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Red-tailed Hawk

One of the most commonly seen, the Red-tailed Hawk can be found all across North America.

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

In some Native American cultures, the feathers of this bird are considered sacred and are used in religious ceremonies.

Interesting to note, most hawks captured for falconry in the United States are Red-tails.


Description

Red-tailed Hawk
A large bird, the Red-tailed 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.

Mating-Breeding

The mating and breeding habits of these birds begins at about three years of age and includes airial displays meant to advertise their readiness for breeding. These courtship displays show their agility as they soar high in the sky making wide circles and then diving to treetop levels.

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 and staying in the same nesting territory every year, even using the same nest.

In the event of one dying the remaining one will seek out a new mate.

Nesting Habits

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. Usually nesting begins in April - May.

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.

Feeding Habits

Highly valued by farmers, the Red-tailed Hawk may perch, hover, or hold still into the wind when hunting for mice, birds, large insects, reptiles and other mammals. Eyesight is about eight times stronger than humans.

Migration

Only the northern populations of the Red-tailed Hawk (Alaska, Canada, northern United States) migrate south in winter. Others are non-migratory.

Lifespan

The average lifespan in the wild ranges from 13 - 20 years. In captivity lifespan are usually longer.

Watch As This Hawk Feeds On Its Just Caught Prey

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PBS Nature Series

DVD

Pale Male

The story of Pale Male. A Red-tailed Hawk who makes a Manhattan apartment building his home.

The Program the Audubon Society has proclaimed "a classic."

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By Gene Planker