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Everything You Wanted to Know About the Red-Tailed Hawk

I have always had an interest in nature and birds of prey in particular. Join me in learning about these majestic creatures.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

The Magnificent Red-Tailed Hawk

As one of the most common hawks in North America, most of us have probably at one time or another seen one of these majestic birds perched high atop a tree. We are fortunate here in western Massachusetts to have numerous red-tailed hawks residing in our area and they are a joy to watch, whether they are soaring on a current high above us or perched on a tree limb scanning the horizon for their next meal. Their distinctive call sometimes alerts us to their presence and it's always a treat to observe this beautiful creature.

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

A Few Facts

The red-tailed hawk is one of the larger birds that you will see in North America. They are quite adaptable, and as such are common in almost any habitat, including forests, deserts, fields, and urban areas.

Adult females are actually up to 25% larger than the males and can grow to over two feet in length. Despite their size, even the largest of females will only weigh in at three to four pounds. Their impressive wingspan can reach up to five feet across and they have large, sharp talons that can be used for hunting or defending their territories.

The nest of the red-tailed hawk is usually quite large and can measure up to three feet in diameter. While they have been known to build their nests on cliffs, buildings, and billboards, they are most commonly found at the top of very tall trees and are usually made of sticks, bark, and other vegetation. From this vantage point they can scan the landscape looking for their next meal, which can include any small mammal such as mice, voles, rabbits, squirrels, and even snakes or other birds.

The red-tailed hawk has incredible eyesight that's over eight times as powerful as a human being, and oftentimes when you see them soaring high above, they are actually hunting and looking for small rodents.


Red-tailed hawks are generally monogamous and will stay together for many years. They will only take a new mate when their original mate dies. Females will usually lay from one to three eggs in the spring with the female doing most of the incubating of the eggs. After approximately 30 days, the eggs will hatch. Over the next few weeks the male will continue to bring food to the female and the newborns, which are known as eyasses. Six weeks or so into their life the eyasses will begin to fly, leaving the nest for short periods. The entire fledgling period can take up to 10 weeks and it's during this time that the young hawks will learn to hunt.

Red-tailed hawk soaring high above

Red-tailed hawk soaring high above

The red-tailed hawk is very recognizable. Adults are usually dark brown on their back with a white underbelly that has a dark band across their chest from wing tip to wing tip. Their exact plumage will vary slightly depending on the region in North America but for the most part their markings are fairly consistent. And of course the red tail that gave this bird its name is usually a deep, rustic red in color.


Despite the fact that the red-tailed hawk is very common across North America, they are still protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act here in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

With few natural predators and their high ability to adapt, it is estimated that there are approximately one million red-tailed hawks in the United States alone.

Range of the Red-Tailed Hawk

Range of the red-tailed hawk

Range of the red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

Red-tailed hawk

For many years I tried to photograph the red-tailed hawks that reside in our area. But as is sometimes the case, Mother Nature doesn't always work to our schedule and the opportunities just never presented themselves. When I would spot them, I either didn't have my camera with me or by time I got my camera they had moved on. And then after years of trying, a remarkable string of good luck smiled upon me and I had numerous great opportunities, all within a few months of each other and I was able to get all the photos included in this article. They are just beautiful creatures and I feel very fortunate to have been able to finally capture some photos of them.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Bill De Giulio


Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on June 17, 2015:

Hi GarnetBird. Thank you. I just took a look at the Cornell Labs web cam of the hawks. Fascinating. I'll be checking in there daily. Thanks for the tip and thanks for stopping by.

Gloria Siess from Wrightwood, California on June 17, 2015:

Great photos..have you visited the bird cam at cornell labs? Ive been watching a hawk family in their nest.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on November 02, 2012:

Thanks Au fait. They are beautiful birds. Glad you enjoyed it. Appreciate the VU and share. Have a great weekend.

C E Clark from North Texas on November 02, 2012:

So very informative and the photos are amazing! Voted up, interesting, and will share!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on October 23, 2012:

Hi Eddie. You know exactly what I went through for years. For some reason they just don't want their picture taken, lol. I chased them all over the place until one day there he was, just sitting on top of a telephone pole right in front of our house.

Thanks for stopping by to read, comment, vote, etc.

Eddie Carrara from New Hampshire on October 23, 2012:

Hi Bill,

I was reading your hub and started laughing, I used to go through the same thing when the opportunity arose to get a picture of a rad tailed hawk, either I didn't have a camera, it wasn't easily accessible, or the hawk just didn't want to wait for me to take the picture, lol. I would literally pull over in heavy traffic, whip out my camera, and jump out of my car with the camera pointed at the sky or a tree, people must think I'm a freak, lol. Great hub, awesome pictures, voted up and beautiful!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 30, 2012:

Thank you Suzie. Appreciate you stopping by to read and comment. Hopefully you'll get an opportunity to see one in the wild someday. Have a great day.

