Wild Birds

Red-Tailed Hawks: Subspecies Identification and Ranges

Red-tailed Hawks Information Page

Subspecies: Ranges and Identification

There are fourteen recognized subspecies, which vary in appearance and range.

  • Caribbean Red-tailed Hawk, Jamaican Red-tailed Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk(Buteo jamaicensis jamaicensis), the nominate subspecies
    • Range: Northern West Indies, including Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, and the Lesser Antilles. Not found in the Bahamas or Cuba.Does not overlap in range with any other subspecies.
  • Alaska Red-tailed Hawk, Alaskan Red-tailed Hawk(Buteo jamaicensis alascensis)
    • Range: Southeastern coastal Alaska to the Queen Charlotte Islands and Vancouver Island in British Columbia.
  • Eastern Red-tailed Hawk, American Red-tailed Hawk(Buteo jamaicensis borealis)
    • Range: Migratory – Breeds in Southeast Canada and Maine south through eastern Texas and east to northern Florida. Winters in southern Ontario east to southern Maine and south to the Gulf Coast and Florida.
  • Canadian Red-tailed Hawk, Western Red-tailed Hawk, Californian Red-Tailed Hawk(Buteo jamaicensis calurus)
    • Disputed Subspecies:
      • Canadian Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis abieticolus)Saint Lucas Red-tail ( Buteo jamaicensis lucasanus)
    • Range: Migratory Western North American population. Breeds from central interior Alaska, through western Canada south to Baja California. Winters from southwestern British Columbia southwest to Guatemala and northern Nicaragua.
      • Has three color morphs: light, dark, and intermediate or rufous. Paler individuals of northern Mexico may lack the dark wing marking.
  • Red-tailed Hawk
    Florida Red-tailed Hawk(Buteo jamaicensis umbrinus)
    • Range: Resident in peninsular Florida north to Tampa Bay and the Kissimmee Prairie.
    • ID: Resembles the ssp. calurus – described above.
  • Central American Red-tailed Hawk, Costa Rican Red-tailed Hawk(Buteo jamaicensis costaricensis)
    • Range: Resident from Nicaragua to Panama.
    • ID: Upper plumage is dark brown with cinnamon flanks, wing linings and sides. Some are rufous-colored below. The chest is much less heavily streaked than in northern migrants (Buteo jamaicensis calurus).
  • Fuertes’s Red-tailed Hawk or Fuertes’ Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis fuertesi)
    • Range: Migratory. Breeds from northern Chihuahua to southern Texas. Winters in Arizona, New Mexico, and southern Louisiana.
    • ID: Darker on the back and upper wing coverts. The abdomen is unstreaked or only lightly streaked. The tail is pale.
  • Tres Marias Red-tailed Hawk (Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensisButeo jamaicensis fumosus)
    • Range: Islas Marías, Mexico – Does not overlap in range with any other subspecies
  • Buteo jamaicensis hadropus
    • Range: Mexican Highlands
  • Socorro Red-tailed Hawk(Buteo jamaicensis socorroensis)
    • Range: Socorro Island, Mexico – Does not overlap in range with any other subspecies
  • Cuban Red-tailed Hawk(Buteo jamaicensis solitudinus)
    • Range: Bahamas and Cuba – Does not overlap in range with any other subspecies
  • Buteo jamaicensis kemsiesi
    • Range: Resident in Chiapas(southeastern Mexico) to Nicaragua (Central America)
    • ID: Dark plumage. The dark wing marking may not be distinct in paler birds.
  • Krider’s Hawk, Krider’s Red-tailed Hawk(Buteo jamaicensis kriderii)
    • Some consider this subspecies invalid, as they consider kriderii a morph (probably calurus, possibly borealis).
    • Range: Breeds in southern Alberta, southern Saskatchewan, southern Manitoba, and extreme western Ontario south to south-central Montana, Wyoming, western Nebraska, and western Minnesota. Migrate south to winter South Dakota and southern Minnesota south to Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana.
    • ID: Paler plumage than other Red-tails, particularly on the head and back. Belly band faint or absent Paler head and back. The tail varies from pink to white.
  • Harlan’s Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis harlani) – previously considered a full species (Buteo harlani) or a color morph of ssp. calurus. Debate about its status is still ongoing.
    • ID: The plumage is blackish and white. The tail may be reddish, dusky, whitish, or grey and can be longitudinally streaked, mottled, or barred.
    • Range: Migratory – breeds in Alaska and northwestern Canada and winters from Nebraska and Kansas to Texas and northern Louisiana. This population may well be a separate species.
Red-tailed Hawk

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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