Guide to Boreal Birds
The Red-tail is the most common and widespread American member of the genus Buteo, which also includes the Red-shouldered, Swainson's, and Gray hawks, among others. Like other hawks of this group, it soars over open country in search of its prey but just as often perches in a tree at the edge of a meadow, watching for the slightest movement in the grass below. The Red-tail rarely takes poultry, feeding mainly on small rodents. Certain western birds with grayish, faintly streaked or mottled tails were formerly considered a separate species called "Harlan's Hawk."
18-25" (46-64 cm). W. 4' (1.2 m). A large stocky hawk. Typical light-phase birds have whitish breast and rust-colored tail. Young birds duller, more streaked, lacking rust-colored tail of adult; they are distinguished from Red-shouldered and Swainson's hawks by their stocky build, broader, more rounded wings, and white chest. This species quite variable in color, especially in West, where blackish individuals occur; these usually retain rusty tail.
High-pitched descending scream with a hoarse quality, keeeeer.
2 or 3 white eggs, spotted with brown, in a bulky nest of sticks lined with shreds of bark and bits of fresh green vegetation, placed in a tall tree or on a rock ledge.
Deciduous forests and open country of various kinds, including tundra, plains, and farmlands.
Breeds throughout North America, from Alaska east to Nova Scotia and southward. Winters across United States north to southern British Columbia and Maritime Provinces.