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Red-tailed Hawk Identification

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The Four Keys to ID

  • Size & Shape

    Red-tailed Hawks are large hawks with typical Buteo proportions: very broad, rounded wings and a short, wide tail. Large females seen from a distance might fool you into thinking you’re seeing an eagle. (Until an actual eagle comes along.)

    Relative Size

    The Red-tailed is the second-largest Buteo hawk in North America, after Ferruginous Hawk.

    Relative Sizebetween crow and goosebetween crow and goose

    • Male
      • Length: 17.7-22.1 in (45-56 cm)
      • Weight: 24.3-45.9 oz (690-1300 g)
      • Wingspan: 44.9-52.4 in (114-133 cm)
    • Female
      • Length: 19.7-25.6 in (50-65 cm)
      • Weight: 31.8-51.5 oz (900-1460 g)
      • Wingspan: 44.9-52.4 in (114-133 cm)

Regional Differences

Red-tailed Hawks have extremely variable plumage, and some of this variation is regional. A Great Plains race called "Krider's" hawk is pale, with a whitish head and washed-out pink in the tail. Light-morph western birds tend to be more streaky on the underparts than eastern Red-tails; south Texas forms are darker above, without the dark belly band most other Red-tails have. Dark-morph birds can occur anywhere but are more common in western North America - particularly in Alaska and northwest Canada, where the all-dark "Harlan's" race is common.