Interested in learning interesting facts about Red Tail Hawks? Then this red tail-centric feature will appeal to you and your tastes.

As impressive as the red tail hawks are, these cunning predators are often overlooked. You see, red tail hawks are seen in North America, everywhere from woodlands, grasslands, deserts to parks and city centers. And one may get a glimpse of them sitting atop telephone poles or tree branches in search of prey. Now, when you take a moment and observe the red hawk tail, you’ll realize that these masterful hunters are indeed a beauty to behold. 

And, if the mere sight of these spectacular birds isn’t enough to pique your curiosity, then let’s go through some of the interesting facts about red tail hawks to get you to fall in love with the sight of the Buteo Jamaicensis, also known as a red-tailed hawk.

Some Of The Most Interesting Facts About Red Tail Hawks

You may wonder what might be unique about a bird that can be seen so commonly. But, make no mistake that these awe-inspiring creatures are anything but ordinary. The red-tail has ample characteristics that place this bird of prey into a league of its own.

  • Size

Now, when it comes to red-tails, you have to understand that the most impressive feature of the red tail hawk is the size of the bird. The red tail is the most prominent member of the genus Buteo, weighing on an average from 1.5 – 3.5 lb. It measures from 45 – 65 cm, with a wingspan of 3ft 7inches to 4ft 8inches. And, the red tail exhibits sexual dimorphism where the female is at least 25% heavier than the male. Yet, you must understand that when you compare the red tail to other birds of prey, such as the Concord, they are considered small birds.

ºhawk vision

  • Red Tail Hawk Adaptability

As mentioned earlier, red tail hawks are superbly adaptable to various habitats. Hence, you will find these birds throughout most of North America, from the interiors of Alaska and northern Canada to Panama and the West Indies. 

The red trail goes so far in adaptability that you can see most red-tails hunt from a high perch. But, in certain regions, the red tail will change its hunting techniques to the area’s layout. There are over 2 million nesting hawks to be found in North America. And, these birds have actually increased and extended their range over the last century.

  • Color Change In Eyes With Age

Young red-tails have yellow irises. As the bird gains maturity over 3 to 4 years, the iris slowly darkens into a reddish-brown.

  • Keen Sense Of Sight

It is common for birds of prey to have sharp eyesight, but few can rival the red tail hawk vision. You see, a red tail hawk can easily spot a mouse from the height of 100 feet up in the air and can dive at 120 mph to catch it. 

Animal experts believe that red-tails have binocular vision, where an animal or bird can use both its eyes to detect prey. And, it also helps the bird to focus on its prey while it dives through the air. Similarly, it is believed that the red tail hawk can see colors in an ultraviolet range. Hence, it is a bird with eyesight eight times more powerful than that of a human being.

  • Third Eyelid 

Red tail hawks are interestingly called raptors. And, such birds have a nictitating membrane, a semi-transparent lid that moves from side to side to keep the eye clear and moist. 

 red tailed hawk

  • Varying Morphs

It is well-known that the red tail hawk has 14 subspecies, including Jamaican red tail hawk, Florida red tail hawk, and Harlan’s hawk. Yet, most red tail morphs have different color plumage. 

They are usually brown on top with a paler-streaked belly. The tail is also pale on the underside and reddish-brown on top. Hence, the name red tail. But, there are dark morphs with chocolate brown feathers and a red tail. And the rufous morphs have a reddish-brown chest with a dark shade on the belly. 

  • Red Tail Hawks Hunt Larger Prey 

Redtail hawks are carnivores, and their diet consists primarily of mice, squirrels, voles, or rabbits. But, the red tail eats other birds, snakes, as well as fish. Frequently, the meal will weigh less than an ounce. But, occasionally, the prey can weigh as much as five pounds, well over the weight of the red tail hawk itself.

  • Dangerous Devotion

These birds are monogamous and mate with the same bird until their mate dies. And, they have spectacular courting shows with males diving and shooting up in the air. Sometimes a male and female will grab each other’s talons and plummet right to the ground, and pull away only at the last moment before they might hit the ground. 

  • Red Tail Hawk Reproduction

The female will lay one to five eggs. But both parents incubate the eggs for 35 days. And the male-only goes off hunting when the female returns for incubation. The young may start to fledge in 42 days, but they live with their parents for an additional 60-70 days to learn how to progress into adult life.

 facts about red tailed hawks

  • Slow To Mature

The red-tails don’t leave their parent’s nest early, and these birds don’t even get their fabulous and famous red feathers until they are well into their second year of life. And, they don’t breed until they are three years old.

  • Highly Recognizable Cry 

These birds have a profoundly hoarse and raspy scream that can last well into three seconds. The vocalization of the red tail hawk is often equated to that of a steam whistle.


In truth, we could list the facts about red tail hawks, and it would all be pretty interesting. But, to truly appreciate these birds, perhaps it would do well to go about your day and observe these creatures from afar. And, you would understand that the interesting facts about red-tail hawks that we’ve just listed aren’t nearly enough, to sum up, how fascinating these birds of prey actually are.

Read more about Birds Native To Kansas – The Birding Series Continue

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