Nature Journal
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Red-tailed Hawk
(Buteo jamaicensis)

Red-tailed Hawk
Photo © David Blevins
Red-tailed Hawk Information

Length:  18 - 25"
Habitat:  Deciduous forests, mixed deciduous and coniferous forests; forest edges; open country such as fields, pastures, swampy areas. Prefers woodlots adjacent to or surrounded by open areas.

Diet:  Small rodents such as voles, squirrels, mice, chipmunks; other small mammals, esp. cottontail rabbits, shrews, and moles; amphibians, reptiles; birds, esp. red-winged blackbirds; insects; carrion.
Identification tips for the Red-tailed Hawk
Calls of the Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk Nesting and Breeding
Range Maps
Red-tailed Hawk Breeding Map Red-tailed Hawk Winter Map      USGS
Breeding Map          Winter Map (CBC)      

Behavior and Habits

The Red-tailed Hawk's main hunting technique is to sit on a perch and scan the surrounding area for prey. It is also known to hunt by flying back and forth over an area at a height of about 200 feet or less. This buteo's keen eyesight allows it to spot its prey from a great distance.

Unlike the Osprey, which will nest very close to human activity, the Red-tailed Hawk is sensitive to human presence. If disturbed, especially during the incubation period, it may abandon its nest.

Only those Red-tailed Hawks in the northern part of their range are long-distance migrants. Those in the middle latitudes will withdraw slightly southward in the fall, migrating much shorter distances.

Few Red-tailed Hawks are found in northern New England during the winter, but these birds are common in southern New England during this time. However, those particular hawks are most likely ones that have migrated from further north.

Red-tailed Hawk in Flight
Red-tailed Hawk in Flight
© Sally King/NPS
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