Red-tailed Hawks are part of the Accipitriformes order. This
means that they are a diurnal bird of prey. They are
one of the most commonly seen hawks in the Western New York region.
Red-tailed Hawks are a medium sized bird of prey with and robust
body and wings. They display sexual dimorphism, with females being
25% larger than males. Average weight of Red-tailed Hawks is
690-2000g (1.5-4.4lbs). Also, they have a body length of 45-65cm
(18-26in) and wingspan of 110-145cm (43-57in). They vary in
appearance, with four light morphs and three dark morphs. Their most prominent feature is
their rufous, or red, tail, hence the name “Red-tailed Hawk.”
However, some adult individuals and juveniles lack this red tail so
be cautious in the field and don't misidentify a hawk just by the
absence of a red tail. Make sure to correctly identify a Red-tailed
Hawk and look for a white shaped "V" on the backs of perched birds
and additionally on white morphs, which are more common in the
eastern US, there is an obvious horizontally streaked, black belt
through the middle of their chest. There is also a black mark on the
leading edge or front of the shoulder of the Red-tailed Hawk that is
easily seen when it is flying over head. Make sure to look of all of
these things when trying to identify a Red-tailed Hawk to make sure
you have the correct species.
Photo: M. Noonan
Red-tailed Hawks can be found throughout the Americas and is one of
the most widely-spread hawks found in the western hemisphere. Their
preferred habitat is one of both mixed forest and fields that are used
as hunting grounds and provide perches for them to scan for
prey. They are tolerant to most habitats in Northern America and
have adapted well to human development. Red-tailed Hawks live off of a varied diet and will eat what is most
available to them. This includes hunting small mammals, reptiles,
and other birds.
Photo: M. Noonan
Red-tailed hawks are generally non-aggressive birds, however, they
are sometimes attacked by crows, other hawks, and even songbirds. A
Red-tailed hawk will usually leave its nest when threatened by an
intruder. They typically hunt from a perch and can reach speeds of
up to 120mph.
Red-tailed Hawks are monogamous, though they will move on to another
mate if one dies. Courtship involves the male performing aerial
maneuvers for up to ten minutes. One to five eggs is laid in a nest
that is either in a tree or rock face 4 to 21m off of the ground.
The male spends less time incubating the eggs than the female, but
will bring food to her while she is brooding. Eggs incubate for 28
to 35 days and the fledgling period lasts for up to 10 weeks.
Red-tailed Hawks can be found in a variety of places in Western New
York and are
our most common hawk. They can be
found in parks, towns, forests, agricultural
areas, and the forest and field areas. The open field areas around the I-90 are good places to spot