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I Have a Newfound Appreciation for Red-Tailed Hawks and Their Size!

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

A Red-Tailed Hawks Size is Something to Reckon With



A red-tailed hawk sitting upon a branch within a tree
Red-Tailed Hawk (media by JC)



My family and I were on a winter hike this past weekend and encountered a Red-Tailed Hawk. It was at my wife's request that we partake in this little family excursion as she wanted to see the newly fallen snow on the trees and take in a new amount of scenery. It was a cold day, but we all bundled up accordingly, grabbed a quick lunch, and headed to the nearest state park.

Walking across a snow-covered bridge in southern Michigan
Traversing a Snow-Covered Bridge (media by JC)


The surroundings were as expected, and it was nice to see several people traversing the snow, whether hiking, snow-shoeing, fat-tire biking, or cross-country skiing. We appreciated the calming quiet of the expanse laid out before us. Despite my daughter's complaints of being tired, it was an overall pleasing experience and a break from the monotony of our daily lives.


Roughly 3/4 of the way into our hike, I looked up ahead and saw a rather large bird at eye level flying towards me. I was surprised and anxious because seeing something so significant flying effortlessly and quietly directly toward me on our path was unusual. This was no small bird, and I quickly shouted a few bird guesses to my wife, with Hawk being low on my list. I believe Owl was one of my first guesses. I was also happy to see the bird was not flying to attack me, but rather, it was flying toward a branch to perch on not too far above us.


I mentioned the large size of the Red-Tailed Hawk, and true to form, they are some of the most giant birds in America. It is also true they only weigh roughly 3 pounds. The largeness of the bird can be credited to its wingspan, which can range from 3 to nearly 5 feet in width. I was happy to learn this as I wondered if I had imagined how imposing this bird looked as it was flying towards us. Here are a few other fun facts I learned at allaboutbirds.org:

The oldest known wild Red-tailed Hawk was at least 30 years, 8 months old when it was found in Michigan in 2011, the same state where it had been banded in 1981.
The Red-tailed Hawk has a thrilling, raspy scream that sounds exactly like a raptor should sound. At least, that’s what Hollywood directors seem to think. Whenever a hawk or eagle appears onscreen, no matter what species, the shrill cry on the soundtrack is almost always a Red-tailed Hawk.

As I read further into hawks, I was amazed at the symbolism these beautiful birds hold for some people. I adopted this symbol described on worldbirds.com as it fit our excursion well.

A hawk facing you with its white breast in full view is a good omen. But, if a hawk shows you its back, it is a bad omen.

If you peruse this website, there is more good and bad symbolism. For this article and my family, I am keeping it all positive. Ultimately, it was a good experience, and I felt fortunate we could get so close to this majestic creature.

A video of a red-tailed hawk perched within a tree
Red-Tailed Hawk (media by JC)


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