Buteo jamaicensis
(Red-tailed Hawk)

Order: Falconiformes
Order Description: Vultures, Osprey, Hawks, Falcons
Family: Accipitridae
Family Description: Osprey, Hawks and Eagles

Physical Description:
19-25" (48-64 cm). Dark brown above; lighter below with dark band of streaks across the belly. Red on tail as name suggests; lighter rump.

Similar Species- Swainson's, Rough-legged, Ferruginous, and Red-shouldered hawks.

A down-slurred scream: keeeer.

Breeds from parts of Alaska and parts of western and southern Canada, south to Baja California, northern Mexico, southern Texas, Gulf coast, and Florida, and south from there through highlands of Middle America to Coasta Rica and western Panama. Winters from southern Canada, south through remainder of breeding range, and in lowlands of Central America.

Found in various settings from open woodlands and forests to desert and agricultural lands.

Opportunistic. Commonly eats rodents, birds, and reptiles, but will also eat other vertebrates and invertebrates as available. In Idaho, diet often includes ground squirrels, gophers, rabbits, mice, small birds, and reptiles. In Idaho studies, prey selection depended on relative prey densities and diet.

Builds stick nest in cliff, tree, or on artificial structure. Breeding density (pairs/km2) varies from 0.03 (Utah) to 0.78 (California), but is mostly less than 0.25. Elevated perches are important element of habitat. Home range found to be 13 km2 in Idaho study; composition of sympatricClick on word for definition Red-tail and Ferruginous hawks was not affected by interspecific competitionClick word for definition. Species is most common hawk in Idaho.

Female incubatesClick word for definition 5 eggs for about 34 days per egg. Both parents tend young, which leave nest at about 4 wk, fly at about 6.5-7 wk, and depend on parents for food for few weeks after fledging (Idaho study found 2.9 young/successful pair were produced). If clutchClick word for definition is lost, adult pair will renest (usually in another nest) a few weeks later. Successful reproduction usually does not occur before 2 yr. Pair bond is typically lifelong, at least in non-migratory populations, and probably in migrants as well.

Element Code: ABNKC19110
Status: Protected nongame species
Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5,NTMB
National Rank: N5B,N5N

Important State References:
Steenhof, K. and M.N. Kochert. 1988. Dietary responses of three raptor species to changing prey densities in a natural environment. J. Animal Ecol. 57:37-48.

Photos by Ed Dijak and George Jameson, ©2002
Design by Ean Harker©1999, 2000.
Written by Jason Karl, 2000.