Red-tailed Hawks: (Reigniting Your Passion For Bird Watching After Years of Hiatus)

red tailed hawk

The red-tailed hawk (Buteo jameicensis) is primarily an Atlantic birding bird. It is the most common buteo species member in both North America and the rest of the world. Henry hawks are a type of hawk that is commonly referred to as a “red-tailed hawk” in the United States. The red-tailed hawk birds are also sometimes referred to as redtails for short.

These birds have a reddish tail and legs. Males, females, and juveniles of the red-tailed hawk all look alike. These birds use their abilities to fly in search of food such as small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects and other small prey. They will often wait on a high perch where they can spot prey from a distance and dive quickly to catch their prey.

Their nests are usually in trees which they will use to lay 2-3 eggs, though it is common for them not all of the eggs to hatch or for there to be only one baby red-tailed hawk that lives after hatching.

If you ever encounter a red-tailed hawk in the wild, never try to touch one. These birds are very afraid of humans and will not think twice about trying to protect themselves if they feel threatened or in danger.

Red-tailed hawks are known for being ferocious animals when it comes to protecting their young during breeding season, so be extra careful! They will slam into people who come close to their babies. They will dive-bomb them, and they will even strike people with their talons as they fly above!

During breeding season, male red-tailed hawks can be very aggressive towards each other as they compete for the chance to mate with a female red-tailed hawk. If you ever see a red-tailed hawk male with a leg band, do not worry he is most likely just being monitored for population purposes.

Red-tailed Hawks are extremely important to many ecosystems in North America’s lower forty-eight states. They help control the populations of small mammals such as mice and voles by catching them when they come out from their burrows to feed or to find a mate.

These birds can be seen around the world in North America. They have been spotted in places such as Japan, Australia, and even parts of Europe! Red-tailed Hawks have an extremely large habitat range so they are able to survive almost anywhere there is food enough for them to eat.

Are hawks dangerous to humans? Let’s find out

The red-tailed hawks are not dangerous to humans when they are left alone. However, this does not mean that you should try to touch one. If you or your kids ever encounter a red-tailed hawk nest, stay away and allow the parents of the baby birds to take care of them. If there are baby Hawks nearby, it is advisable for humans to keep their distance!

Red-tailed hawks can be seen as beneficial predatory birds as they are widely used to keep small mammals and reptiles in check. So if you ever see a red-tailed hawk, just take a moment to appreciate its beauty and then let it carry on with its day!


Typically, the diet of red-tailed hawks is made up of small prey such as rabbits, mice, squirrels, and rodents. They have been known to hunt large mammals such as deer when they are in desperate need of food.

In some cases, a red-tailed hawk will eat a type of lizard called a skink. Skinks are most commonly found in the United States so it is common for the red-tailed hawk to hunt them.

Distribution And Habitat Of Red-Tailed Hawks

Red-tailed hawk distribution and habitat is typically in scattered populations across the United States. Red-tailed hawks prefer to inhabit open areas with trees and shrubs for perching while they are hunting for food. They can be found in grassland, woodland, coniferous forest, or even desert habitats. These birds often build nests in tall trees that offer protection from ground predators such as raccoons and foxes.

They are known to migrate when the weather begins to get colder, typically around autumn. They tend to move south towards the United States or Mexican coastline during this time of year so they can have an easier time finding food.

FAMILY LIFE Of Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-tailed hawks are carnivores that prey on animals ranging from insects and amphibians, all the way up to deers. They’re known for their aggressiveness when it comes to protecting their young, and many people enjoy watching them hunt from a distance.

The basic colors of the upperparts is gray and red-brown which are ideal for camouflaging themselves when they are hunting. The underside of the red-tailed hawk is typically white but it can be streaked with brown spots in some cases, especially when they are juveniles.

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawks

Red-tailed hawks have two different breeding habits that determine their appearance. First, there are some red-tailed hawks that will remain in their brown juvenile stage for up to two years before they go through a molting process. In this period, the red-tailed hawk can grow up to 25% of its size once it matures into adulthood.

Molting is when an animal sheds old feathers and grows new ones. Once the red-tailed hawk molts, they will gradually become more white in color as the years go by.

