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red tailed hawk egg



Female Red-tails in flight are sometimes mistaken for a Bald Eagle, but when observed closer, the hawk is tiny in comparison. The average female Red-tailed Hawk measures between 19 and 26 inches long with a wingspan between 44 and 53 inches. The male is slightly smaller in stature. In the wild, the average Red-tail lives about 21 years.

When not silhouetted in the sky, the Red-tailed Hawk is fairly easy to identify. The rich brown coloring on its back, head and wings, contrasted with its reddish tail and pale underside are clear indicators of the species.

Hawks are medium-sized birds of prey and have so-called sexual dimorphism. This phenomenon makes the female, unlike most animals, larger than the male. Sometimes the female is double the size of the male. 

This feature appears to be determined by their power. Their courting habits are also very peculiarThey attract each other through spectacular cries.

Keeping a hawk

The first thing to remember is a falconer needs to have access to a large stretch of country and permission of the landowner will be needed.  Also, the quarry available may be excluded wholly or seasonally by the Wildlife and Countryside Act, so be aware of the legal constraints of this to avoid problems.

Hawks are flown in the autumn and winter as they moult their feathers during the summer.  So remember, you will need to have time during the reduced daylight hours to take the bird out.

British Birds of Prey are protected under the Countryside and Wildlife Act 1981 which gives the Secretary of State for Environment the right to grant licenses to remove hawks from the wild for the purposes of falconry or to import them.  Few licenses of this type are issued at the moment and to do this without a license is illegal.  Another problem across the world is the illegal theft of birds and eggs from the wild in the black market so provisions about ringing, registration and inspection have been imposed to try and stop this.

Most of the hawks kept are now captive bred, and this is the best bet for a beginner falconer.

Characteristics of the hawk 

There are two symbolic characteristics of hawks. The first feature is the flying ability they possess thanks to their sharp wings. This allows them to change direction at high speed compared to other birds; the hawk could be considered the fastest bird in the world. 

A hawk on a post.

The other characteristic of hawks is that they’re exceptional hunters. Thanks to their highly-developed sense of sight they identify their prey from the sky, and then dive and kill it instantly. 

Birds of prey also have very long, strong claws. This prevents their prey from escaping while they hunt. 

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