The Powerful Red Tail Hawk, On This Page, You Will Learn All You Need To Know About The Redtail Hawk, Buteo Jamaicensis, One Of the Most Popular Raptors In Falconry Today!
Red Tailed Hawk Information
Redtail Hawk – Buteo Jamaicensis
Wingspan – 107-141cm
Tail Length – 20-25cm
Total Length – 45-58 cm
Red Tail Hawk – Description
Welcome to my Redtail Page. I must start by apologising. The Redtail is in fact not a hawk but actually is a member of the buteo (buzzard) family. However because of its name and for the sake of argument I am putting it on the hawks page..so, now thats over, let’s begin :)
The Redtail Hawk is a large and strikingly beautiful Buteo. It has a longish tail which turns red in adult plumage and is generally dark above with white or pale on the front. The head is pale and hooded with bigger eyes than that of a harris hawk.
Having said this, red tailed hawks vary enormously across their range and can come in pretty much any shade imaginable from almost black to totally white!
The red tail hawk’s flight pattern is slow deep beats and then a glide with flat wings. The appearance of a redtail is not unlike that of the ferruginous hawk (please click on the link for info). The ferruginous however is even bigger and is now sometimes classified as an eagle.
The cry of a red tailed hawk is high and long pitched; it is also the sound you here at the beginning of many films and is easily recognisable!
Distribution And Habitat
The redtail hawk is the largest of the genus buteo in Northern America and has 14 subspecies. In America it has been named the chicken hawk as it has a reputation for stealing poultry.
The Buteo Jamaicensis has a large range and breeds from Alaska and Canada to the West Indies. The redtail hawk is an adaptable bird and has managed to make many different habitats its home. These include urban environments, Mountainous regions, grassland, forests and rainforests.
Breeding and Courtship
The red tail hawk reaches sexual maturity at the grand age of two years old. As with the Golden Eagle bird, the red tail hawk is monogamous and will stay with the same partner sometimes for life.
They will perform beautiful and elegant courtship flights whereby they will fly in circles before stooping together and locking talons.
After copulating, they will start to build the nest. Red tail hawks will make huge nests a meter in diameter and 1 meter deep.
These nests are normally made in trees or on cliff ledges. When this is impractical, redtails will often make their nests on structures such as uninhabited buildings or telegraph poles.
The higher the better for redtail hawks and their nests can be higher than 120feet from the ground. Safe and sound!
The main competition for nesting sites comes from
Great Horned Owls
These fearsome predators do not build their own nests and instead “squat” in other raptor nests. They will regularly contest redtails and both species have been known to kill the other on these occasions as they are evenly matched in a fight.
The female redtail hawk will lay 1-3 eggs and will incubate them for 28-35 days after which time they will hatch. The male will occasionally take over but the he is usually hunting and bringing back food for the female.
Hunting, Feeding and Weaponry
The Red tail Hawk (buteo jamaicensis) is a very powerful bird of prey. It has one of the strongest grips for a bird of its size out of all the raptors and is a tough and uncompromising hunter.
Because of its size and strength the Redtail hawk is capable of taking a wide variety of prey. Some of the regular prey species include;
The red tail will also take a few birds and is a very opportunistic predator. However it lacks the Arial agility of the true
Hawk bird species
and so finds catching birds in mid air somewhat of a challenge.
Red Tailed Hawks often still hunt. This means sitting on a cactus and waiting for a nice tasty poisonous rattlesnake to go by, as you can see in this video...
Red tail hawks, as with their nests, have a lot of competition over hunting and prey species. Because they are so successful and their range is so huge, it means they overlap with many other successful raptor species. Again the most prolific of these is the
Great Horned Owl
and during hours of dusk and dawn, the two species can and do come in contact with each other. As they are both top predators, these confrontations often come to blows.
The red tailed hawk also comes into competition with
goshawks in much of its range. The swainsons hawk is sometimes also a problem.
Use In Falconry
The red tail hawk is, along with the
and the goshawk, one of the most prolific of all the raptors when it comes to falconry. Thousands of Falconers all over the world train, fly and hunt with the Redtail hawk
The redtail is mostly quite easy to man although they have a reputation for being moody and slow to improve over the first few months. They are certainly not as receptive or as intelligent as a harris hawk.
They are however much more powerful than both harrises and goshawks and can make fantastic hunters. Not much stands a chance of getting away when they have a pair of redtail talons clamped around them!
The females are flown at hare and rabbits, the males can also take hare but it is a little bit of a risk. One of the best quarry for a male are squirrels. Squirrels can give a nasty bite however and so many falconers protect their buteo jamaicensus with feet gaurds.
A red tail hawk is trained in much the same way as any other buteo. They are flown to the fist and to a dragged bunny lure. If they are at the right weight they can fly very fast, (heavier wingload) and when trained can be quite responsive. On top of this they are very beautiful and extremely tough.
A red tail hawk can be left outside on the weathering in all weathers and will be absolutely fine, they are about as tough as any bird can get. In the same conditions a harris would get frostbite and die.
This is one of the most attractive traits of a red and is one of the reasons why they are seen as a beginners bird.
If you are going to make mistakes (which you will as a beginner) then it is better to make them on a bird that can easily take it. This is why it is advised not to start with a kestrel, sparrowhawk, or merlin and are advised to start instead with something bigger and tougher.
Even though redtail hawks are seen as beginners birds, they are quite capable of becoming complex and cunning predators in time and will develop alongside your own skills. They are a long term investment and have a long lifespan. Last year I was flying and hunting with a redtail that was 22 years old and he was still faster than the juvenile harris!
After a harris hawk, a redtail is definitely the bird I would recommend flying to anybody. If you are willing to be grabbed a few times along the way by a moody giant bird then you will get a lot in return.
I hope you have enjoyed my ramblings on the red tail hawk (buteo jamaicensis) please feel free to browse the rest of the site. :)
Please also dont be scared to add your own content below on the submit your own page section...I would love to have submissions from people about their experiences in falconry. You dont have to be experienced.
Tell us about your bird or a falconry show you have been to or anything at all! and have your own page uploaded!