Mating Habits Of The Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-tailed hawks tend to mate for life, but if one of them is killed their mate will find another partner.

The mating ritual begins with the male red-tailed hawk chasing the female in a spectacular swooping flight. Once they have mated, the red-tailed hawks will build a nest in a tall tree or cliffside which is typically made from twigs and branches.

The eggs of the red-tailed hawk are typically two to four eggs per clutch. The eggs are typically incubated for 35 days after they are laid. Incubation of the eggs can be done by either the male or female red-tailed hawk as they both share parental responsibilities. During this time, the parents will bring prey to their nest to feed their young until they hatch.

The average life expectancy of a red-tailed hawk is sixteen years in the wild, which is comparable to their life expectancy in captivity.

The Red-tailed Hawk’s Habitat And Diet

While red hawks adapt to life in captivity far much better than they are expected, they ted to thrive in their wild habitat where they are able to hunt for their mixed diet of rodents, snakes, lizards, and insects. They also prefer to hunt within their own habitat for birds such as ducks and waterfowl. The red-tailed hawk has been known to eat animals ranging from the size of chipmunks all the way up to deer in some cases.

The Red Tailed Hawk Behavior

The behavior of redtailed hawks in the wild and in captivity is very much alike. The red-tailed hawks are typically monogamous creatures which means they will mate for life and have a mutual agreement to take care of their young until they reach adulthood. Many people who watch the behavior of these birds argue how aggressive the red-tailed hawk is in order to protect its family from danger or a predator.

The red-tailed hawk survival instincts mean they typically perch in tall trees to better prepare for a prey they can swoop down and catch. They’ll typically sit on a perch until they spot a prey source, then they’ll pounce on it while in mid-flight.

The red-tailed hawk hunts by sitting at the top of the tree or cliff that contains their nest, while watching for its prey below.

The Red Tailed Hawk Conservation

Because red-tailed hawks are beneficial predatory birds, they are one of the top listed birds on the conservation list. Though the red-tailed hawk is able to adapt well in captivity, they are typically not kept as pets.

Conservation efforts for the red-tailed hawk include habitat conservation and population management programs that help prevent the loss of red-tailed hawks in order to maintain a healthy ecosystem. These measures also help protect them from predators such as raccoons, snakes, and bobcats.

Look out for Hawk Nests

If you are going camping or hiking outdoors in the wild where red tailed hawks are likely to live, look out for the nests which are typically made in tall trees.

As long as you are careful to avoid disturbing their nest when you are in the wild, they tend to be more peaceful animals that will not attack or swoop down on unsuspecting humans. If you find yourself near a red-tailed hawk’s nest while you’re hiking outdoors, it’s typically best to stay away because they will defend their nest vigorously.

Tips And Warnings

Do not interact with red-tailed hawks if you find one in the wild.

If your dog finds itself cornered by a red-tailed hawk, do not try to rescue your dog because the red-tailed hawk will only swoop down more frequently.

If you are hiking outdoors and happen to find a red-tailed hawk’s nest, do not leave any food around or go near the area where it is nesting if you do not wish to be chased by the red tailed hawk.

The Red Tailed Hawk As Pets

The red-tailed hawk is considered a nonnative species in most states within the United States of America and it’s often illegal to keep them as pets. Even though they are not typically kept as pets, there have been many instances where people try and keep these predators as pets.

Red-tailed hawks are considered to be one of the best birds for people looking to own a bird as a pet because they adapt well in captivity, they are extremely easy to feed, and they do not require large cages or an elaborate habitat if their needs are met correctly.

One thing many people don’t know about the red tailed hawk is that they are very much like the red tailed boa.

If you decide to keep one as a pet, it’s important to handle them often with gloves on because their talons can be extremely sharp. Also, be careful with children around your new pet because their talons are quite dangerous if not handled properly.

Red tailed hawks that are kept as pets need to be socialized with humans and other animals very early on in their lives because they will not tame down if they’re given up for adoption once they reach adulthood. The more friendly your red-tailed hawk is, the less likely it will become aggressive when you attempt to handle them.

