These fierce birds are more vicious than a rattlesnake and will win in a battle between the two.
Red-tailed Hawks have very large bodies with powerful, broad wings. The way you can identify them best is by their red-brown tail that you can see best when they are flying, it looks like a light-brown-red fan (see photo down below). In the photo of the Red-tailed Hawk flying, notice the pattern on their under-wing and their medium-sized mud-brown head.
If a large females is seen from a distance, she might fool you into thinking she’s an eagle. Females’ weight varies from 900-2,000 grams and males’ weight varies from 690-1,300 grams. Females are about 20-25 inches and males are 22-27 inches tall, which isn’t much of a difference in height. Both males and females have the same wingspan which varies from 45-52 inches.
These Hawks live in the United States year round, while the summer breeders live in most of the remaining North America. Red-tailed Hawks can adjust to lots of different types of habitat in North America. This includes desert-lands, scrublands, grasslands, farmlands, roadsides, fields, pastures, parks, broken and open-woodlands. Red-tailed Hawks are very popular along the freeways and farmlands of Oregon. You will probably find it perching on a farm-fence or on a street lamp.
These raptors are very vicious and though they aren’t as tall as eagles, they aren’t afraid to fight them. Red-tailed Hawks have long, sharp talons and can be aggressive when defending their nests or territories where they will chase off other hawks, eagles and Great Horned Owls.
When flying, these hawks soar with wings scarcely flapping to conserve energy. There flight is slow, with deep powerful wing beats. If windy, it will hover on beating wings and remains immobile above the ground. When casually gliding, they can go up to 40 mph, but when diving, they can reach up to 120 mph.
Nesting and Nestlings:
Red-tailed Hawks typically choose nests sites in the crowns of tall trees 4-21 meters high, there they have an outstanding view of prey and also upcoming predators. They may also nest on cliff ledges, off the ground or in a tall tree, though some prefer man-made structures such as window ledges and billboard platforms. Many times, Great Horned Owls and Red-tailed Hawks will fight over nest sites and territories.
During courtship, the male and female perform a dance where they both dive then roll in the sky and will sometimes lock talons and will fall together a bit before separating. Pairs stay with each other for life unless one dies.
Both male and female build their nest, or reuse the nests they’ve used with previous broods. Nests are tall piles of sticks and twigs and is usually 6 and a half feet high and 3 feet across. Lots of Red-tailed Hawk line the interior with bark strips, fresh foliage, and dry vegetation. It may take a whole week or just simply 4 days to build their nest.
Females lay their 1-3 eggs between March and May and are a rough white color with purple and brown splotches. The eggs are incubated for 28-35 days (about a month). The females mostly incubate the eggs and the male will feed her, but when she goes off to hunt, the father must take over the incubation. After the eggs hatch, the female broods them and the father continues to feed both the mother and children. After 42-46 days with the nestling, the broods (Eyasses) leave the nest. Most Red-tailed Hawks live for about 15 years or more, but the oldest Red-tailed Hawk noted in the wild was almost 29 years old.
Predator and Prey:
Red-tailed Hawks will eat lots of mammals but they will also eat snakes, frogs, toads, lizards, salamanders, turtles, owls, crayfish and other fish. Birds like kingfishers, blackbirds, starlings, doves, woodpeckers, crows, and bugs like crickets, centipedes, earthworms and beetles are prefered in their diet. Though they kill a lot of their food, they will also eat a lot of roadkill and carrion.
They are very vicious and are even fiercer than a rattlesnake and will win in a battle between the two. Red-tailed Hawks have few predators which are mostly foxes and raccoons, but mostly Golden Eagles. Great Horned Owls and crows will eat Red-tailed Hawk eggs.
Special thanks to Brocken Inaglory, Kathy Munsel, Pierre Leclerc and Don Laufer for the Red-tailed Hawk photos.