Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Scientific Name: Buteo Jamaicensis
Classification: Raptor or bird of prey
Life Span: 10 to 21 years


Red-tailed hawks have a body length of 22 inches with a wing span of approximately 56 inches. They weigh between two and four pounds. The female may be up to 1/3 larger in size than the male.



Red-tailed hawks show a great variety of colorations and plumage ranging from light to dark brown on the back. The adults have a cinnamon wash on the neck and chest. The underside is usually light with dark bands. When in flight, the mature red-tail is easily identified by its rust-colored tail. Immature birds are similar in color to the adults with the main difference being their tail is brown with dark bars.



The red-tailed hawk is usually found in sagebrush/grassland/steppe or riparian/shrub habitats, but it is a very adaptable bird. In much of Nevada it is found in the Salt Desert/Mojave Desert, pinion-juniper as well as in the mountain forests.



It is found throughout north America from central Alaska and northern Canada to as far south as panama.


Natural History:

The red-tailed hawk is the most widespread and familiar of the soaring hawks (buteos) in north America. They nest in march in tall trees. It is not a particularly fast bird, but soars at high altitudes using its keen eyesight to spot movement below to help find its food. It is an aggressive bird that vigorously defends its territory.


Food Habits:

The red-tailed hawk is an opportunistic hunter whose diet consists primarily of small rodents. It also eats rabbits, snakes, lizards and occasionally birds.



Mating and nest building occur in early spring generally beginning in march. The female usually lays two to three eggs that are dull white or sometimes a bluish white with reddish spots. Incubation takes 28 to 32 days and is done primarily by the female. During this time the male hunts for both of the pair. The young may stay in the nest for up 48 days and generally fledge at about 45 days.



Protected under the international migratory bird treaty act


Reason for Status:

Developed by U.S., Canada and Mexico to protect breeding birds across international borders.


Management & Conservation:

100-150 birds in Nevada during the winter. Minimal nesting. Wintering populations are monitored on a triennial basis.


Fun Facts:

The red-tailed hawk is the most common member of the buzzard hawk family. The eyesight of a hawk is eight times more powerful than a human’s. 85 to 90% of their diet is composed of small rodents. The red-tailed hawk is a favorite bird among falconers.