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Red-Tailed Hawk Facts

Common Name(s): Chicken Hawk, Black Warrior, Buzzard Hawk, California Hawk, Eastern Red-Tail

Scientific Name: Buteo jamaicensis

Approximate Wing Span: 114 cm – 133 cm

Approximate Life Span: 21 years

Natural Habitat: Open country


If you go on a long walk and observe your surroundings you will most likely see several Red-Tailed Hawks. These raptors are the most prevalent hawks in North America and are most likely in your own backyard. In fact, it is common to see these birds of prey in scuffle with other smaller birds over territorial disputes.

The Red-Tailed Hawk is generally identified by their full-bodied brown tops and pale streaked belly. They also have large, rounded wings with a short, wide cinnamon colored tail. The colors of this bird does fluctuate with age, so we recommend referring to this Red-Tailed Hawk Guide.


As stated, the Red-Tailed Hawk is native to North America and is usually found souring in the sky over a wide range of open habitats including grasslands, fields, deserts, parks, woodlands, roadsides, tropical forests and more. Its ability to occupy various open habitats makes it one of the most diverse birds of prey in the world. It is common to find these hawks perched on telephone poles, trees, fences, light poles or sometimes on the ground standing alone.

Food & Hunting

Red-Tailed hawks primarily feed on small mammals including rodent mice, voles, rats, squirrels and rabbits. These raptors are also known to eat a plethora of birds, snakes and carrion if rodents are not easily found. They will usually prey on mammals that are five pounds or less.

These hawks are known to hunt from their perch sites by locating then snatching their prey. Studies have shown that Red-Tailed Hawks prefer to hunt in areas with tall perch sites to assist them in locating their prey. These birds are also known to hunt in pairs to cover the most ground as possible.

Behavior & Habits

Red-Tailed Hawks are known for their aggressive behavior and hostilely attack other birds to defend their nest or territories. In fact, they will chase away owls, eagles and other hawks.

When courting, these raptors put on an amazing show by flying at great heights in large circles for a period of time. The male then suddenly dives sharply, then bursts back up to the female several times. After this courtship ritual, the male then touches the female briefly multiple times and sometimes even locks talons with the female and dive towards the ground in spirals. The birds pull apart just before hitting the ground at the last second like a game of chicken.

In Captivity – Feeding Habits

As stated Red-Tailed Hawks usually eat small ground mammals in the wild. Thus, when these hawks are rescued they usually are fed thawed frozen mice and feeder rats.


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