Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)


French: Buse à queue rousse German: Rotschwanzbussard Spanish: Busardo colirrojo

Falco jamaicensis

J. F. Gmelin

, 1788,



Closely related to B. ventralis; these two formerly thought to be close also to B. buteo, B. oreophilus and B. brachypterus; has hybridized with B. buteo#R. Race harlani has been treated variously as full species and as colour morph of calurus, but probably better considered a race#R. Likewise, kriderii often considered a morph, mainly within range of calurus, but also in boundary region between calurus and borealis, and generally included within latter; kriderii, however, is a pale form inhabiting an area occupied also by similarly pale race richardsonii of Merlin (Falco columbarius), and is therefore accorded subspecific treatment here. That said, a recent monograph#R notes convincingly that kriderii "does not have a breeding range distinct from those of other subspecies, meaning it cannot, by definition, be a valid subspecies." Fifteen subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • B. j. harlani (Audubon, 1830) – Harlan's Hawk – interior of Alaska and W Canada (SW Yukon and N British Columbia).
  • B. j. alascensis Grinnell, 1909 – SE Alaska (USA) and W Canada (coastal British Columbia).
  • B. j. calurus Cassin, 1855 – W North America W of Great Plains.
  • B. j. kriderii Hoopes, 1873 – plains of SC Canada S to Wyoming (NC USA).
  • B. j. borealis (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) – E of Great Plains in Canada and C USA.
  • B. j. fuertesi Sutton & Van Tyne, 1935 – S USA from Arizona to Texas, and S to NC Mexico (to Durango and W Tamaulipas).
  • B. j. suttoni Dickerman, 1993 – Sierra de San Lázaro (S Baja California), in NW Mexico.
  • B. j. fumosus Nelson, 1898 – Tres Marias Is, off WC Mexico.
  • B. j. socorroensis Nelson, 1898 – Socorro I (Revillagigedo Is), off W Mexico.
  • B. j. hadropus Storer, 1962 – highlands of C Mexico.
  • B. j. kemsiesi Oberholser, 1959 – S Mexico (Chiapas) to N Nicaragua.
  • B. j. costaricensis Ridgway, 1874 – highlands of Costa Rica and W Panama.
  • B. j. umbrinus Bangs, 1901 – peninsular Florida (SE USA).
  • B. j. solitudinis Barbour, 1935 – Bahamas, Cuba and I of Pines.
  • B. j. jamaicensis (J. F. Gmelin, 1788) – Red-tailed Hawk – Jamaica, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico E to N Lesser Antilles.
  • Descriptive notes

    Male 45–58 cm; male 690–1300 g; female 900–1460 g; wingspan 107–141 cm. Typical large, stoutish soaring buzzard. Highly variable: upperparts usually... read more


    Main call, used in a variety of contexts, a harsh scream, c. 1–1·5 seconds long, with... read more


    Ubiquitous; most habitats from desert, shrubland, agricultural land, forest and woodlots to... read more

    Food and feeding

    Mainly small- to medium-sized mammals, birds and reptiles. Major mammalian food in North America includes voles (Microtus), mice... read more


    Late Apr–Jul in Alaska, Dec–May in S USA, Nov–May in Caribbean. Solitary. Stick nest placed in trees, cliffs or saguaro... read more


    Variable: sedentary from S USA to S edge of range in C America and Caribbean; migratory in N of... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Commonest Buteo over most of North America, where it readily nests and winters in human-altered habitats. Locally... read more

    Recommended citation

    White, C.M., Boesman, P. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 24 February 2020).