Red-tailed hawk Red-tailed hawk

The red-tailed hawk is one of the most common of the Buteos, or soaring hawks, in North America.

Fun Critter Facts

- They occur in nearly all habitats in the state of Wyoming, ranging from high altitude rocky habitats and conifer forests to low altitude riparian areas.  They can be found commonly in both rural and urban areas.  Their shrill cry is one of the most recognized bird calls in North America, and is commonly used in movies to depict the calls of eagles, vultures, or any other raptor.

- As its name implies, "normal" red-tailed hawks typically have a red or russet colored tail, and the birds are easily recognizable.  However, a dizzying variety of color morphs occur, ranging from nearly black specimens, to the Krider's subspecies which is primarily white.  To confuse things, dark morphs, albinos or partial albinos are not uncommon in this species.  Both Krider's and albino individuals typically have a light pinkish tail.  Dark morphs may be nearly black.

- Much like some other species of raptors, red-tailed hawks can exhibit a spectacular aerial courtship display wherein the pair grasps the talons of each other and fall in tight spirals toward the ground.  Males also conduct steep dives and ascents for hundreds of feet.  These birds typically nest in trees, on cliff faces, or on any vertical and tall man-made structure.  Nests are constructed of sticks and are rather large.  Females lay 1-5 eggs and eggs hatch in a little over a month.  Young are then cared for in the nest for another 40+ days and are cared for by both parents.

- Diets of red-tails are quite varied, but consist primarily of small rodents and "lagomorphs" (rabbits, hares, and pikas).  However, red-tailed hawks have also been known to consume a large variety of other foods ranging from snakes to amphibians and carrion (including large, recently deceased livestock).   They occasionally feed on a few birds, including smaller raptors, quails and young grouse, and a variety of songbirds.  Red-tails are the typical "chicken-hawk" of lore, although they rarely eat poultry.

- Red-tailed hawks' adaptability to habitats and foods make them one of the most successful and widespread hawk species in North America.  However, they fall prey to a few other raptors, primarily great horned owls, golden eagles, and bald eagles.  While a few other Buteos rival or exceed the red-tailed hawk in size, few if any incidents of predation have been documented.  Great horned owls likely represent the most significant "inter-raptor" source of mortality and they are known to take both juveniles from nests and adults from nests or night roosts.    

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