Bird Database

Red-tailed Hawk

(Buteo jamaicensis)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Short distance




Pesticides, Contaminants

Conservation Actions

Avoid toxic chemicals (including rodenticides, lead, and other contaminants)

Red-tailed Hawk

(Buteo jamaicensis)

Drive any major highway in New Hampshire at any time of year and you’ll eventually see a Red-tailed Hawk perched in the trees along the road – or perhaps on a telephone pole. If you’re paying particular attention, you might even see several within the space of a few miles. While not the most common raptor in the state (that appellation probably goes to the Broad-winged Hawk or Barred Owl), the Red-tail is arguably the most familiar. Unlike most other hawks it is a bird of open country, more likely to be found along the edges of forest than within them. In this regard it likely benefited from the early clearing of the state’s forests for agriculture.

And as forests returned, Red-tails adapted. They discovered that highway edges and urban areas were just as good hunting grounds as farms, and will even nest on buildings and other structures inside cities. This association with people has its downsides, and major causes of mortality in Red-tails include collisions with cars, consumption of poisoned rats or baits, and electrocution on power lines.

Available data indicate that Red-tailed Hawk populations are increasing in New Hampshire, although such data are generally hard to come by for birds of prey. Standard breeding season surveys aren’t good at monitoring uncommon and dispersed species such as hawks, but despite this limitation the Breeding Bird Survey shows increases over most of North America. Similar increases are seen in Christmas Bird Count (CBC) data collected in the early winter. Data from migration, on the other hand, so declining or stable trends. One reason for this discrepancy may be the Red-tails are becoming less migratory in the northern portion of their range. If more birds are staying near breeding sites in the winter (as CBC trends suggest), it stands to reason that fewer would pass over hawk watches. They also may be migrating later, after counts have ended at many sites.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Red-tailed Hawk
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count