Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis Scientific name definitions

C. R. Preston and R. D. Beane
Version: 1.0 — Published March 4, 2020
Text last updated May 20, 2009

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


Audio Gallery, or see the full catalog of Red-tailed Hawk sound at Macaulay Library.



Young nestlings produce low, soft peeps (pipsee) while in the nest, especially in response to the arrival of parents or other disturbance (Brown and Amadon 1968, Preston 2000). Between leaving the nest and attaining independence, juveniles utter loud, persistent hunger calls (klee-uk) in rapid sequence. These calls are accompanied by rhythmic wing fluttering upon approach by parents (Fitch et al. 1946b).

Array of Sounds

Among adults, the most familiar vocalization is a 2–3 s hoarse scream, kee-eeee-arrr (Figure 4) , that rises gradually then descends near the end. Cry often signals irritation or a defensive response when its territory is entered by an intruder or perceived threat (Brown and Amadon 1968). Duration, pitch, and general quality of the scream vary greatly, presumably with age, gender, and circumstance. Often described as having a “steam-whistle” quality, (e.g. Brown and Amadon 1968). Usually produced by soaring birds, it is also uttered from a perch or during active flight. Given frequently in sequence during territorial disputes (Fitch et al. 1946b, Brown and Amadon 1968) and occasionally in response to human intrusion. Nestlings utter a softer version of the scream. During courtship flight, a sharp, shrill chwirk is produced by one or both mates (Figure 4). Several of these chirps are uttered at intervals of about a second (Fitch et al. 1946b). Mates also utter a low, nasal gannk when near one another.


No information available.

Daily Pattern

No information available.

Places of Vocalizing

Vocalizations occur most often near nest during breeding season (biased by prevalence of studies associated with breeding) and during aerial territorial displays (Bent 1937b, Palmer 1988f, Preston 2000).

Social Context and Presumed Functions

See above.

Nonvocal Sounds

None known with a communicative function.

Red-tailed Hawk Figure 4. Typical vocalizations of the Red-tailed Hawk
Figure 4. Typical vocalizations of the Red-tailed Hawk

(Top) male scream, in flight, Franklin Co., OH 19 July 1967 (Borror Lab of Bioacoustics # 9206); (Bottom) courtship calls, Oregon, 4 July 1965 (BLB # 7839).

Recommended Citation

Preston, C. R. and R. D. Beane (2020). Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.rethaw.01