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The red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is a raptor that lives all over the Americas and the Caribbean islands, from Canada and the United States to Mexico, Nicaragua and Saint Lucia. Red-tailed hawks' reproductive seasons start in March each year, and can extend all the way into May. Nest building is crucial to red-tailed hawk reproduction -- they raise their offspring inside of these earthy, twig-packed structures, after all.
About Red-Tailed Hawks
Red-tailed hawks are distinguishable due to their wide tails, which are crimson on the top. Their basic coloration is dark brown or pale reddish-brown, with paler undersides. The females can attain lengths of upwards of 25.6 inches, according to the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology. The males can grow to a maximum of 22 inches. Female red-tailed hawks usually weigh no more than 51.5 ounces, and the males typically tip the scales at 45.9 ounces or less. They have bright yellow feet and legs. These hawks' diets consist of reptiles, tiny rodents, fish, rabbits and even birds.
These hawks are usually mature enough to reproduce by their third years. They are strictly monogamous birds and often reproduce with the same partner year in and year out. Red-tailed hawks find new partners if their previous ones pass away -- but usually exclusively in those situations. Despite that, the "couples" do not usually share tree living environments.
Male and female red-tailed hawks share the responsibility of putting together suitable nests. They often simply spruce up pre-existing nests they made before, although they do also frequently construct entirely new ones. These hawks require roughly 4 to 7 days to make their nests.
Red-tailed hawks generally establish their nests in locations close to fields, lakes or sides of creeks. They also prefer airy environments for building nests. Their nests are situated either in high trees or on cliffs. Occasionally, when other options are scarce, they even set their nests up in windows of buildings. In terms of width, their nests are generally in the range of 28 and 38 inches, notes BioKids of the University of Michigan. They are usually 3 feet in height or less. The basic framework of their nests consists of sticks. However, their nests are covered with a variety of other components, including stalks, husks, fresh leaves, pine needles and tree bark.
- U.S. Forest Service: Buteo jamaicensis
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Buteo jamaicensis
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Buteo jamaicensis
- NatureWorks: Red-tailed Hawk
- The Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Red-tailed Hawk
- University of California Oak Woodland Management: Nesting Habitat of Red-Tailed Hawks in Oak Woodlands
- University of Michigan BioKids: Buteo jamaicensis
- Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images