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RED TAILED BUZZARD. Buteo jamaicensis

IDENTIFICATION. The Red-tailed Buzzard (Red-tailed Hawk in the USA) is a bird with a wide variation of plumage colour. Generally the feathering on the back and tops of wings is brown. The underneath is  pale, varying from cream to white, streaked with brown. The pale feathering continues onto the legs and is highlighted by light brown barring. The top, sides and back of the head is a rust colour with pale cream around the beak and the front of the neck. As the name suggests the tail of the adult bird is a rusty red colour with white tips and a black line before the end (in juveniles this is normally brown) .

DISTRIBUTION. The 'Red tail' has a large territory extending from Canada and Alaska down through North and Central America to Panama and the West Indies. In winter it migrates, sometimes in great spiralling clouds, from its colder limits southward. Preferred habitats being grassland, marshy areas, desert and forest.

FOOD. Mainly mammals up to Jack rabbit size, also reptiles including Rattlesnakes.

BREEDING. Mid May. 2 or 3 eggs laid in a large stick nest in trees or occasionally on rock face.  Young hatch after 4-5 weeks, flying 45 days later.

SIZE. 51cm (19-25in)

WEIGHT. 600g-1kg 600g (1lb 5oz -3lb)

WINGSPAN. 115cm (45in)

CALL. A cowboy film, peeiou. Or Klee-ukk


The Red-tailed Buzzard is often used in America as a beginners bird. Saying that its large weight and aggression can make it a daunting, if not dangerous, proposition for the beginner. Some falconers find Red-tails to be lazy hunters, whilst others find them to be the perfect hunting partner.

A robust and long lived bird which tolerates Britain's colder climate better than the Harris Hawk.

Falconry marks

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