The Red-tailed Hawk breeds throughout almost all North America from western Alaska and northern Canada to as far south as Panama and most of the Caribbean Islands.
The species occupies a wide range of habitats and altitudes and adapts well to any biotope. Most Red-tailed Hawks at the northern extent of their range migrate south in order to breed in warmer climate.
Its body weight ranges around 1kg and it reaches a wingspan of 130cm. Its principal characteristic is the red or orange-red tail, which can be fanned out. Red-tailed Hawk plumage can be variable, depending on the subspecies and the region. Albino specimens are common.
The underbelly is lighter than the back and a dark brown band across the belly, formed by vertical streaks in feather patterning, is present in most colour variations. The red tail is uniformly brick-red above and pink below, with dark stripes.
Red-tailed hawks are famous for their spectacular display flights. During courtship, the male and female fly in wide circles while uttering shrill cries. The male performs aerial displays, diving steeply, and then climbing again. After repeating this display several times, he sometimes grasps her talons briefly with his own. Red-tailed hawks nest in trees of all sizes. They choose nest sites that offer a wide view of the territory. The nest is constructed of twigs. A clutch of approximately 5 eggs is laid in intervals of 48 hours. They are incubated primarily by the female during 30 days. The male brings most food to the female while she incubates. He continues to feed the female and young for a few weeks after hatching.
They feed on small mammals, especially rodents and bats, but also reptiles and other birds. The Red-tailed Hawk hunts primarily from an elevated perch site, swooping down from a perch to seize prey.
Red-tail hawk numbers have increased significantly as a result of certain human activities which create ideal conditions for them to live and breed.
Red-tailed hawk, Buteo jamaicensis
How are they? Raptors of approximately 60cm. The red tail, which gives this species its name, is uniformly brick-red above and pink below. The upper side of the tail of most adult birds is deep rufous. Red-tailed Hawks have highly variable plumage, including dark and rufous phases.
Where do they live? The Red-tailed Hawk occupies a wide range of habitats, including grasslands, coniferous and deciduous forests and tropical rainforests.
How is the species geographically distributed? From Alaska and Canada throughout the North American continent, reaching south to Mexico, Cuba, Panama and many parts of the Caribbean.
What do they feed on? Small mammals: mainly rats, mice and bats.