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Red Tailed Hawk

The Scoop

Keen Eyed Efficient Hunters

Red Tailed Hawks are North America’s most common hawks and can be seen in open areas, such as fields or deserts. They are also found in mountains and tropical rain forests. They fly in pairs in large circles and gain great height before the male plunges into a deep dive and then climbs back to circling height. Red Tailed Hawks perform a "dance" where the male and female dive and roll in the sky. They will even lock talons and fall together awhile before splitting apart. Both the male and female hawks build the nest. They usually choose a very tall tree, such as an oak or pine, or a rock ledge. The female hawk lays two or three white eggs with brown spots.

The Facts

  • Genus/Species: Buteo jamaicensis
  • Where Found:  North America, Central America and the West Indies

Red Tailed Hawks grow up to 25 inches in length and can weigh up to four pounds, which is a less than a new born baby’s weight. Their wing span can be as much as 4 feet. They are large, stocky birds and are brown with a white breast and a rust-colored tail. Red Tailed Hawks are birds of prey, meaning they hunt animals for their food. Just about any small animal will do, but they do eat more small mammals than fish, primarily rodents like mice, chipmunks and squirrels. They also eat snakes, small birds and even insects. They hunt mostly by sitting on a high perch and then swooping down quickly to catch their prey in their talons. When diving, these birds can hit speeds of over 100 miles per hour. They have excellent eyesight in order to see their prey from a high distance. 

Red Tailed hawks are very trainable and a favorite bird for falconry. Falconry is when birds of prey are trained to hunt. They fly free and hunt, but return to their owners afterword. Red Tailed Hawks are very helpful to us in keeping down the rodent population. 

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