Red-tailed hawk –Buteo jamaicensis
The red-tailed hawk is a beautiful raptor species. Because of its distinct red tail, it is easily identified by even the most novice birder. Although the red tail of the red-tailed hawk is easy to spot, the rest of the hawk’s body coloration can vary by life stage and location. In some regions, they can be all white on their bellies or almost all dark brown. In addition to being one of the most easily recognized hawks, the Buteo jamaicensis is also one of the most common hawks in North America. They can be found in Washington state throughout the year. Some may breed in Washington while others migrate further south after breeding for warmer, more desirable weather. Migration typically occurs during the fall months.  

Like most other raptors, red-tailed hawks help maintain healthy populations of small mammals, birds, and even reptiles. Their diet varies with location, season, and prey availability. Mammals such as voles, rats, rabbits, and ground squirrels are often the major prey for red-tailed hawks. Red-tailed hawks will also eat birds and reptiles, especially snakes. Sometimes red-tail hawks can be caught eating bats, frogs, toads, insects, and animal carcasses, also known as carrion.

Red-tailed hawks prefer to forage and live in open country, woodlands, prairie groves, mountains, plains, and even roadsides. The red-tailed hawk’s preference varies because they only need some open ground for hunting and a couple of high places to rest. You can often see red-tailed hawks perching on ultility poles along highways. SHADOW Lake Nature Preserve has a few resident red-tailed hawks that use the Nature Preserve for foraging and breeding each year.  

Learn more about these hawks below:
All About Birds

National Audubon Society