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Wildlife Spotlight: Red-tailed Hawks

PictureRed-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed hawks are some of the most stunning wildlife sights on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. Widespread throughout North America, these raptors are frequently spotted throughout Orange County, perched atop telephone poles, tall buildings, trees or circling the skies.


A red-tailed hawk is distinguishable from its raptor relatives by size, markings and behavior. It has a larger head and wingspan and a broader tail than a red-shouldered hawk. Although its colors vary across region, most red-tailed hawks in Orange County sport a wide, rust-colored tail and a black band around their middle that can be spotted if they’re flying overhead. A red-tailed hawk’s dive is relatively slow and controlled. It circles the skies, searching for small mammals like rodents, as well as snakes and other reptiles, to snatch up and take back to its nest.  Even though these birds aren’t endangered, red-tailed hawks are still an important predator in the Landmark’s incredibly diverse ecosystem.