The Red-tailed Hawk is our most common buteo in Texas and North America. Their range is throughout North America except the Arctic. Most birds are permanent residents of the area they are born, but the most northern birds will migrate south in the winter. In Texas, you will see more Red-tailed Hawks in winter due to this migration. In the summer only the permanent resident birds remain.
Description: There are many plumages of this buteo. They can range from leukistic (known as albinos or white) to almost black (known as a Harlan’s morph). The common plumage is a light brown chest with a darker “belly band” (that can be very different from bird to bird), Dark brown wings and a rusty red tail. Immature birds look very different their first year. Their tail has dark bands of brown, black and white and is actually longer than an adult. They are more black and white versus the brown wash overall of the adult. Iris colors change from a light color to a dark brown within two years.
Habitat: Found in most areas. Prefer sitting on high perches overlooking open fields. In cities, commonly found on telephone or light poles over median strips. Will be seen soaring over fields.
Flight: Slow wing beats with intermittent soaring. Will do lazy circles when soaring on thermals. Will hover or “kite” (flap wings while remaining in one place) in the wind.
Vocalization: Known for its raspy long scream that falls in pitch.
Food: Mainly mammals; mice, rats, squirrels and rabbits. Occasionally will go after birds and snakes.
Nesting: Found in tall trees. Made of sticks. They will use the same nest for many years. They usually lay 2-3 eggs that are incubated for about 28 days. Young fledge in about 7 weeks but will hang around parents for quite a while afterward.