The Red-tailed hawk is probably one of the most well-known hawks, due to
it's trademark reddish tail and tendency to perch along the sides of roads.
Red-tailed Hawks show a wide variation in plumage, especially in the western
United States. "Harlan's Hawk", once considered a separate species, is a
very dark morph of the Red-tailed Hawk, with marbled earth and white tones in
the tail instead of red. Another distinguishing field mark of most birds
is a "belly band" of dark speckled feathers on the bellow below the breast.
However, very light colored Red-tailed Hawk morphs may largely lack even this
Habitat: Open country, woodlands, prairies, cropland, and
plains. Found in nearly any type of habitat that provides some open ground with
Diet: Small mammals, birds, and
reptiles. Occasionally eats insects and carrion.
Behavior: Hunts by either watching from a perch
and swooping down when prey comes within range, or by soaring over open
ground. During courtship, males and females circle together, crying
their distinctive cry.
Nesting: March through June. The nest of a
Red-tailed Hawk is usually in a tree, often one of the tallest trees in the
general vicinity. The nest is large structure built of sticks, lined with
finer vegetative material. The female usually lays 2 to 3 eggs, and both
parents help to incubate them. Upon hatching, the female initially stays
with the young while the male leaves the nest to hunt and bring food back.
After a few weeks, both parents leave the nest for periods to hunt.
Migration: Many birds do migrate south, but some
are semi-permanent residents.
Similar Species: Depending on age and
morph, can appear similar to Ferruginous Hawk
or Rough-legged Hawk.
Conservation Status: Widespread and common, with populations
stable or even increasing.
Cornell University's "All About Birds - Red-tailed Hawk"
eNature.com - Red-tailed Hawk
Photo Information: August
4th, 2002 -- Near Lake Preston -- Terry L. Sohl
Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or
text links below for additional, higher-resolution Red-tailed Hawk photos.