Red-Tailed Hawk

The Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

One of my favorite birds and the most commonly seen hawk, the Red-Tailed Hawk can be found all across North America.

Preferring a variety of open habitats, this bird can be seen holding still into the wind while hunting its prey.

This is called kiting, a skill that eagles and some hawks use to hunt for prey.

The large birds will face the wind and hold their wings out and almost hover.


A large bird, this Hawk measures 19 to 26 inches in length with a wing span of 4 1/2 feet. The female is up to a third larger than the male.

The plumage of these birds varies depending on the region in which it resides.

Typically, the adult bird is a dark brown above, white breast, and a band across the belly.

The tail is a brick red on the upperside.

Immature Red-Tails are similar in appearance, except the tail is brown and banded instead of reddish.

Red-tailed hawk


At two years of age, Red-Tailed Hawks become sexually mature and seek out a mate. The mate may be a young bird as well or a more experienced partner that recently lost its mate.

The mating and breeding habits of these birds include aerial displays of twirls, spins and deep dives meant to advertise their readiness for breeding.

Often the pair will do this in tandem creating a dance in mid air, and is quite a sight to see.

The breeding season begins in late winter, early spring.

Generally monogamous birds, remaining with the same mate throughout the breeding season and often pairing for life.

Seeking a new mate only if the original partner is lost.


The male and female participate in the building of the nest which is a platform constructed of sticks and twigs, lined with bark and greenery.

The nest is located in a tree 15 to 120 feet above ground. Sometimes nest are built on cliffs.

The female lays 1 to 5 bluish white eggs with dark marks. Most commonly lays 2 to 3 eggs. The eggs are incubated by both male and female (mostly female) for 28 to 35 days.

The young will leave the nest in 44 to 46 days after hatching.

Raises only one brood a season. May re-nest if first nesting attempt is unsuccessful.


Small to medium-sized mammals, primarily mice, ground squirrels, rabbits, birds, and reptiles are eaten by this hawk. Red-Tailed Hawks hunt by swooping down from an elevated perch to seize their prey, snatching birds while flying, or pursuing prey from low level flight.

They will also take food from other species. This is called pirating.


Only the northern populations of this species of hawk (Alaska, Canada, northern United States) migrate south in winter. Others are non-migratory.

the local resident pair of Red-Tailed Hawks remain through out the year in southwest Michigan and give me great joy.


The average lifespan in the wild ranges from 13 - 20 years. In captivity, lifespan can be longer.

These large birds were once ruthlessly hunted. Thankfully laws have changed and with more open fields to hunt from, they have made a strong comeback.

We need birds of prey to help keep rodents and other critters in check.

Red-Tailed Hawk and other Common Bird Profiles

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