- Author: Robert J Keiffer
Buteos are high-soaring hawks with broad-wings for catching the thermals. They are among the easiest daytime birds-of-prey to spot as they soar overhead against the background sky.
The Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is the most common buteo-type hawk in North America, and is a common resident at the UC Hopland Research & Extension Center. The plumage of these hawks can be quite variable ranging from dark-phase coloration to rufous-morphs to light-phase morphs. To add to the confusion, there are several different subspecies that generally have specific breeding ranges, but can overlap during winter due to long-ranging vagrants.
Almost all of the Red-tailed Hawks will have a belly-band of dark streaks and a dark head. Adults have a reddish-orange upper tail, but the immature birds will have a gray-brown tail with blackish bands. A dark bar on the leading edge of the underwing is characteristic of this species. Here you see an adult western race B.j.calurus soaring overhead.