase adult rufous above, mainly whitish below, with rufous "wrist" patch and leg feathers, and black primary tips.

adult, light morph

Swainson's Hawk

18-22" (46-56 cm). W. 4' 1" (1.2 m). A large hawk, uniform brown above, white below with warm-brown breast; tail dark brown and indistinctly banded. Longer, more pointed wings than Red-tailed Hawk.

adult

White-tailed Hawk

21-23" (53-58 cm). W. 4' (1.2 m). A large stocky hawk. Adult gray above, white below, with narrow but conspicuous black band on its short white tail, and rufous shoulder patch.

Vireo

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