return to top
return to top
Field identification tips: a large raptor with a wingspan ranging from about 45" to 53", the plumage of Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) is highly variable, from very pale to chocolate brown. The brick-red tail of most adult plumages is an unmistakable field mark but immature B. jamaicensis and the Harlan's race adults have a brown barred tail. Look for the Buteo shape with dark patagial marks (the leading edge of the underside of the wing); no other North American Buteo has this feature. On most plumages this species also has a band of streaks across the belly but this can be very pale on some of the eastern birds, or obscured by dark overall plumage in the darkest races. Younger birds have yellow eyes, which darken as the bird matures. Sexes are similar with females averaging larger than males.
Typical range: Common and widespread over most of North America from the boreal forests of the north through much of Mexico and the Caribbean Islands. The northernmost populations migrate to warmer climates for the winter while many birds are year-round residents of the temperate zones.
Habitat: A bird of open country: fields, mountains, parks, open forests, deserts. Often seen circling overhead on columns of rising air, or perched on utility poles, fenceposts or the tops of trees in open country.