Rosamond Gifford Zoo

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Red-tailed Hawk

Buteo jamaicensis

The Red-tailed hawk is the most widespread and well-known hawk in North America. Unlike other hawks, they are not truly migratory; they move seasonally to areas of abundant prey. Red-tailed hawks are among the birds trained in falconry at the zoo.

Range & Habitat

Typically found in grasslands or marsh habitats throughout North America and as far south as Colombia. They are very adaptable birds, existing in deserts as well as and forests and at many varied heights above sea level.


Conservation Status: Least Concern

Federal law protects all birds of prey. Despite the destructive actions of humans, the red-tailed hawk is the most common hawk in North America and is found in all lower 48 states. There is concern that it can be affected by rodent poison used commerciall


In the Wild -- Rodents, rabbits, snakes, lizards, small birds, fish, large insects and carrion.

At the Zoo: Rats, mice and chicks.

Life Span

In the Wild – 16 years, 10 months (banded individual)
In Human Care – record is 33 years.

Fun Facts about the Red-tailed Hawk

  • Red-tailed hawks are so-named for their brick-red tail feathers. Otherwise, they are mostly brown on top and pale below.
  • The raspy cry of the red-tailed hawk is often used in movies to represent the vocalizations of many species of raptors. Its call is often thought to be the conventional call of any hawk or eagle, even though it is unique to this species.
  • The eyesight of a hawk is 8 times more powerful than the human eye, so they can detect prey movements from a great distance.


Bremner, J.F. Red-tailed hawk. Retrieved December 4, 2005, from Desert USA Web site:

Channing, Keith. Red-tailed hawk - buteo jamaicensis. Retrieved December 3, 2005, from The Hawk Conservancy Trust Web site:

Cornell Lab of Ornithology, (2003). Red-tailed hawk. Retrieved December 3, 2005, from Cornell Lab of Ornithology: All About Birds Web site:

Dewey, T. and D. Arnold. 2002. “Buteo jamaicensis” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 3, 2005 at

Updated June 13, 2023
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