Red-tailed Hawks typically put their nests in the crowns of tall trees where they have a commanding view of the landscape. They may also nest on a cliff ledge or on artificial structures such as window ledges and billboard platforms.
Both members build the nest, or simply refurbish one of the nests they’ve used in previous years. Nests are tall piles of dry sticks up to 6.5 feet high and 3 feet across. The inner cup is lined with bark strips, fresh foliage, and dry vegetation. Construction takes 4-7 days.
White or buffy, blotched or speckled with buff, brown, or purple.
Condition at Hatching
Tiny and helpless, unable to raise head, and weighing about 2 ounces.
Mammals make up the bulk of most Red-tailed Hawk meals. Frequent victims include voles, mice, wood rats, rabbits, snowshoe hares, jackrabbits, and ground squirrels. The hawks also eat birds, including pheasants, bobwhite, starlings, and blackbirds; as well as snakes and carrion. Individual prey items can weigh anywhere from less than an ounce to more than 5 pounds.
Adults make a hoarse, screaming kee-eeeee-arr. It lasts 2-3 seconds and is usually given while soaring. During courtship, they also make a shrill chwirk, sometimes giving several of these calls in a row.more sounds
About the Nest
A Red-tailed Hawk pair has been nesting on a light pole nearly 80 feet above Cornell University’s athletic fields on Tower Road for at least the past four years. In 2012, we installed a camera to get a better look at these majestic birds as they raise their young amid the bustle of a busy campus (see the behind-the-scenes video). In 2013, they moved to another light pole 200 yards to the west, and we installed a second set of cameras to continue observing them.
Big Red and Her Mate
The female, nicknamed “Big Red” in honor of her alma mater, is slightly larger, with a darker head, nape and throat, and is banded on her right leg. From banding records we know she was banded in nearby Brooktondale, New York, during her first autumn in 2003, making her over nine years old.
The male, nicknamed “Ezra” after the co-founder of Cornell University, is banded on his left leg. He’s a bit smaller and has golden-tawny feathers on his face and head, and a paler neck than the female. He is at least seven years old and was first banded in 2006 as an adult bird on Judd Falls Road near the Cornell campus.