Red-Tailed Hawk

STATUSLeast Concern

COMMON NAME (SCIENTIFIC NAME)Buteo jamaicensis

DIETSmall rodents, mammals as large as eastern cottontail rabbits, reptiles and other birds

RANGENorth America, Mexico and Central America

HABITATScrub desert, plains, grasslands, agricultural fields, pastures, urban parks, woodlands, and tropical rainforests

Red-Tailed Hawk

Physical Description

Red-tailed hawks have a wingspan of 41-53 in. All adult red-tailed hawks have a copper-colored tail. The rest of their plumage varies greatly, though generally the back and wings are darker than the rest of the body, ranging from a light auburn to a dark brown. Their beaks are short and hooked, and they have large, curved talons.


Predators

Being an apex predator, red-tailed hawks do not have many predators. Owls and crows may attack their nests.


Lifespan

They live on average 12 years in the wild, and up to 29 years under human care.


Reproduction

Red-tails pair up for life. Both parents build a nest, usually in a tall tree. The nest can be up to three feet (one meter) across. The female lays 1-5 grayish-white, speckled eggs at two-day intervals. Both parents incubate the eggs, but when it’s the female’s turn, the male provides her meals. Young hawks begin to fledge in 42 to 48 days but remain with the parents for another 30 to 70 days.


Fun Facts

  • The powerful cry of a red-tailed hawk is the same cry used in TV commercials depicting bald eagles.
  • Red-tailed hawk eggshells are tinted green on the inside.

Conservation Messaging

Most of the Bird of Prey here at the zoo are all rehabilitated birds who have sustained different injuries deeming them unreleasable. These birds fall victim to debris found on the side of the road. If it’s an apple core, banana peel, or some discarded trash it will attract their prey items which will then attract the bird of prey. Birds of prey have tunnel vision when hunting and will often not see a car coming. One simple way we can help is to dispose of all your trash properly, even natural items like apple cores and banana peels.

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