Red-tailed Hawk

Buteo jamaicensis
Prepared by: 
Bob Walton

Males and females similar in coloration. Upper parts are dark brown while the underparts vary from buffy white to red or black and sometimes mottled. Some subspecies and morphs may be very pale to very dark. The tail varies from reddish chestnut to marbled red, brown, gray or white. Juveniles have pale to dark brown upper parts with variably colored streaked underparts. The juvenile tail is barred brown. Eye color changes from yellow to brown when mature. Males tend to be smaller than females. Males are 45-56 cm long and weigh 680-1300gm while females are 50-68 cm long and weigh 900-1460gm. Wing span is 105-135 cm

Subspecies: 
14 Recognized; B.j. borealis is local subspecies
Distribution: 
Alaska to Costa Rica; Canada to Lesser Antilles
Habitat: 
Ubiquitous; deserts, agricultural, grasslands, woodlands, tropical rain forests and even urban areas. Require elevated perches.
Feeding: 
Small to medium sized mammals, birds and reptiles. Chiefly voles, mice, squirrels, gophers, pheasant, quail, starlings, snakes, lizards and crabs. Hunts mainly from an elevated perch (60-80 percent) but also from soaring 10-30m above ground.
Breeding: 
Nov.-May in tropics; Dec.-May in south USA; Apr.-Jul. in Alaska and Canada. Uses a stick nest in trees, cliffs, power poles, even buildings. The nest which may be refurbished each year is usually lined with grasses. Clutch size is 2-3 eggs. Breeding usually occurs in third year.
Movements: 
Sedentary from south USA through Central America and Caribbean. Migratory in north part of range but resident over most of USA. From western boreal areas may move as far south as Panama. Fall migration starts in August and spring migration starts in February.
Status: 
Locally increasing and expanding range due to habitat alterations. This may be at the expense of Swainson's and Red-shouldered Hawks.