Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)

Red Tailed Hawk


  • The red-tailed hawk is about 55 centimetres (22 inches) long.


  • Well known and fairly common, the adult red-tailed hawk can be identified in the field by its uniformly coloured tail — red above and light pink below — and a broken dark abdominal band.
  • The upperparts are dark grey-brown streaked and barred with white, brown and black.
  • The under-parts are light cream streaked with brown.
  • The tail may or may not have dark bands.
  • Wide variations in plumage color are common throughout its range and cause confusion even among experts.
  • Red-tailed hawks are found from Panama to the tree line in northern Canada and Alaska.
  • Breeding grounds comprise the northern half of this range, and wintering generally takes place in the southern portions from the southern states to Central America.
  • In Alberta, this hawk prefers the parkland and boreal forest regions, but may occasionally nest in wooded areas on the prairies.
Natural History


  • Prey for this species includes small rodents and rabbits.
  • Although feeding is done in the open, a red-tailed hawk rarely hovers in search of food. Usually this bird perches on top of high poles or trees, then swoops down on its prey.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behaviour

  • Nests are usually built close to the tops of prominent trees.
  • Normally two to four eggs are laid each season.
Conservation and Management


The red-tailed hawk is classified as Secure in the General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:

Current management

  • Like all birds of prey in Alberta, the red-tailed hawk is protected by the provincial Wildlife Act and classified as a non-game species.


Page Information

Updated: Jan 8, 2014