Red-tailed Hawks – Buteo jamaicensis

Juvenile White-crowned Sparrow foragingAdult Red-tailed Hawk in flight with prey in Utah – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/2500, ISO 500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 321mm, natural light, not baited

Red-tailed Hawks are in the genus Buteo, so what is a Buteo? Buteos are medium to large hawks with broad wings, wide bodies and short tails that soar in wide lazy circles and most often hunt from a high perch from which they drop down to their prey.

Red-tailed Hawks are named for their rufous colored tails but not all Red-tailed Hawks have red tails, Harlan’s; a subspecies, and juveniles do not have red tails.

The adult Red-tailed Hawk above does have the red tail, the tail looked messed up because when it grabbed the vole in its talons it also grabbed some grass or a twig that is pushing up through the tail feathers.

Just looking at this raptor makes me feel very glad that I am not a vole!

Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk on a fencepost in MontanaJuvenile Red-tailed Hawk on a fencepost in Montana – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/400, ISO 1000, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Juvenile Red-tailed Hawks can appear to be a whole different species for neophyte birders and bird photographers because they do lack the red tail plus their eyes are lighter colored than the adults. Time in the field and time spent studying field guides will help new birders and bird photographers ID the juveniles.


* I am still away, please feel free to share this post with your friends and family. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments!

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About Mia McPherson

I am a nature lover, wildlife watcher and a bird photographer. I first become serious about bird photography when I moved to Florida in 2004 and it wasn’t long before I was hooked (addicted is more like it). My move to the Salt Lake area of Utah was a great opportunity to continue observing their behavior and to pursue my passion for photographing birds.


  1. Thanks for sharing your comments everyone!

  2. very nice pictures, details en colors are well taken, and sharp quality, it s lovely
    thanks mia ☺

  3. The genus and family names are also fascinating to look up, they’re in Latin and are interesting! Very nice Buteo!

  4. Merrill Ann Gonzales

    Red-tails have such varied markings … each individual seems to have it’s own markings. One of the tell tale signs I look for is the V pattern across their chests. Thanks for these two really great photos!

  5. Images are so sharp and detailed…wonderful capture

  6. Nice to see the juvenile and adult images back-to-back, Mia. Love the detail in both of them.

  7. Very crisp Images Mia

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