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Birds of Prey: The Red Tail Hawk

Updated on March 12, 2017
bdegiulio profile image

Bill has always had an interest in nature and in particular birds of prey. Learn about these majestic creatures that grace our skies.

Red Tail Hawk
Red Tail Hawk | Source

As one of the most common hawks in North America, most of us have probably at one time or another seen one of these majestic birds perched high atop a tree. We are fortunate here in western Massachusetts to have numerous Red Tail Hawks residing in our area and they are a joy to watch whether they are soaring on a current high above us or perched on a tree limb scanning the horizon for their next meal. Their distinctive call sometimes alerts us to their presence and it has been my mission over the last few years to try to photograph this beautiful creature.

Red Tail Hawk
Red Tail Hawk | Source

A few facts about the Red Tail Hawk

The Red Tail Hawk is one of the larger birds that you will see here in North America. They are quite adaptable and as such are common in almost any habitat including forests, deserts, fields and urban areas.

Adult females are actually up to 25% larger than the males and can grow to over two feet in length. Despite their size, even the largest of females will only weigh in at three to four pounds or so. Their impressive wingspan can reach up to five feet across and they have large, sharp talons that can be used for hunting or defending their territories.

The nest of the Red Tail Hawk is usually quite large and can measure up to three feet in diameter. While they have been known to build their nests on cliffs, buildings and billboards they are most commonly found at the top of very tall trees and are usually made of sticks, bark and other vegetation. From this vantage point they can scan the landscape looking for their next meal that can include pretty much any small mammal such as mice, voles, rabbits, squirrels and even other birds or snakes.

The Red Tail Hawk has incredible eyesight that is over eight times as powerful as a human being and often times when you see them soaring high above you they are actually hunting and looking for small rodents.

This series of photos was taken while the hawk was feeding on top of a light pole. I left out the more graphic photos.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Red Tail HawkRed Tail HawkFeeding TimeFeeding TimeRed Tail HawkRed Tail HawkRed Tail HawkRed Tail HawkRed Tail HawkRed Tail Hawk
Red Tail Hawk
Red Tail Hawk | Source
Red Tail Hawk
Red Tail Hawk | Source
Feeding Time
Feeding Time | Source
Feeding Time
Feeding Time | Source
Red Tail Hawk
Red Tail Hawk | Source
Red Tail Hawk
Red Tail Hawk | Source
Red Tail Hawk
Red Tail Hawk | Source
Red Tail Hawk
Red Tail Hawk | Source
Red Tail Hawk
Red Tail Hawk | Source
Red Tail Hawk
Red Tail Hawk | Source

Behavior

Red Tail Hawks are generally monogamous and will stay together for many years. They will only take a new mate when their original mate dies. Females will usually lay from one to three eggs in the spring with the female doing most of the incubating of the eggs. After approximately thirty days the eggs will hatch. Over the next few weeks the male will continue to bring food to the female and the newborns, which are known as eyasses. Six weeks or so into their life the eyasses will begin to fly leaving the nest for short periods. The entire fledgling period can take up to ten weeks and it is during this time that the young hawks will learn to hunt.

Red Tail Hawk soaring high above
Red Tail Hawk soaring high above | Source

Range of the Red Tail Hawk

Range of the Red Tail hawk
Range of the Red Tail hawk | Source

The Red Tail Hawk is very recognizable. Adults are usually dark brown on their back with a white underbelly that has a dark band across their chest from wing tip to wing tip. Their exact plumage will vary slightly depending on the region in North America but for the most part their markings are fairly consistent. And of course the red tail that gave this bird its name is usually a deep, rustic red in color.

Despite the fact that the Red Tail Hawk is very common across North America they are still protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act here in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

With few natural predators and their high ability to adapt it is estimated that there are approximately one million Red Tail Hawks in the United States alone.

Red Tail Hawk
Red Tail Hawk | Source

For many years I tried to photograph the Red Tail Hawks that reside in our area. But as is sometimes the case, mother nature doesn't always work to our schedule and the opportunities just never presented themselves. When I would spot them I either didn't have my camera with me or by time I got my camera they had moved on. And then after years of trying, a remarkable string of good luck bestowed me and I had numerous great opportunities all within a few months of each other and I was able to get all the photos included in this article. They are just beautiful creatures and I feel very fortunate to have been able to finally capture some photos of them.

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© 2012 Bill De Giulio

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    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 2 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi GarnetBird. Thank you. I just took a look at the Cornell Labs web cam of the hawks. Fascinating. I'll be checking in there daily. Thanks for the tip and thanks for stopping by.

    • GarnetBird profile image

      Gloria Siess 2 years ago from Northern California

      Great photos..have you visited the bird cam at cornell labs? Ive been watching a hawk family in their nest.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Au fait. They are beautiful birds. Glad you enjoyed it. Appreciate the VU and share. Have a great weekend.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      So very informative and the photos are amazing! Voted up, interesting, and will share!

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Eddie. You know exactly what I went through for years. For some reason they just don't want their picture taken, lol. I chased them all over the place until one day there he was, just sitting on top of a telephone pole right in front of our house.