Red-Tailed Hawk Interspecies predatory relationships

As predatory animals like the Red-Tailed Hawk tend to live and breed in areas where food supply in in abundance, its no surprise that interspecies predatory relationships often result in prey versus predator confrontations.

A prime example of interspecies predatory relationship between the red-tailed hawk and squirrels can be seen in Toronto, Canada.

The presence of red-tailed hawks in Toronto is causing an imbalance in the population size of grey squirrels because whenever a grey squirrel finds itself cornered by one of the hawks, the squirrel will often decide to charge at it in order to save itself from certain death.

In some cases this resulted in grey squirrels being killed by red-tailed hawks because they started a fight with them in defense of their territory.

Due to these altercations, there have been reports that have shown that grey squirrels in Toronto have been evolving to become more aggressive towards red-tailed hawks and they now attack them whenever the opportunity is presented.

There’s also a report of an interspecies predatory relationship between a red tailed hawk and a woodchuck which occurred in Ithaca, New York where the hawk swooped down onto one of the woodchucks and dropped it in a pond where it drowned.

As you can see, the red-tailed hawk is definitely one of mother nature’s most powerful predators. If you come across one of these birds while hiking or if your dog finds itself cornered by a red-tailed hawk, the best thing to do is leave the area immediately, because these massive birds are not ones you want to mess with.

Red-Tailed Hawks Migration Traits

As red tailed are primarily reliant on a healthy food chain, they are one of the many species that have been known to migrate in order to ensure their safety.

One thing you may be wondering is how do red tailed hawks know when it’s time to migrate? As red-tailed hawks are very much reliant on environmental changes, they have the ability to detect early signs of weather changes which trigger their migration patterns.

When the weather starts to become colder, red-tailed hawks know it’s time to migrate elsewhere because this is when food supply becomes scarce. If you’re wondering why they tend to migrate in winter months, this is mainly because during that period of time prey becomes scarce which pushes them over the edge and forces them to move away to warmer climates.

As red-tailed hawks are capable of migrating long distances, they often travel to various regions across North America where food is abundant which includes the states of Texas, California and Florida.

The common reason why so many red-tailed hawks choose to migrate during winter months is because that’s when prey has very little energy. What this means is that because prey are not able to outrun their predators, they often freeze to death because of the lack of energy which makes it really easy for red-tailed hawks to pick them off.

While migrating, red tailed hawks tend to fly during day light hours under the cover of darkness by resting on high places or by gliding above the ocean.

When it comes to their migration patterns, red-tailed hawks usually leave their nesting grounds in early spring and move towards northern areas where food is abundant which includes Canada.

As many of these birds start arriving back on their nesting grounds around October each year, this period of time has become known as the “fall hawk watch”.

As red-tailed hawks are pretty reliant on their migration patterns, if you’re planning to build a home in an area that’s ideal for these birds to thrive, you should wait until after they have migrated because during this period of time is when they will be scouting out good nesting sites.

Red-Tailed Hawk Hatching, development and brooding

Red-tailed hawks are dedicated monogamous birds who raise their young together.

Both the male and female red-tailed hawk work together to build a massive nest which can take up to 4 weeks to complete.

Once the nests are built, they are often placed on top of trees or other high places where they can be protected from ground predators which also makes it easier for the birds to keep an eye on their surroundings.

One thing you may be wondering is how do red-tailed hawks know where to build a nest? Generally, these birds will often go back to the same nesting site over and over again which is often a large tree where they have a clear view of their surroundings.

When it comes to choosing a nesting site, one thing red-tailed hawks look for is a safe spot where they can lay their eggs and raise their young without the fear of ground predators which includes coyotes, crows and predatory birds.

Once these birds have selected a nesting site, the male and female red tailed hawk will often work together to build a massive nest that’s capable of holding up to three eggs.

One interesting fact about red-tailed hawk nests is that they are often made out of branches, twigs and large sticks which makes them easy to spot from a long distance.

Once the female red-tailed hawk lays her eggs, it’s not uncommon for both parents to take turns incubating their young until they hatch.

Even though both parents take turns incubating their young, once the female red-tailed hawk lays her eggs, she’s never known to leave the nest because it takes a lot of work and dedication on her part to ensure that everything is going as planned until all of her young have hatched.

