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Merlin Bird ID

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    Red-tailed Hawk

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    Red-tailed Hawk

    Buteo jamaicensis
    • ORDER: Accipitriformes
    • FAMILY: Accipitridae
    Basic Description

    This is probably the most common hawk in North America. If you’ve got sharp eyes you’ll see several individuals on almost any long car ride, anywhere. Red-tailed Hawks soar above open fields, slowly turning circles on their broad, rounded wings. Other times you’ll see them atop telephone poles, eyes fixed on the ground to catch the movements of a vole or a rabbit, or simply waiting out cold weather before climbing a thermal updraft into the sky.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for Red-tailed HawkRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    The best way to find a Red-tailed Hawk is to go for a drive, keeping your eyes peeled along fenceposts and in the sky. Chances are good that the first hawk you see will be a Red-tailed Hawk. Just make sure to look for the buteo shape (broad, rounded wings; short tail), then check field marks like the dark bars on the leading edge of the wing. Across most of the continent, Red-tails are more numerous in winter, when birds from the far north arrive to join the birds that live in your area year round.

    Other Names
    • Aguililla Cola Roja (Spanish)
    • Buse à queue rousse (French)

    Backyard Tips

    You’re unlikely to see this bird in your backyard (unless yours is a big one). Red-tailed Hawks eat mostly mammals, so they’re less likely to visit a popular feeder than a Cooper’s or Sharp-shinned hawk is. It’s very rare for a Red-tailed Hawk to go after dogs or cats.

    • Cool Facts