Red-Tailed Hawk


Warrior- Warrior, a male red-tailed hawk, is a subspecies found in the American Southeast. He is originally from Alabama, where red-tailed hawks are typically lighter in color. Warrior was admitted to the Southeastern Raptor Center for rehabilitation as an adult with West Nile virus which resulted in the loss of sight in his right eye.

Both male and female red-tailed hawks build and maintain a nest through the mating season. Warrior builds a nest every year with materials provided by his trainers and even develops a brood patch. A brood patch is a spot that loses feathers on the uderside of a nesting bird. This provides more direct heat to the eggs. Guests may get the opportunity to see Warrior work on his nest.

To support his continued care and training, click this link to sponsor Warrior.

Warrior’s 2020 Sponsors: Hanne and Manfred Hoefs, Haines Area High School, Marsha Taylor,


Sitka-Sitka, a female red-tailed hawk, is an Alaskan subspecies. Alaskan red-tailed hawks have darker plumage to blend in with evergreen and boreal forests. Sitka came to the ABEF in 2010 from the Alaska Raptor Center in Sitka, her namesake. She has a disability in her right wing from a fracture that did not heal properly.

The eyes of red-tailed hawks typically change from light to dark as the bird ages. Sitka’s eyes remained light after her adult plumage came in and took longer than usual to become the rich brown that you see now. She can often be seen sitting in high windows enjoying the sun or heard making raspy calls.

To support her continued care and training, click this link to sponsor Sitka.

Sitka’s 2020 Sponsors: Marsha Taylor, Haines Area School’s 3rd Grade Class,

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Learn more about red-tailed hawks-

Identification: Red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) are the most common raptor in North America. They are relatively large, stocky hawks with broad, fairly rounded wings and a wingspan of about four feet. Plumage can be incredibly variable (from very pale to almost black)  and there are 16 recognized subspecies across the Americas and Caribbean. The rusty-red tail is the distinguishing feature, however juveniles and some sub-species such as the Harlan’s hawk (B.j. harlani) found in the Pacific Northwest and the Krider’s hawk (B.j. kriderii) found in the Southwest may not have a red-tail. Red-tailed hawks are commonly seen perched on fences, powerlines, streetlights, trees,etc. while looking for their next meal. They are also commonly seen soaring with their wings held at a slight U-shape. Red-tails have four notched primary feathers that can be viewed when they are soaring.

Hunting & diet: Their diet and hunting styles are variable depending on the sub-species’ habitat. Common prey items include rodents, rabbits, birds and reptiles. Red-tails will sit on a perch and wait until they spot a prey animal from a vantage point before swooping down to catch it. If the prey item is large they will likely eat it on the ground, however if the prey item is smaller they will bring it to a post or swallow it whole. Red-tails are also known to soar at high altitudes searching for prey and have been sighted hovering as well.

Size: Males are between 18-22.5 inches tall and can weigh between 1.5-2.5 pounds. Females usually stand between 20.5-25 inches tall with their weight varying from 2-3.1 pounds.

Habitat: Because red-tailed hawks have such an expansive population, their habitat can vary from the deserts of Arizona and Mexico to the tropical rain forests of Puerto Rico to the sub-alpine of the Cascades mountain range. Typically, red-tails prefer semi-open habitat so they can forage, but can get out of site if needed. This includes woodlots, deciduous forests, agricultural areas and cityscapes.  In Alaska, red-tails are found in mixed forests, prairies, woodlots, fields, roadsides and industrial areas in the Central and Southcentral parts of the state. In the winter, red-tails in Alaska will migrate to to southern Canada and as far as Mexico.

Nesting & breeding:  The male will perform aerial maneuvers where he dives down by the female while she is soaring. Like bald eagles, red-tailed hawks are known to lock talons and spin in cartwheels as part of their pair-bonding ritual. Stationary red-tails are generally monogamous, but it is unknown whether migratory populations are. Nest building can occur anywhere between late December and early April, depending on the location. Nests are constructed by both male and female and a monogamous pair may alternate between two and three nests. They build large stick nests and will line the nests with strips of bark or moss. Red-tailed hawks prefer to nests in tall, open areas with access to good views over hunting grounds. Females will lay between two and three eggs which are laid every other day. The eggs have an incubation time of 28-35 days and the nestlings will fledge after about 45 days after hatching.

Other facts: Although it is rare, red-tailed hawks have been recorded breeding with Swainson’s hawks. When actively flying, red-tails have been recorded to fly an average of 37 miles an hour. When gliding along ridges, their average speed is 29 miles per hour. One study suggests that red-tailed hawks spend 93 percent of their time perched.

Most common problems: While red-tail populations have increased since the 1800s (presumably due to deforestation of Eastern forests and the absence of fire maintained habitats in the west),  some studies suggest that red-tailed hawk populations have declined since the 1900s. In North America, collision with vehicles, powerlines, airplanes, trains and wind turbines are a large cause of death for red-tails. Gunshot electrocution, poisoning and and leg-hold traps are also common problems for these birds.