RED-TAILED HAWK (Buteo jamaicensis)
RANGE: North america, highlands of central america to Costa Rica and western Panama, northern Bahamas, greater Antilles and northern lesser Antilles. Winters form southern Canada on south.
HABITAT: Pastures, grasslands and woodland edges
SIZE: Length: 17 - 12 inches Wingspan: (East)43 - 52 inches (West)47 - 56 inches Weight: 1.5 - 3.3 pounds
LIFE EXPECTANCY: WILD: 10-15 years CAPTIVITY: 20-23 years
REPRODUCTION:In Kentucky, red-tailed hawks begin construction or repair of nests by the beginning of February near woodland edges. Nests built of sticks. Average clutch of 2-3 eggs laid at two day intervals. If first clutch is lost, a second is almost always laid, sometimes though rarely a third or fourth clutch will be laid if needed. Incubation is done mainly by female, who is fed by male, and lasts 28-32 days. Young hatch at intervals of 1-2 days. Young fledge at 44-46 days of age. Overall nesting success is 66% with an average of 1.35 young produced.
DIET: Mammals (rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, mice and voles); heavy ground birds (pheasants and grouse); snakes and amphibians; carrion
BEHAVIOR: Red-tails prefer to hunt by soaring and stooping. They also still hunt from perch. Young birds develop hunting skills gradually and start out hunting from perch (catching mostly mice) and increasingly use aerial searching for prey (a more successful method) as they gain experience. Red-tailed hawks establish life long pair bonds and maintain them throughout the year. They do not hunt or live together but as breeding season approaches a pair can be seen perched together in the same tree. A pair maintains a territory for themselves throughout the year, they defend this territory against raptor invaders.
If the male dies the female will keep the territory and call another male in, and if the female dies the male must leave the territory and find a female in another territory. During courtship the pairs perform elaborate displays such as dives, barrel rolls, and ascents. They even meet in the air, lock talons, and spiral downward until they part near the ground.
POINTS OF INTEREST: Diurnal counterpart of the great horned owl. Red tail and dark band across the white belly in mature birds. Immature birds have a banded tail and a speckled breast. When viewed flying head on, many red tails have light areas resembling headlights on leading edge of wings. Pairs will sometimes work together to get a squirrel in a tree. Can spot a mouse from 100 feet, then power dive after it. Have a loud "kreee-e-e" call...remember the Buick commercial. Can hover for short periods, but they don't do it much (unlike rough legged hawks which hover a lot while hunting). While driving along interstates in winter, if you see a large bird perched in a tree, odds are it's a red-tailed hawk.
STATUS: Migration counts between 1940 and 1970 suggest a 70% increase in population. Have tended to displace red-shouldered hawks in some midwest breeding areas. Most common breeding hawks in United States after broadwing hawk and most abundant hawk wintering in United States.