Rufous-tailed hawk -- 美洲棕尾鵟 (Buteo ventralis)

Female rufous-tailed hawk in flight
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Rufous-tailed hawk fact file

Rufous-tailed hawk description

GenusButeo (1)

The rufous-tailed hawk was first discovered by Charles Darwin in Patagonia during the famous voyage of the Beagle (4). It is a relatively large bird of prey with long, slender, square-tipped wings and powerful feet. Two distinct varieties of rufous-tailed hawk occur, which have markedly different plumage colouration. The more common “pale” variety has blackish-brown upperparts with cinnamon-rufous feathers on the sides of the head and neck, leaving a darker cap-like area on the crown (5). By contrast, the throat is white with dusky streaking, and the breast and belly are cream to pale reddish-brown, with black spots and streaks (2) (5) The medium-length tail, as the common name suggests, is rufous, and marked with eight or nine horizontal black bars. The less common “dark” variety of rufous-tailed hawk is almost entirely sooty black, with pale edges on the tail feathers, slightly lighter underparts, and a dusky-grey tail with black bars and a white tip. The vocalisation of this species is a harsh, drawn out kee-ahrr (5)

Also known as
Red-tailed hawk.
Aguilucho Cola Colorada, Busardo Patagón.
Length: 54 – 60 cm (2)

Rufous-tailed hawk biology

An opportunistic hunter, the rufous-tailed hawk takes a variety of prey, which it catches by perching on a tree branch or fence post before swooping down upon its victim (7) (8). Birds, such as Chilean pigeon (Columba araucana) and red-breasted meadowlark (Sturnella loyca), appear to form the major part of its diet, but it also consumes small mammals, such as rats and hares, as well as reptiles and beetles (7).

Breeding takes place between October and January, at which time a nest—comprising a platform of sticks lined with feathers and wool—is constructed high-up in a large tree. Little else is known about the rufous-tailed hawk’s nesting behaviour or parental care (5).


Rufous-tailed hawk range

Endemic to the lower Andes of Patagonia, the rufous-tailed hawk is found in low numbers in southern Chile and Argentina, as far south as the Strait of Magellan (6) (7).


Rufous-tailed hawk habitat

The rufous-tailed hawk inhabits forest and open areas, occupying both dense and scattered southern beech (Nothofagus) forest, along with steppe grassland, from sea-level to elevations of at least 1,200 metres (7).


Rufous-tailed hawk status

Classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened


Rufous-tailed hawk threats

Owing to a lack of the study, little is known about the population status of the rufous-tailed hawk. There is, however, justifiable concern that its global population may number less than 1,000 individuals, in which case it should be reclassified as threatened (6). While the rufous-tailed hawk is likely to be able to tolerate some forest fragmentation, as ongoing logging activities claim more of the larger, older trees in which this species’ builds its nests, it is likely to decline (6) (7).


Rufous-tailed hawk conservation

There are currently no known conservation measures in place for the rufous-tailed hawk. The initial priority is to conduct surveys to determine the overall population size and trend, and to clarify the threats that this species faces. Protective measures can then be put in place, such as safeguarding areas of suitable habitat against logging (6).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

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A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.


  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2009)
  2. Blake, E.R. (1977) Manual of Neotropical Birds, Volume 1. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  3. CITES (April, 2009)
  4. Gould, J. and Darwin, C.R. (1839) Birds Part 3 No. 2 of The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle. Smith Elder and Co, London. Available at:
  5. Ferguson-Lees, J. and Christie, D.A. (2001) Raptors of the World: An Identification Guide to the Birds of Prey of the World. Houghton Mifflin, New York.
  6. BirdLife International (May, 2009)
  7. Figueroa, R., Jiménez, J.E., Bravo, C.A. and Corales, E.S. (2000) The diet of the rufous-tailed hawk (Buteo ventralis) during the breeding season in southern Chile. Ornitologia Neotropical, 11: 349 - 352.
  8. Global Raptor Information Network (May, 2009)

Image credit

Female rufous-tailed hawk in flight  
Female rufous-tailed hawk in flight

© Ramon Reyes Carrasco

Ramon Reyes Carrasco


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