The Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is a bird of prey, one of three species colloquially known in the United States as the “chickenhawk,” though it rarely preys on standard sized chickens. It breeds throughout most of North America, from western Alaska and northern Canada to as far south as Panama and the West Indies, and is one of the most common Buteos in North America. Red-tailed Hawks can acclimate to all the biomes within their range. There are fourteen recognized subspecies, which vary in appearance and range. It is one of the largest members of the genus Buteo in North America, typically weighing from 690 to 1,600 g (1.5 to 3.5 lb) and measuring 45–65 cm (18–26 in) in length, with a wingspan from 110–145 cm (43–57 in). The Red-tailed Hawk displays sexual dimorphism in size, with females averaging about 25% heavier than males. The bird is sometimes referred to as the Red-tail for short when the meaning is clear in context.
Because they are so common and easily trained as capable hunters, the majority of hawks captured for falconry in the United States are red-tails. Falconers are permitted to take only passage Hawks (which have left the nest, are on their own, but are less than a year old) so as to not affect the breeding population. Adults, which may be breeding or rearing chicks, may not be taken for falconry purposes and it is illegal to do so. Passage red-tailed hawks are also preferred by falconers because these younger birds have not yet developed the adult behaviors which would make them more difficult to train. [Wikipedia]
This is probably the most common hawk in North America. If you’ve got sharp eyes, you’ll see several individuals on almost any long car ride, anywhere. Red-tailed Hawks soar above open fields, slowly turning circles on their broad, rounded wings. Other times you’ll see them atop telephone poles, eyes fixed on the ground to catch the movements of a vole or a rabbit, or simply waiting out the cold weather before climbing a thermal updraft into the sky. [All About Birds]
Red-tailed Hawk Facts [All About Birds]
- The Red-tailed Hawk has a thrilling, raspy scream that sounds exactly like a raptor should sound. At least, that’s what Hollywood directors seem to think. Whenever a hawk or eagle appears on screen, no matter what species, the shrill cry on the soundtrack is almost always a Red-tailed Hawk.
- Birds are amazingly adapted for life in the air. The Red-tailed Hawk is one of the largest birds you’ll see in North America, yet even the biggest females weigh in at only about 3 pounds. A similar-sized small dog might weigh 10 times that.
- Red-tailed Hawks have been seen hunting as a pair, guarding opposite sides of the same tree to catch tree squirrels.
- The oldest known wild Red-tailed Hawk was at least 30 years, 8 months old when it was found in Michigan in 2011, the same state where it had been banded in 1981.