Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk


Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk


Identification of the Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-tails are easily seen from the highway, perched in trees, telephone poles or even wires, and sometimes soaring in the air with their rufous-colored tail shining brightly in the sun.  When perched, their bright white breast glows, and a belly band of dark streaks is usually visible.  Their dark  brown backs have white markings that are similar to the straps of a back pack, and the tail is reddish unless it’s a juvenile.  When flying, a dark leading edge of their pale wings is visible, as well as dark tips.  They are in the Buteo family which includes medium to  large hawks with broad wings, fairly short tails, and chunky bodies.

Both male and female look the same, except the male is smaller.  They range in size from 19-25 inches with a wing span of almost 5 feet.   They are very abundant across all of North America, but Western U.S. Red-tails can be much darker or even black.  Some from Canada may migrate South for the winter, but many Red-tails remain in the same area year-round.


The Story

Red-tailed Hawks are abundant in our neighborhood with our rolling hills and farmland.  This hawk had an attitude, and rather than shying away and  leaving the area when I trained my camera on him, he came straight for me!  His eyes were fixed on mine as he deliberately made a bee-line to where I was standing , then at last he veered off and perched in a large tree, and proceeded to give me the ole’ stink eye!  I’m really not sure why he was so put out with my intrusion, but February is nesting time, and maybe that is why he was letting it be known that I was trespassing.

Red-tailed Hawk

Flying towards me


Red-tailed Hawk

Coming closer!


Red-tailed Hawk

This Red-tail’s belly band is rather heavy, the tail is pale (but red from above), and the leading edge of the wings and the tips are dark.

Red-tailed Hawk

Veering off–finally!!

Red-tailed Hawk

Heading for the tree

Red-taile Hawk
Giving me the Stink-eye!


Lauren Shaffer

Lauren Shaffer wrote 146 posts

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  • lucy sallstrom

    Awesome pix Laurie. Red Tails are just beautiful. I am trying to talk Manny into going over there today at the riverwalk. Lucy

    • Lauren Shaffer

      Hope you see some neat things, Lucy! Dress warm!

  • Ernie Allison

    Really great pictures and story! I was really hoping to get in touch with you but I did not see any contact info on your site. I hope you will message me back!
    [email protected]

  • Jon Ruddy

    Fantastic images! From a quick scan through your blog, I believe these photos of this Red-tailed were taken in PA?? This juvenile is of the heavily-marked Northern Red-tailed form (subspecies: abieticola). These are by far the best pictures of a juvenile abieticola I’ve ever seen! For more on this enigmatic, heavily-marked form of Red-tailed, please view: Good birding!

    • Lauren Shaffer

      Hi, Jon! Thanks for the compliment! I had no idea this bird was so special. Yes, it was taken in PA, Montour County. He appeared around the same time as the Rough-legged Hawks and the Snowy Owls in our agricultural area and stayed for a couple of weeks at least. I will enter the subspecies on eBird, and appreciated learning all about it from your wonderful article!

  • jrudd01

    Hi Lauren. I have a good memory for the location of good photos – I’m glad it didn’t fail me! I was wondering if I could showcase a few of these amazing photos on this new blog site:

    • Lauren Shaffer

      Hi, Jon. I’d be happy to have you use my Red-tailed Hawk pictures on your website. Your header pic is amazing! I’d just ask that you give me credit for the photos, of course. I look forward to seeing your new blog develop!

    • Lauren Shaffer

      Nice job! Thank you for the photo credit and the link to the Birding Pictures blog!

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