|Conservation status||Widespread and common. Apparently has increased in some areas since the 1960s, and numbers now stable or still increasing. In several regions of North America, Red-tailed Hawks are adapting to nesting in cities.|
|Family||Hawks and Eagles|
|Habitat||Open country, woodlands, prairie groves, mountains, plains, roadsides. Found in any kind of terrain that provides both some open ground for hunting and some high perches. Habitats may include everything from woodland with scattered clearings to open grassland or desert with a few trees or utility poles.|
Does most hunting by watching from a high perch, then swooping down to capture prey in its talons. Also hunts by flying over fields, watching for prey below. Small prey carried to perch, large prey often partly eaten on ground.
2-3, sometimes 4, rarely 1-5. Whitish, blotched with brown. Incubation is by both parents, 28-35 days. Young: Female remains with young most of the time during first few weeks. Male brings most food, and female tears it into small pieces to feed to the young. After about 4-5 weeks, food is dropped in nest, and young feed on it themselves. Young leave the nest about 6-7 weeks after hatching, but not capable of strong flight for another 2 weeks or more. Fledglings may remain with parents for several more weeks.
Female remains with young most of the time during first few weeks. Male brings most food, and female tears it into small pieces to feed to the young. After about 4-5 weeks, food is dropped in nest, and young feed on it themselves. Young leave the nest about 6-7 weeks after hatching, but not capable of strong flight for another 2 weeks or more. Fledglings may remain with parents for several more weeks.
Varied, includes small mammals, birds, reptiles. Diet varies with location and season. Mammals such as voles, rats, rabbits, and ground squirrels often major prey; also eats many birds (up to size of pheasant) and reptiles, especially snakes. Sometimes eats bats, frogs, toads, insects, various other creatures; may feed on carrion.
In courtship, male and female soar in high circles, with shrill cries. Male may fly high and then dive repeatedly in spectacular maneuvers; may catch prey and pass it to female in flight. Nest site is variable. Usually in tree, up to 120' above ground; nest tree often taller than surrounding trees. Also nests on cliff ledges, among arms of giant cactus, or on artificial structures such as towers or buildings. Nest (built by both sexes) a bulky bowl of sticks, lined with finer materials, often with leafy green branches added.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Northern Red-tails may migrate far to the south, while many at central or southern latitudes (especially adults) are permanent residents. Most migration is relatively late in fall and early in spring.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsHigh-pitched descending scream with a hoarse quality, keeeeer.
Learn more about this sound collection.
How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Red-tailed Hawk
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the Red-tailed Hawk
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.