The Red-tailed Hawk is a medium-sized bird of prey, one species known in the U.S. as the "chicken hawk," though it rarely preys on chickens. It breeds throughout most of North America.
In flight, this hawk soars, flapping as little as possible to conserve energy. Active flight is slow and deliberate, with deep wing beats. In wind, it occasionally hovers on beating wings and remains stationary above the ground.When soaring or flapping its wings, it typically travels from 20 to 40 mph, but when diving may exceed 120 mph.When the Red-tailed Hawk walks, its steps are slow and awkward.
A male Red-tailed Hawk may weigh from 1.5 to 3 pounds and measure 18 to 22 in.While a female can weigh between 2 and 4.4 pounds and measure 19 to 26 in. long. Their wingspan is about 45 to 52 in.
The Red-tailed Hawk has a complex history with humans. The name "chicken hawk" was applied to the Red-tailed Hawk in earlier times, when free-ranging chickens and other domestic fowl were occasionally taken by these birds. First-year Red-tails, usually in late summer or early fall, were the most guilty of such predation. After mid-summer, adults seldom provide food for newly-hunting young Red-tails, and easily-captured, flightless chickens at a farmstead were frequent targets. Today, Red-tails and other hawks are universally protected by state, provincial, and federal bird protection laws.