The Red-tailed hawk is the most common and largest of North Americas hawks. It ranges throughout North America to the northern limit of the tree line in Alaska and Canada, and south as far as the mountains of Panama. It is also present in much of the West Indies.  Although not truly migratory, they do adjust seasonally to areas of the most abundant prey. In winter many of the northern birds move south.

As to dimensions the Red-tailed hawk resembles the Goshawk, although, the wings are broader, the tail is shorter, and normally the weight is higher, usually between 2 and 4 pounds.  As with most raptors, the female is nearly 1/3 larger than the male and may have a wing span of 56 inches. The Red-tailed Hawk is a grouping of 14 sub-species, each of which is more or less specific to a geographical area, and differs from the others in size, markings etc. The largest Red-tailed hawks are resident birds in the East and Midwest of the U. S. Colouring varies from a very dark appearance to a very pale form.

The Red-tailed hawk is an aggressive bird and it vigorously defends its territory, especially during the winter months when hunting is difficult and up to seven of the nine hours of daylight are spent hunting. The pair bond is strong, even outside the breeding season, and the large female will defend her smaller mate against aggressors. There is evidence to suggest that Red-tailed hawks mate for life. These hawks build their nests in very high trees, and will return to the same nest year after year. The lifespan of a Red-tailed hawk is 10 - 21 years.

The female usually lays 2-3 eggs. Both the male and the female feed the brood, as they are ravenous. The young birds begin to attempt flight at 45 days old. They have a lot of growing to do in a short period of time.. The young are taught to hunt from the air by their parents who continue to find prey for them until they have gained the coordination needed to capture live prey. 

The Red-tailed hawk is a strong and aggressive bird. The key to the aggressions is considered to be the birds adaptability. It is capable of getting the maximum out of all food resources and is a very competent hunter.

In the United States the Red-tailed hawks favorite prey are gophers, mice, ground squirells, and rabbits. With a fit red-tailed hawk quarry such as partridge, pheasant, duck, moorhen and hare can be possible. 

Apart from the Harris' hawk, the Red-tailed hawk is the bird of prey which, without being imprinted, become most attached to its falconer and territory. This double binding causes that very seldom a Red-tailed hawk is lost.

Red-tailed hawks are a sign of good luck according to the Mescalero Apaches.