Red tailed hawk facts about feeding baby red tailed hawks and hunting Training traits.

When it comes to feeding baby red tail hawks, these birds are considered generalist predators mainly because they have a very diverse diet which includes mammals, reptiles, amphibians and other types of birds.

One interesting fact about red-tailed hawk is that they are incredibly opportunistic when it comes to hunting which means they will often take whatever prey presents itself in front of them. This is even true particularly when they have juvenile red tails in hunting training from their parents.

Many people are often surprised to learn that red-tailed hawks take their young out hunting with them when they are just a few weeks old.

This is mainly because these birds learn how to hunt from their parents which means it’s easier for juvenile red tail hawks to become accustomed to hunting early on in life.

One thing you definitely don’t want to do is try and catch prey during the hunting training period with juvenile red-tailed hawks because they are known to attack and kill their trainers which has led to many popular legends and fictional stories.

Once these birds have grown accustomed to hunting, they spend a majority of their time practicing through play until it’s time for them to learn how to hunt for themselves.

The hunting training period usually lasts about three months which is the time it takes juvenile red tail hawks to hone their skills before they are capable of providing food for themselves.

Red-Tailed Hawk Identification

The look and appearance of red-tailed hawks is probably one of their most unique traits because they have a very distinctive feather pattern with brown coloring.

One thing you can do to make it easier to identify red tail hawks is to look at the color of the underside of their wings. This is what will typically determine whether or not a particular red tail hawk is an adult or a juvenile.

Another trait to keep in mind when it comes to red-tailed hawk identification is that the bird’s head will typically be white or light gray.

One thing you can do to help figure out if a particular bird is a red tail hawk is look at its legs because they are usually dark brown, yellow or bright orange.

Once these birds have reached adulthood, they will typically lose the dark brown coloring on their head and gain a rusty red tail which is where these birds derive their name.

While it may seem counterintuitive to consider a hawk as beautiful, there’s no denying that these birds are incredibly beautiful especially when they have a rust colored tail with a white underside.

The bottom line is that red-tailed hawks are incredible birds to watch and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t spend some time observing them especially since they can be found throughout North American.

If you’re interested in watching these birds, make sure you look for nests made out of sticks and branches because they typically sit high up on top of trees which makes them easier to spot.

Some of the most common places to find red-tailed hawks are at their nests, power lines and high perches since they like to watch for birds flying below them which is how they determine where prey congregate.

One thing you can do if you want to observe these birds hunting is wait until dusk because they typically use this time to hunt. Watching a red-tailed hawk catch prey is a truly impressive sight and one that shouldn’t be missed if you have the chance to do so.

One of the most interesting facts about these birds is that they are incredibly good at capturing their prey but it can still be difficult due to their relatively small size which usually weighs around 4 lbs.

There are typically about 12 different subspecies of red-tailed hawk which vary in terms of color, size and other distinguishing traits.

You can tell the difference between these bird by looking at their markings to see if they have a broad or thin band on their tail which is what helped distinguish these animals from one another.

Red-Tailed Hawk Courtship and pre-laying behaviors

As monogamous birds of prey, red-tailed hawks courtship, and pre-laying behaviors show that red-tails typically mate for life. Their courtship usually starts by the male circling around the female while bowing its head and then offering food to her.

As with most bird species, the males of this species are smaller than their mates which is why they tend to be more submissive when it comes to courting them.

Red-Tailed Hawk Nesting Habits

Despite being the most ruthless predators and birds of prey, the red-tailed hawks are vulnerable to raccoon attacks, bocats, and other predators which is why they must create nests that are safe from these threats.

One of the most interesting facts about red-tailed hawk nesting habits is that they typically create their nests by digging into a hill or cliff which makes them virtually inaccessible to any potential predators.

The average size of these birds’ nests are about 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep with the eggs that are laid typically around 3-12 per season.

They will typically lay these eggs during the months of February (in California) or March (in Arizona) which is why you shouldn’t be surprised if you find red tailed hawk nests in your own backyard.

Another interesting fact about these birds’ nesting habits is that they typically lay their eggs around the same time every year which means that these birds tend to be incredibly loyal when it comes to providing food and protecting their young.

