Discover Nature: Red-Tailed Hawks

Jan 9, 2018

Watch for red tailed hawks perched on roadsides and field edges as they hunt for snakes, squirrels, mice, and other small animals.
Credit Missouri Department of Conservation

While cruising down a Missouri highway this winter, keep an eye out for a predator on the prowl.


Often known as highway hawks for their roadside perches, red-tailed hawks are brown above, and white below, and adults have a rust-red tail with a narrow black band near the end.  They stand nearly two feet tall with a wingspan more than double their height.

These hawks usually nest in open woodlands or in trees in a grassland and crop area – frequently within city limits – hunting snakes, squirrels, mice, and other small animals.

Pairs of hawks may stay together for years on the same territory, sometimes renovating the same nest with fresh green leaves or pine needles, which repel parasites, and help hide their young nestlings.

This native and permanent resident of Missouri is protected by federal and state laws, and is considered sacred by many American Indian tribes.

Learn more about the red-tailed hawks with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide.

Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.