The Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is
a large Buteo which breeds from western Alaska
and northern Canada to Panama and the West Indies.
Males are typically smaller than females, generally
weighing between 800-1100 grams and measuring
45-56 cm in length. Females typically average
between 1100-1300 grams and measure 50-65 cm in
This is one of three species colloquially known
in the United States as the Chickenhawk. It is
the most common North American hawk and the raptor
most frequently taken from the wild (and later
returned to the wild) for falconry in the United
Birds of this species have a dark mark along
the leading edge of the underwing, between the
body and the wrist (the patagium). Most but not
all color variations have a dark band across the
belly. In most, the adults' tails are rusty red
above, and juveniles have narrow brown and pale
bands. The main western North American population
has bands on the adults' rusty tails as well and
has varied plumage, organized into three main
color types or morphs.
Immature birds, or birds that are only a few
years old, can also readily be identified by having
yellowish irises. As the bird attains full maturity
over the course of 3-4 years, the iris slowly
darken into a reddish-brown hue.
Light-morph birds are mainly brown on the upperparts
and very pale brown or buff on the underparts
and underwings; they show a belly band.
Rufous-morph birds are darker and redder, with
reddish-brown rather than white on the underparts.
The belly band may be barely visible.
Dark-morph birds are very dark brown on both upperparts
and underparts; they have lighter parts on the
Almost all of the main eastern North American
population are light-morph, with whiter underparts
and paler markings than western birds and with
solid rust-red tails as adults.
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