It’s also interesting to note that red-tailed hawks will usually wait about 12 days before starting to incubate their eggs, and then sit on them for another 30 days until they hatch.

It’s also interesting to note that both parents will take turns sitting on the eggs, even if the eggs are laid by different females which is why these birds tend to be incredibly protective of their young.

Red-Tailed Hawk Juvenile Period

The most interesting part about red tailed hawk juvenile period (after hatching) is that they will typically start to leave the nest after about 3 or 4 months which marks a significant milestone in their lives.

Another interesting fact about red-tailed hawk juvenile period during these three months is that both parents will continue to provide them with food until they become fully independent, which typically takes over a year.

Red-Tailed Hawk Adult Life

The most interesting part about red tailed hawk adult life is that these birds are known for being incredibly aggressive when it comes to protecting their nests. As a matter of fact, one study found that when red-tailed hawks were provoked into attacking, they typically went after their much larger opponents instead of trying to escape.

As far as red-tailed hawk diet goes, they tend to prefer eating rodents which include mice and rats. However, these birds are also known for eating rabbits, ground squirrels, lizards, snakes (including venomous ones), pigeons and other types of game.

Another interesting fact about red-tailed hawk diet is that they will typically only eat their prey’s internal organs because they are easier to eat and digest than the rest of the prey.

Another interesting fact about red-tailed hawk diet is that these birds will typically fly above an area and rely on their amazing eyesight to spot potential meals from a great distance.

Red-Tailed Hawk Eggs

The eggs of a red-tailed hawk can typically be either white or light pink which makes them incredibly easy to differentiate from the eggs of other species.

One interesting fact about red-tailed hawk eggs is that these birds will typically start laying their eggs when they reach two years of age, and can produce 3-12 eggs in a single season.

Another interesting fact about red-tailed hawk eggs is that these birds will typically produce new offspring once every year which means that you can expect to see these birds in your area during the months of February and March.

The red tailed hawk eggs are usually around 2-3 inches long, and 1.2 inches wide which makes them incredibly easy for both parents to cover with a warm blanket of twigs and grass.

The interesting thing about red-tailed hawk eggs is that they are incredibly large when compared to the size of their parents’ bodies, which means that these birds typically need to be incubated for almost an entire month before they can hatch.

Red Tailed Hawk Pictures

If you want to learn more about the red-tailed hawk images, and what these birds look like then you should read one of the posts that covers their appearance and colors, we have over 15 varied images that will definitely help you out.

One interesting fact about red-tailed hawk pictures is that they typically start filling in their plumage during their first year which means that they tend to be much lighter during their first year of development.

Another interesting fact about red tailed hawk pictures is that juveniles are typically brown with white streaks on the underside of their wings, and two rows of irregularly shaped brown bars on their chests.

Vocalization: How Do Red-Tailed Hawk Sound

The vocals and sounds the red tailed hawk makes depend on the mood that they are in, and their age. In most cases, red-tailed hawks tend to be extremely vocal during mating season, which typically lasts from mid February until August.

The sounds that red-tailed hawk makes include hisses, screams, whistles and even low grunting noises that can be particularly useful when you are looking for a lost hawk.

Interesting facts about red-tailed hawk sounds include that these birds tend to be extremely vocal during parenting, and can be heard from miles away as the baby hawk screams if it feels threatened.

In some cases, red tailed hawks have been known to make all kinds of different noises including low grunts, barks, cackles, and wails which are typically only made during mating season.

Red Tailed Hawk Facts For Kids

Some red tailed hawk facts include that these birds will typically find their prey by listening to the sounds it makes as well as its movement through the grass. They can also spot their prey from great heights and then patiently wait until the prey is isolated from any outside threats.


In conclusion, red-tailed hawks are an amazing species, and while they are typically not the biggest type of hawk in North America there is no denying that they have some of the most interesting facts associated with them.

If you enjoyed reading about these amazing birds then you should definitely check out some of our other posts on hawks, eagles, ospreys, owls and more.

If you are interested in learning more about these birds then you should continue to read through our website, and check out some of the other posts that we have available on this topic.

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