Birdhouses 101 - Red-tailed Hawk



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Red-tailed Hawk

About The Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed HawkThe red-tailed hawk is the largest of hawks weighing an average of 2 to 4 pounds and with an average length of 18 to 26 inches. Its wingspan is from 45 to 52 inches long. It has a dark brown crown, cheeks, back, and wings. It has a white neck, chest, and belly, and has heavy brown markings on the lower chest and flanks. Its tail is broad with a distinctive rusty red color and usually has a black bar on the end. Male and female red-tailed hawks look alike although females are usually 1/3 larger than male hawks. Juvenile hawks resemble adult ones except for their tail color which is brown with dark bars. Their tail molts becoming red only during their second year.

The Red-tailed Hawk Nesting Preferences

Red-tailed hawk nests are usually found atop very high trees, about 35 to 75 feet above ground, in forests near clearings. They choose such sites because they prefer a clear view of broad areas for protection from their youngs predators and also for observing prey. The nests are built of sticks and twigs that are about a half-inch in diameter and are lined with bark strips and their own feathers. Red-tailed hawk nests are shallow and wide and are often used by the hawks year after year for many years. Old damaged nests are still used after being repaired. Both sexes help in the construction of the nest. The female hawk lays 2 eggs colored white or bluish white with reddish blotches. During incubation the male hawk hunts alone and brings food to the female whos in charge of incubation.

Building a Birdhouse For The Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed HawkRed-tailed hawks never use birdhouses but sometimes do make use of platforms. The chance of attracting one to your platform is slim but for those who want to try anyway, make sure that you mount the platform 14 feet or higher on a very sturdy post and place it on a forest edge or on clearings near trees. Use old weathered lumber that is about 2 feet wide and 4 feet long. It is recommended that you get a professional to install the platform since accidents are common when working at such heights.

The Red-tailed Hawk Mating Habits

Red-tailed HawkThe red-tailed hawks courtship display is awe-inspiring. The display starts with both hawks soaring in circles at great heights. The male then proceeds to dive down in a steep drop then goes up again at a steep angle, repeating this several times before he approaches the female hawk from above to touch or grasp her briefly. When this happens the pair sometimes interlocks their talons and goes on a dizzying downward spin plummeting to treetop levels before separating again. Evidence suggests that red-tailed hawks pair for life. It has been observed that female hawks sometimes defend their partner against aggressors even outside of breeding season.

The Red-tailed Hawk Feeding Preferences

The red-tailed hawk is an opportunistic feeder with its diet consisting mainly of small rodents. They also like to eat rabbits, birds, pheasants, reptiles, insects, and crayfish.

Interesting Red-tailed Hawk Facts

Movies use the recorded sound of the red-tailed hawks raspy cry to represent all kinds of eagles and hawks. The cry sounds like a hoarse rasping scream that last for 2 to 3 seconds. The red-tailed hawks cry is usually heard when it soars but is loudest when defending their young.

Readers Comments


Add Your Comments

Zackary Skalsky  3/16/2007)
The red tailed hawk has a lot of food for its diet.


scott danilov  2/5/2008)
37 years ago when i was 12 i saw 3 baby red tailed hawks in a nest north of the sinimahoning resivor close to the ohio line.rd 5 greenville pa.the nest was in a 100 year old tree in a pasture used for brama bulls.the nest was up aprox 40 to 50 feet off the ground.i saw 3 bald eagles today in erie pa at the penisula . 2/4/08


charlotte ramsie  )
the red tailed hawk is a magnificant creature and great for writing reports on!


John  Smith  )
I used this site for my science report and it was really helpful to me. I can't beleive a hawk can see a mouse from up to a mile away!!!


redheartwoman   )
We have just sighted 2 red-tailed hawks in our neighborhood. One was seen all summer long & frequented our neighbor's tree. It even flew up our driveway while I was standing there. Magnificent!!!1


Jim Moore  )
March 4, 2009 We live on the edge of a wooded area near Doylestown, PA. For the past several weeks we have had a pair of Red Tailed Hawks in our large oak trees at the rear of our property. They are usually very close together and up anywhere from 30' to over a 100' and look to both be mature hawks. They are very good hunters as both have had good meals in squirrels each day and it is amazing how they eat the entire animal. I have taken some wonderful still photo's and video of them roosting, standing, eating, flying and such. With the telephoto lens on my cameras I have been lucky to get some very good close ups. We hope they plan to build a nest here.


Elizabeth    )
In the spring of 2008, I saw two red-tailed hawks spinning in mid-air over a large meadow near the South Holston Lake in Abingdon, VA. Their talons were locked, both had their wings spread, with one upside-down, the other spinning above. It was a beautiful "courtship dance".


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