Red-Tailed Hawk

Hawk flying
While all red-tails have a distinctive red tail, the rest of their body can be darker or lighter than the picture above.

Jim Shuler, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

 

Scientific Name

Buteo jamaicensis

 

Identification

  • Adults have a very disctinct reddish-brown tail.
  • The plumage of the body and wings is highly variable: color can range from dark brown to nearly white. Different color patterns within one species are called color morphs.
  • The belly and underside of the wings are lighter in color than the upper side of the body. On the leading edge of the wing, a dark bar runs from the shoulder to the wrist.
  • Hawks have a distinctive silhouette: they have broad, rounded wings and a short, wide tail.
  • Red-tails have a 4-foot (1.2m) wingspan, but adults only weigh 3 lbs (1.4kg).
 

Habitat

  • Red-tailed hawks have permanent populations across the continental United States.
  • Hawks in Canada and Alaska migrate south to Mexico during the winter, and then return to their northern breeding grounds in the summer.
  • At the Grand Canyon, a permanent population means that red-tailed hawks can be seen year-round. Migratory hawks flying south for the winter pass through the Canyon in the fall.
 
Behavior
  • Red-tailed hawks are most commonly seen from the Rims as they soar in wide circles over the Canyon.
  • Red-tails prey almost exclusively on animals on the ground. Common prey includes rats, rabbits, ground squirrels, snakes, and ground birds.
  • They will carry small prey to a perch where they can eat safely, but will eat larger prey on the ground where it was killed.
  • While courting a female, male red-tails will perform a series of steep dives past the female. This display often ends with the two birds grabbing each other's talons and spiraling towards the ground before they release one another.
  • In the Grand Canyon, red-tailed hawks nest both in trees on the Rims, and on cliff ledges inside the Canyon.

 

More Information

Arizona Raptors- Arizona Game and Fish Department PDF

Last updated: May 18, 2016

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Mailing Address:

PO Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

Phone:

(928) 638-7888

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