This is one of the handsomest of the larger hawks, and is the best known in the east, where it is commonly, but wrongly, designated as "hen hawk", a name, however, which is indiscriminately applied to any bird that has talons and a hooked beak. The adult of this species is unmistakable because of its reddish brown tail; young birds are very frequently confounded with other species. Their food consists chiefly of small rodents, snakes and lizards, and only occasionally are poultry or birds taken. They nest in the tallest trees in large patches of woods, the nests being made of sticks, weeds, leaves and trash. The eggs number from two to four, and are white, sometimes heavily, and sometimes sparingly, blotched and spotted with various shades of brown. Size 2.35 x 1.80.
Pale bluish white.
Range. - Plains of the United States, north to Manitoba.
This sub-species is described as lighter on the underparts, which are almost immaculate. Its nesting habits and eggs are the same as those of the preceding.
Range. - Western North America, chiefly west of the Rocky Mountains.
This sub-species varies from the plumage of the eastern Red-tail, to a nearly uniform sooty above and below, with the dark red tail crossed by several bands; it is a generally darker variety than the Red-tail. Its nesting habits are the same and the eggs show the great variations in markings that are common to the eastern bird.
Range. - Gulf States and southward, north to Kansas.
This dark sub-species is generally nearly uniform blackish, but sometimes is lighter or even white below. Its tail is rusty, mottled with blackish and white. Its nesting habits are the same and the eggs are not distinguishable from those of the other Red-tails.