      Thanks for stopping by to read, comment, vote, etc.

    • eddiecarrara profile image

      Eddie Carrara 4 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hi Bill,

      I was reading your hub and started laughing, I used to go through the same thing when the opportunity arose to get a picture of a rad tailed hawk, either I didn't have a camera, it wasn't easily accessible, or the hawk just didn't want to wait for me to take the picture, lol. I would literally pull over in heavy traffic, whip out my camera, and jump out of my car with the camera pointed at the sky or a tree, people must think I'm a freak, lol. Great hub, awesome pictures, voted up and beautiful!

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you Suzie. Appreciate you stopping by to read and comment. Hopefully you'll get an opportunity to see one in the wild someday. Have a great day.

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Another great hub bdegiulio, Having not seen one on these shores, it was really engaging and interesting. I have recently watched a programme on Hawks and they are magnificent birds. Well done on your beautiful photos,awesome job!! Voted up, beautiful and Interesting

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank You Alicia. Appreciate the visit and comments. They are beautiful. :)

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for sharing the lovely photos and an interesting and enjoyable hub, bdegiulio. The hawks in your photos are beautiful!

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Cathleena. Appreciate the nice comments. Definitely start writing that hub on the eagle, I'll be looking for it. Next up for me is the Osprey. They are all beautiful birds.

      Have a great day.

    • Cathleena Beams profile image

      Cathleena Beams 5 years ago from Lascassas, Tennessee

      The red tail hawk, as well as most all the birds of prey, are such beauties. My husband and I went on one of the eagle tours at Reelfoot Lake State Park. I took lots of photos while we were there. I should follow in your foot steps and create a hub on those amazing eagles. Congrats - This hub is awesome!

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Lesley. Glad you enjoyed it. They are a beautiful bird.

      Have a great day.

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      A magnificent bird - thank you for this detailed hub on the Red Tail Hawk and the fabulous photos.

      Thoroughly enjoyed reading, voted up and shared.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you Lenzy. I sometimes refer to the pair of hawks in our area as "my Hawks". We just love watching them but they did prove difficult to photograph. It took years to get these pictures. Thanks for reading. Have a nice Memorial Day.

    • Lenzy profile image

      Lenzy 5 years ago from Arlington, Texas

      You amaze me with your varied interests and ability to present them in such an engaging fashion. As a bird watcher, I delight in someone who is willing to put forth the effort to capture birds in their natural surroundings. I know how much effort it can take. Thanks for the great hub. Lenzy

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      Your welcome if you ever had questions about any of the birds they would be eager to answer!! Thanks again for the beautiful article!

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Angela. What a great story you and your daughter have, good for you for taking action to save that hawk. I'm sure your daughters report was a winner. I'll check out the raptor recovery web site, thank you for including that. Have a great day.

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      Last summer my daughter and I found a wounded red tail hawk and got it home and had it picked up by our local raptor recovery. She wrote a report on the experience. I can't wait to show her your article. Also we have lately seen many bald eagles in our area that have been released back into the wild. Im sharing the link to the rescue incase you would like to view some the birds and if you ever have a question the director is amazing, knowlegable and helpful! http://www.raptorrecoverynebr.org/

    • mecheshier profile image

      mecheshier 5 years ago

      You are welcome bdegiulio. I love your Hub.Yes, red tails are beautiful! You have a great day as well.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi mecheshler. Thank you for stopping by to read. The Red Tail Hawk is one of my favorites also. They are just beautiful birds. Lucky you to live in area with so many species. Have a great day.

    • mecheshier profile image

      mecheshier 5 years ago

      Great HUB!!! I love birds and the hawk is my favorite, especially the red tail hawk. I am blessed to live in an area that has more than 260 species of birds including many types of birds of prey. Thank you!

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Sheila, it took me years to get a decent picture of our Hawks here. Keep trying, sooner or later the perfect opportunity will present itself. Thank you for the comments and vote. Have a great day....

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Wonderful hub! The red tailed hawk is such a beautiful bird. I too have tried to catch a good picture of one, but have yet to be successful. Your pictures are awesome and your information is great too. Voted this up, and sharing. Have a wonderful day! :)

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      aviannovice - Thank you for the nice comments. There certainly are great birds and we enjoy watching them in our area. Lucky you to have worked them, I'm sure it was a wonderful experience.

      JKenny - Thank You for reading and the comments and vote. Yes we are lucky to literally have them in our backyard here in western Massachusetts. I never tire of watching them. I'll have to read up on the European Buzzard. Thanks again.

    • JKenny profile image

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Fantastic article and fantastic pictures. The red tailed hawk reminds me a little of the European Buzzard- similar size, posture and wing shape. You're very lucky to have these wonderful birds soaring above the American skies. Voted up and shared.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Voted awesome. These are great birds, excellent hunters, and wonderful parents. I have worked with both adults and juveniles, and found all instances very rewarding. You did a fine job on this hub with some very nice photos.

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