Red-tailed hawks are the most familiar and common hawks in North America, often seen soaring overhead and perched upon posts scanning the ground below for their next meal. Red-tailed hawks and other hawks are raptors, which are carnivores.
All raptors share three characteristics: sharp talons, good eyesight and a hooked beak. All these characteristics make them skilled at hunting other animals. Red-tailed hawks mostly eat small mammals such as mice, wood rats, rabbits, ground squirrels and voles, and they also sometimes eat birds. They are capable of catching animals larger than them, weighing up to 5 pounds.
These hawks can live in almost every kind of habitat, from the deserts of the American southwest to the tropical rainforests of Mexico. In Illinois, we see them in woodlands and grasslands, and they are common in both rural and urban areas.