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Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)


Red-tailed Hawk  Name Derivation:

Red-tailed: in reference to the rusty-red tail of adults.
Hawk: from the Teutonic base word hab, meaning "to seize or take hold"; the word evolved into Middle English hauk from which comes "hawk".
Buteo: Latin term for buzzard-hawk.
jamaicensis: In reference to Jamaica where the bird was first described.

Other names:

Other names: buzzard hawk, hen hawk, red-tailed buzzard, red eagle (Hopi); Spanish aguililla parda, aguililla ratonera.


Class: Aves; Order: Falconiformes; Family: Accipitridae

Key Identification Characters:

A variable species with light and dark colored individuals, typically: dark head and upperparts, tail brick red or at least with reddish tinges, dark bars and streaks on belly ("belly band"); immature: dark head and upperparts, tail grayish-brown with dark narrow bands (no red), whitish underparts with dark spots and streaks on belly ("belly band"); males and females similar. Length, 19"; wingspan, 49".


North America southward to Panama, West Indies.
El Paso Region: abundant migrant and winter resident, generally common summer nester.


About 80% small mammals including rabbits, smaller hares, squirrels, voles; birds and snakes make up most of the remaining food, although it does take a few amphibians and occasionally carrion.


Number of eggs/clutch: range of 1 to 4, generally 2 to 3; egg: white, sparsely to heavily blotched and spotted with shades of brown; 2.35" x 1.80"; nesting: generally in tallest tree with open top giving unobstructed views, occasionally cliffs or in low bushes where trees not available; nest often reused; constructed of twigs and sticks interlaced to a height of about 4" to 5" and about 30" in diameter.


Photo Credit: George W. Robinson California Academy of Sciences.

Contributor: Scott M. Cutler, Curator of Collections and Exhibits; Curator of Ornithology