The Red-tailed Hawk is Alabama’s largest hawk, with a wingspan of over four feet. Females are larger than males. Adults are easily identified by their dark reddish tail feathers, not present in first-year birds. This predatory bird soars effortlessly while searching for prey with its keen eyesight. Preferred food includes rabbits and small rodents.
FUN FACT: Red-tailed Hawks often mate for life. Stick nests located high above the ground are usually built in trees, but recently nests are also found on skyscrapers.
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Buteo jamaicensis
STATUS: Breeder. Common in winter, fairly common in spring and fall, and uncommon in summer in Gulf Coast region. In other regions, common in winter and fairly common in spring, summer, and fall. Lowest Conservation Concern.
DESCRIPTION: Classified as a raptor (birds known for hooked bills and sharp, strong talons) the red-tailed is the largest hawk in Alabama, averaging between two and four pounds. Females of this species are larger than the males. The wingspan of an adult bird can be four to four and one-half feet. Adults are identified by their rusty or rufous colored tail feathers. Immature birds lack this colored tail until the second year when rusty feathers molt into place. Fourteen subspecies are recognized in North America, Buteo jamaicensis borealis occurs in Alabama.