Red-tailed Hawk

Common Name: Red-tailed Hawk

Class:  Aves

Order: Falconiformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Buteo

Species: Buteo jamaicensis

photo M. Noonan

 

Taxonomy/Description

 

Red-tailed Hawks are part of the Falconiformes genus.  This means that they are a diurnal bird of prey.  The scientific name “buteo” comes from Latin and means “a type of hawk.”  The word “jamaicensis” refers to the place where the first specimen was collected. 

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, with the dark morphs being more common.  Their most prominent feature is their rufous, or red, tail, hence the name “red-tailed hawk.”

 

Habitat/Diet

 

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 mixed forest and fields that are used for their 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.

 

Behavior/Reproduction

 

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.

 

Where to see them in WNY

 

Red-tailed Hawks can be found in a variety of places in Western New York.  Some of these include parks, towns, forests, agricultural areas, and the forest and field areas that they prefer. 

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