Red-tailed Hawk - Buteo jamaicensis
The red-tailed hawk is 18-25 inches in length with a wingspan of four feet. It weighs 2-4 pounds. It is dark brown to gray brown on its back and on the top of its wings. It has light brown or cream undersides and a cinnamon colored neck and chest. It has a dark band across its belly and a broad, round, rusty red tail. The female is larger than the male.
The red-tailed hawk breeds in most parts of the United States and Canada south to Mexico and Central America. Birds in the northern most part of its range may migrate south in the winter.
The red-tailed hawk lives in deciduous forests and open areas like swamps, deserts, tundra, plains, and agricultural areas. It prefers places with high perches that it can use to search for food. It can often be seen sitting on telephone poles and wires looking for prey.
The red-tailed hawk soars over open land searching for prey like small rodents. It has excellent eyesight and can see the slightest movement in the grass below. It uses its sharp talons to kill its prey. It may also hunt fish and reptiles.
Breeding season begins in March and may run through May. Red-tail hawks reach breeding age when they are three years old. During courtship, both the male and female engage in an aerial display where they glide and soar in circles and then fold their wings in and plummet to the treetops.
Red-tailed hawk pairs are very territorial and remain together for years in the same territory. Territories are usually between a half a square mile to two square miles. The male flies around the territory and patrols for intruders while the female guards the nesting site. The red-tailed hawk has a raspy screeching call that is often used in film and television as the call of eagles and other raptors!
Audio Credit: xeno-canto.org Andrew Spencer