California Raptor Center

Red-tailed Hawk

Scientific Name: Buteo jamaicensis (Buteo is Latin for hawk, jamaicensisrefers to where the first specimen wascollected).

Size: Length: 17-22in Wingspan: 43-56in

Weight: Female: 1224g (average) (2.7lb) Male: 1028g (average) (2.3lb)

Lifespan: They are expected to live for 4 or 5 years in the wild, and have reached 29 or more years in captivity.

ID: There are three morphs for this species: light, intermediate, and dark. All varieties develop their distinctive red tails in adulthood and also have dark undersides and light flight feathers.Light morphs have a reddish-tan color on their bellies in adulthood and a mix of brown and white in their youth. Intermediate juvenile morphs are colored in a similar way to light juvenile morphs, intermediates have more patches of brown. Adult intermediates have a large reddish spot right below their heads. Dark juveniles look a great deal like dark adults, though they do not have the red tail.

Hunting: They hunt by sitting and waiting on perches. They will also soar above fields where prey might be.

Prey: This species will eat a wide variety of prey. A typical Red-tail’s diet includes mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. They are known to eat carrion.

Breeding: They build big stick nests in tall trees. Their breeding season extends from February to June. Females lay clutches of 1 to 5 eggs, which hatch after 28 to 32 days. The chicks begin to leave the nest after 42 to 46 days. The fledgling period lasts up to 10 weeks, during which the chicks learn to fly and hunt.

Range: Red-tailed Hawks are partial migrants, which means that birds in north climates will migrate south in cold weather while the birds in temperate climates will live in the same area year round. They live all over North and Central America.

Status: They are not currently listed as an endangered species, but are protected under the migratory bird treaty act.