Clipper (Red-tailed Hawk)Description: clipper

Buteo jamaicensis


Red-tailed hawks are the most common hawk found in the Central Valley. They stand almost 2 feet tall with a 4 foot wing span. The females are larger than the males. A black-shoulder patch visible from the underside of their wing easily identifies both genders as red-tails. Their reddish-brown tails also easily identifies the adults. It takes a red-tailed hawk 4-5 years to get its red tail adult plumage. These hawks are able to survive over a wide range of habitat. Red-tails are daytime hunters with excellent eyesight. They can see prey from 2 miles in the air. Their eyesight is seven times better than that of humans.


A small town police department brought Clipper to us. He was found in an abandoned house where homeless people often spent the night. He was amazingly tolerant of people. He seldom emitted red-tail cries. Instead his vocalizations were a squeaky peeping like the cry of an adolescent red-tail. It is possible that he was raised around people and for almost a year never heard the adult vocalization of a red-tail hawk. He has proven to be a great performer. He is patient, allowing me to describe various characteristics true of a daytime hunter and specifically red-tailed hawks. After several years with us, his adult plumage has grown in awing school children (and many adults) with his red tail feathers. He affords them a rare opportunity to see such a magnificent raptor up close. Now if we could just get our little Peter Pan to make adult red-tail noises!