Red-tailed Hawk


Though the markings and hue vary, the basic appearance of the red-tailed hawk is consistent. The underbelly is lighter in color than the back, and a dark brown band across the belly is present in most color variations. The red tail, which gives this species its name, is brick-red above and pink below.  As characteristic in raptors, the bill is hook shaped.  The cere, the legs, and the feet of the red-tailed hawk are all yellow. 


In flight, the red-tailed hawk soars with wings in a slight upward angle, flapping as little as possible in order to conserve energy.  When soaring or flapping its wings, it typically travels from 20 to 40 mph, but when diving may exceed 120 mph!  The Red-tailed Hawk is generally non-aggressive toward people and toward other birds, unless there are nestlings present.

Did You Know?  

  • The red-tailed hawk is sometimes referred to as the chicken hawk, but it rarely preys on chickens.  
  • Because they are so common and easily trained as capable hunters, the majority of hawks captured for falconry in the United States are red-tails.
  • The red-tailed hawks feathers are considered sacred by some Native American tribes, and are used in religious ceremonies. 

Our Animals

We have one red-tailed hawk, who came to PPZ in late 2009 on loan from the USFWS.


Scientific Name Buteo jamaicensis
Conservation Status IUCN: Least Concern
Size The body size of a red-tail is typically between 18 to 26 inches, and its wingspan is more than double that at 43 to 57 inches! Each red-tailed hawk weighs anywhere from 1.5 to 3.5 pounds.
Average Lifespan 12 - 16 years in the wild, and up to around 20 years in captivity.
Wild Diet About 75% of their diet mainly consists of rodents and other small mammals, but they do occasionally eat grasshoppers, snakes, and other birds.
Red-tails range from Northern Canada and Alaska to Panama and Central America