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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Red-tailed Hawk -- Buteo jamaicensis

RANGE: Breeds from western and central Alaska and central Yukon to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia south to Central America. Winters from southern Canada throughout the remainder of the breeding range.

STATUS: Common, but population is declining.

HABITAT: Inhabits a wide variety of different habitats throughout its range, preferring mixed country of open pasture, fields, meadows, or swampy areas interspersed with coniferous or deciduous woods. Inhabits deserts and plains with scattered trees and open mountain forests, generally avoiding dense, unbroken woodlands and tundra.

NEST: Usually nests in a tall tree in or at the edge of a woodland, or in an isolated tree in an open area. Frequently selects the largest and tallest tree (of a wide variety of species) available. Constructs nest next to the trunk in a crotch from 35 to 90 feet above ground. In treeless areas, nests on rocky cliffs, shrubs, or cactus.

FOOD: Frequently hunts for prey while perching in snags, live trees, or on poles in rather open areas or at forest edges. Also locates prey while soaring. Primarily eats small mammals; also eats birds, reptiles, and some insects.

REFERENCES: Austin 1964, Bednarz and Dinsmore 1982, DeGraff et al. 1980, Evans in Farrand 1983a, Fitch et al. 1946, Forbush and May 1955, Heintzelman 1979, Terres 1980.

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