Buteo Jamaicensis – Red-Tailed Hawk

Buteo Jamaicensis - Red-Tailed Hawk

Buteo jamaicensis, the red-tailed hawk, breeds over much of North America, from Alaska to Panama and the West Indies. It is one of the most prevalent Buteo species in North America and globally. The red-tailed hawk is one of three species known as “chickenhawks” in the US, although seldom preying on standard-sized chickens. When the context is obvious, the bird is called the red-tail. Red-tailed hawks can adapt to all biomes within their range, including thick forests and sandy deserts. These hawks belong to the family of Accipitridae.

Quick Overview: Buteo Jamaicensis – Red-Tailed Hawk
Body size: Around 19-25 in (48-64 cm) and a weight of 1043 g (36.8 oz).
Main colors: Black, Brown, Red, Red-brown, White
Range: Throughout the United States
Migratory Bird: Yes
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: All Year (January – December)
Conservation Status: Least Concern

BRed-tailed hawk Description

Their wings have a black band between shoulder and wrist on the underside, and their bellies are streaked and have white underparts. However, juvenile birds’ tails are brown and banded. Dark-morph birds are brown with red tails. The Rufous-morph has a reddish-brown chest and a black belly.

Buteo Jamaicensis - Red-Tailed Hawk
Buteo Jamaicensis – Red-Tailed Hawk. Photo by: Kelly Bennett


These hawks have a length of 19-25 in (48-64 cm) and a weight of 1043 g (36.8 oz). Their wings could range from 46-58 in (117-147 cm).


It mostly preys on small animals, but it also preys on birds and reptiles; male Red-winged Blackbirds are particularly vulnerable when protecting nests, and they are frequently devoured as a result.


The Red-tailed Hawk prefers wide areas. Look for it in fields, on telephone poles, fence posts, or on trees alone or near fields.


Red-tailed Hawks may most likely be seen swooping in broad circles high over a field if you look closely. Their wingbeats are heavy when they are fluttering. In strong gusts, they may turn their backs to the wind and hover without flapping, their eyes focused on the earth. They attack in a leisurely, controlled descent with their legs spread, which is much different from the stoop of a falcon.

Buteo jamaicensis Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Accipitriformes
  • Family: Accipitridae
  • Genus: Buteo
  • Species: Buteo jamaicensis


At least 14 subspecies of Buteo jamaicensis have been identified based on their range and coloration.

Best time of the year to see

In the United States, the best time of year to see these birds is all year round, regardless of the season. This refers to any month of the year between January and December

Distribution of the Red-tailed hawk in the USA

Its breeding habitats extend over most of North America, from western Alaska and northern Canada to Panama and the West Indies, among other locations. These species are found all throughout the United States.

The Red-tailed hawk can be found in the following states in the United States – Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Buteo Jamaicensis – Red-Tailed Hawk

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