Boreal Birds
300+ species, billions of birds rely on Canada's boreal forest as critical breeding grounds
© Alan Vernon/Wikimedia Commons (CC 2.0)

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk
Buteo jamaicensis
Hawk-like Birds | Family: Hawks and Eagles, Accipitridae

An estimated 16% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.

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Overview

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."

Description

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.

Voice

High-pitched descending scream with a hoarse quality, keeeeer.

Nesting

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.

Habitat

Deciduous forests and open country of various kinds, including tundra, plains, and farmlands.

Range/Migration

Breeds throughout North America, from Alaska east to Nova Scotia and southward. Winters across United States north to southern British Columbia and Maritime Provinces.