What Is A Better First Bird (Harris Hawk or Red Tailed Hawk)?

by Angus

harris hawk vs red tail hawk

harris hawk vs red tail hawk

harris hawk vs red tail hawk
harris hawk vs red tail hawk

Hello, I'm a 25 year old male from Aberdeen... and have been interested in falconry for several years. I have read "raptors of the world" by Christie and Lee's which I found had some really good information about all the birds but it left me with two main birds in mind... the Harris Hawk and the Red Tailed Hawk, which do you think is a better first bird?

I am planning on getting a bird of prey soon, but first I am going to keep reading about them and go to a couple more shows. Your website has been great a great help to me!


Dear Angus, thankyou for your question...I will try my best to point out the pros and cons of each but actually there is no real answer to this.

Both the red tail hawk and the Harris Hawk are great birds. Both can work well as a beginners bird and can also develop alongside you for many years to come.

Im afraid before I start, I must advise you to gather as much information as you can before going ahead and buying a bird. This includes practical experience as well. Falconry is not easy. I would ask you to find a falconry centre nearby you and go and do at least an experience day, find out if it is really what you expected it to be then talk to some falconers and try to get a mentor!

Other books I would reccommend are Jemima Parry-Jones Training Birds of Prey and Philip Glasier Falconry and Hawking.

Firstly, The Harris Hawk

  • Very intelligent
  • Quick to learn and is very versatile
  • Very agile flyers due to their longer tail (especialy the males)
  • can be very charming and have a sense of humour in my opinion :)
  • Fantastic to watch especially when hunting because they will adapt to different quarry species and will "plan" things in a way that will astound you.
  • More sociable bird
  • Main Pro for Harris Hawk is that it is possible to fly in a cast (fly it with other harris hawks)
  • Less stubborn than a Red tail and GENERALLY easier to train
  • Less Powerful than a red tail hawk. This can be both a pro and a con. They are less likely to seriously injure you but find it harder to hold on to bigger prey.
  • Main con for Harris Hawk is that they are not so tough as a red tail hawk. If you live in Scotland then you will have to be careful, Remember in Arizona its not cold often. Harris Hawks are prone to frostbite and especially their feet can be a serious problem if left in the cold. Their legs are not feathered as far down as a red.
  • Another con for the harris is that if imprinted by mistake which is easy to do, They will scream and scream for all eternity and there is nothing you can do to remedy it!

    Red Tailed Hawk

  • Tough As Nails...generally are fine in the Cold and are great bird for beginners as they are tough enough to absorb weight control mistakes to a certain extent this for me is the main Pro in favor of the Red

  • Very powerful and fantastic hunters if you like to be on your own

  • Very beautiful birds in my opinion. Many different color morphs are possible so your bird can look more unique.

  • Very large and impressive bird

  • Reasonably fast in a straight line although not particularly agile

  • Will crash through bushes and cover after rabbits. Single minded and persistant.

  • Can Be extremely stubborn, if sulking in a tree can stay there for a long time

  • In my opinion not nearly as intelligent as the harris but makes up for it in strength

  • Normally cannot fly in a cast although I have heard of them being flown alongside harrises. Dont try it please!

  • Can be quite dangerous to you if you make mistakes, also can be a risk with small children and dogs especially the females

  • Female Red tailed hawks can be very moody and aggressive. Sometimes even more so in later life and so I would definately go for a male who can be very gentle and inquisitive birds.

  • Generally they have less of a chance of badly imprinting on you and are less vocal than an imprint harris.

    If you want my personal opinion, I prefer the Harris overall, simply because you could fly it with someone elses harris. However you would have to be careful with the cold weather and A Male redtail would be a safer option for aberdeen...

    Anyway, try going and actually having both birds flying to your fist, I think you will know straight away!

    I hope this has cleared up some issues for you and I hope other people with experience will see this page and submit their own thoughts on the subject.

    All the best, keep us updated :)

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