Red-tailed Hawk

Buteo jamaicensis

The red-tailed hawk is large bird that feeds mainly on rodents. It flies fast and has excellent vision. It can spot prey from hundreds of feet in the air. The red-tail is commonly seen in both rural and suburban areas that have woodlands, prairies, grasslands, or swamps.


General description: From below, a soaring red-tailed hawk has a broad tail and wide wings. Its reddish tail can often be seen while the bird is perched in trees or highway power line poles.

Length: 19 to 26 inches.

Weight: 2 to 4 pounds.

Color: Usually brown with black and white streaks. Reddish tail.

Sound: High-pitched screams.


Red-tailed hawks nest from February to June. The female lays one to four eggs, which take 28 to 32 days to hatch. The young, which are raised by both parents, are covered with white down for the first week, until feathers begin to grow. After six or seven weeks, the young hawks finally leave the nest.


Mice, rabbits, snakes, birds, and insects.


Great-horned owls and crows may raid nests and take young. Red-tailed hawks are sometimes killed by illegal shooting and trapping, and by collisions with cars.

Red-tailed Hawk

Habitat and range

Swamps, woodlands, and prairies. Red-tailed hawks are found throughout Minnesota. In the fall, they begin to migrate to southern states.

Population and management

With rodent populations high, the red-tailed hawk is thriving across Minnesota. Hawks are not game animals, so they can't be hunted. Anyone killing a red-tailed hawk is subject to a large fine.

Fun facts

The red-tailed hawk has a sharp, curved beak that's used to tear its prey into pieces for eating. The bird has great eyesight, which helps it see prey on the ground while its flying high overhead.

Range Map

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