Suzanne Ridgeway from Dublin, Ireland on May 29, 2012:

Another great hub bdegiulio, Having not seen one on these shores, it was really engaging and interesting. I have recently watched a programme on Hawks and they are magnificent birds. Well done on your beautiful photos,awesome job!! Voted up, beautiful and Interesting

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 29, 2012:

Thank You Alicia. Appreciate the visit and comments. They are beautiful. :)

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on May 29, 2012:

Thanks for sharing the lovely photos and an interesting and enjoyable hub, bdegiulio. The hawks in your photos are beautiful!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 29, 2012:

Thanks Cathleena. Appreciate the nice comments. Definitely start writing that hub on the eagle, I'll be looking for it. Next up for me is the Osprey. They are all beautiful birds.

Have a great day.

Cathleena Beams from Tennessee on May 29, 2012:

The red tail hawk, as well as most all the birds of prey, are such beauties. My husband and I went on one of the eagle tours at Reelfoot Lake State Park. I took lots of photos while we were there. I should follow in your foot steps and create a hub on those amazing eagles. Congrats - This hub is awesome!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 29, 2012:

Hi Lesley. Glad you enjoyed it. They are a beautiful bird.

Have a great day.

Movie Master from United Kingdom on May 29, 2012:

A magnificent bird - thank you for this detailed hub on the Red Tail Hawk and the fabulous photos.

Thoroughly enjoyed reading, voted up and shared.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 28, 2012:

Thank you Lenzy. I sometimes refer to the pair of hawks in our area as "my Hawks". We just love watching them but they did prove difficult to photograph. It took years to get these pictures. Thanks for reading. Have a nice Memorial Day.

Lenzy from Arlington, Texas on May 27, 2012:

You amaze me with your varied interests and ability to present them in such an engaging fashion. As a bird watcher, I delight in someone who is willing to put forth the effort to capture birds in their natural surroundings. I know how much effort it can take. Thanks for the great hub. Lenzy

Angela Brummer from Lincoln, Nebraska on May 27, 2012:

Your welcome if you ever had questions about any of the birds they would be eager to answer!! Thanks again for the beautiful article!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 27, 2012:

Hi Angela. What a great story you and your daughter have, good for you for taking action to save that hawk. I'm sure your daughters report was a winner. I'll check out the raptor recovery web site, thank you for including that. Have a great day.

Angela Brummer from Lincoln, Nebraska on May 27, 2012:

Last summer my daughter and I found a wounded red tail hawk and got it home and had it picked up by our local raptor recovery. She wrote a report on the experience. I can't wait to show her your article. Also we have lately seen many bald eagles in our area that have been released back into the wild. Im sharing the link to the rescue incase you would like to view some the birds and if you ever have a question the director is amazing, knowlegable and helpful!

mecheshier on May 27, 2012:

You are welcome bdegiulio. I love your Hub.Yes, red tails are beautiful! You have a great day as well.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 27, 2012:

Hi mecheshler. Thank you for stopping by to read. The Red Tail Hawk is one of my favorites also. They are just beautiful birds. Lucky you to live in area with so many species. Have a great day.

mecheshier on May 27, 2012:

Great HUB!!! I love birds and the hawk is my favorite, especially the red tail hawk. I am blessed to live in an area that has more than 260 species of birds including many types of birds of prey. Thank you!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 27, 2012:

Thanks Sheila, it took me years to get a decent picture of our Hawks here. Keep trying, sooner or later the perfect opportunity will present itself. Thank you for the comments and vote. Have a great day....

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on May 27, 2012:

Wonderful hub! The red tailed hawk is such a beautiful bird. I too have tried to catch a good picture of one, but have yet to be successful. Your pictures are awesome and your information is great too. Voted this up, and sharing. Have a wonderful day! :)

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 27, 2012:

aviannovice - Thank you for the nice comments. There certainly are great birds and we enjoy watching them in our area. Lucky you to have worked them, I'm sure it was a wonderful experience.

JKenny - Thank You for reading and the comments and vote. Yes we are lucky to literally have them in our backyard here in western Massachusetts. I never tire of watching them. I'll have to read up on the European Buzzard. Thanks again.

James Kenny from Birmingham, England on May 27, 2012:

Fantastic article and fantastic pictures. The red tailed hawk reminds me a little of the European Buzzard- similar size, posture and wing shape. You're very lucky to have these wonderful birds soaring above the American skies. Voted up and shared.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on May 27, 2012:

Voted awesome. These are great birds, excellent hunters, and wonderful parents. I have worked with both adults and juveniles, and found all instances very rewarding. You did a fine job on this hub with some very nice photos.