When it comes to the largest birds of prey in the world, red-tailed hawks are definitely on the list. These formidable predators are commonly available all over the United States and Canada. Some other predatory birds are out there that look pretty similar to red-tailed hawks, which may confuse you a lot.
In order to identify the right species, you need to know which birds look like hawks? Red-tailed hawk look-alike birds are bald eagles, golden eagles, prairie falcons, black kites, western ospreys, northern harriers, griffon vultures, Andean condors, and some hawk species, including red-shouldered hawks and sharp-shinned hawks.
Do you want to learn some eagle look-alike birds? I have written an article on bald eagles and their similar types of birds. Once you completed reading this, we recommend you take a look at that article. You might be introduced to such birds that you have never seen before.
Now, let’s see the list of red-tailed hawk look-alike birds below.
Birds That Look Similar to Red-Tailed Hawks
01. Bald Eagle
Bald eagles, the national bird of the United States, are one of the largest raptors found in the United States, Canada, and northern Mexico. These birds are usually available near rivers, marshes, coasts, reservoirs, and lakes for an abundant food supply.
- Bald eagles are not actually bald; they’re white-headed.
- They’re dark brown overall with white heads and tails.
- They have long, hooked, bright yellow beaks.
- They have long, broad, dark brown wings.
- Their bright yellow legs are short and have sharp claws.
Bald eagles are pretty similar to most other raptors, including red-tailed hawks and golden eagles. Both bald eagles and red-tailed hawks look almost alike in terms of hooked beaks, short legs with sharp claws, and rounded tails in flight.
Although there are many similarities between these two species, bald eagles have distinctive white heads. Their beaks, legs, and eyes are bright yellow. As the name suggests, red-tailed hawks have red tails, but the tails of adult bald eagles are completely white.
02. Golden Eagle
Golden eagles are one of the largest birds of prey in the United States, found in the western parts of the United States and Northern Hemisphere. They prefer fairly open areas, including mountains, hills, cliffs, grasslands, and coniferous forests to catch their prey.
- Golden eagles have dark brown plumage with a golden-brown nape.
- They have long, broad, hooked beaks with a black tip.
- They have relatively small heads and long tails.
- They have relatively short legs with sharp claws for hunting.
- Their wings are so long with slightly pale brown flight feathers.
Golden eagles have brown plumage like red-tailed hawks. These birds also have similar types of hooked beaks, relatively small heads, short legs with sharp claws, and pale flight feathers. When in flight, both birds have rounded tails.
While red-tailed hawks have rich brown plumage, golden eagles feature dark brown feathers. Although both species have hooked beaks, great eagles come with fewer black parts. Besides, these birds don’t have entirely yellow legs.
03. Prairie Falcon
Prairie falcons are medium-sized raptors usually out there in southern Canada, the western United States, and northern Mexico. These birds are mostly found in wide-open areas, such as agricultural fields, sagebrush, deserts, prairies, plains, and alpine meadows.
- Prairie falcons are brown above and have brownish spotting below.
- They have small, hooked beaks with a yellow cere.
- They have a distinctive white line over their eyes.
- They have entirely yellow legs and feet.
- Their wings are long and sharply pointed.
Like red-tailed hawks, prairie falcons have brown feathers and white underparts. These birds also have small, hooked beaks, rounded eyes, and short yellow legs with sharp claws. When in flight, female prairie falcons have rounded tails as red-tailed hawks have.
Prairie falcons are much smaller than red-tailed hawks. These birds also have much more yellowish legs than red-tailed hawks have. In addition, prairie falcons feature a distinctive white line over their eyes, but red-tailed hawks don’t have anything like that.
04. Black Kite
Black kites are medium-sized raptors usually out there in the tropical and temperate regions of Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. Surprisingly, black kites are not entirely black. They look like black kites when they’re high enough in the sky.
- Black kites are brown overall with black wingtips.
- They have small, black, hooked beaks with a yellow cere.
- They have entirely yellow legs with sharp, black claws.
- They have a long wingspan of 140 to 150 cm.
- Their females are bigger than the males.
Black kites have brown plumage, almost the same as red-tailed hawks have. Both species have small, black, hooked beaks with a yellow cere. In both cases, the females are a bit larger than the males. Besides, both raptor birds come with almost the same wingspan length.
When it comes to differentiating between these two species, red-tailed hawks have distinctive white upperparts. When in flight, black kites appear much blacker in their wingtips. Apart from that, the tails of red-tailed hawks are rounded, but black kites have straight tails.
05. Western Osprey
Western ospreys, also known as fish hawks, are one of the most common raptors in tropical and temperate regions of the United States, particularly California, Florida, and Alaska. These birds of prey are usually found near estuaries, reservoirs, lakes, ponds, rivers, and saltmarshes.
- Western Ospreys are brown above and white with brownish spots below.
- They have mostly white flight feathers with a dark patch at the wrists.
- They have long yet narrow wings.
- They have small, black, hooked beaks and yellow rounded eyes.
- The average wingspan is 160 cm.
Western Ospreys are brown above and white below, almost the same as red-tailed hawks. These birds also have short, black beaks. Besides, they feature relatively small heads, rounded yellow eyes, and rounded tails visible in flight.
Western ospreys have brownish spots on the breast. These birds have narrower wings than red-tailed hawks have. They don’t have yellow cere like red-tailed hawks. The legs of western ospreys are not quite yellow. In this case, red-tailed hawks could be a bit smaller.
06. Northern Harrier
Northern harriers are usually found in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, particularly in northern regions in both countries. These birds prefer open and semi-open areas, such as agricultural fields, prairies, grasslands, and marshes.
- Northern harriers are overall grey but white with rump patches below.
- They have long, rounded tails and long, broad wings.
- They have a flat, owl-like face and small, sharply hooked beaks with a yellow cere.
- Their wingtips are pale black, and their eyes are rounded.
- Adult females have brown streaks on white underparts.
First of all, both species are birds of prey found throughout North America. Northern harriers have long, rounded tails and long, broad wings, almost the same as red-tailed hawks have. They also have sharply hooked beaks like most other raptors.
While red-tailed hawks are brown, northern harriers are grey. These birds also have distinctive owl-like faces. Besides, red-tailed hawks come with white below with brown patches, but northern harriers feature brown streaks on white underparts.
07. Griffon Vulture
Griffon vultures, also known as Eurasian griffons, are large raptors usually found in grasslands, semi-deserts, mountains, shrublands, and plateaus. These birds are mostly available throughout Europe. Like most other raptors, their females are a bit larger than the males.
- Griffon vultures are fulvous-brown above with rather dark wings.
- They have very white heads and a creamy-white neck ruff.
- They have short, hooked beaks and black rounded eyes.
- They have a long wingspan of 2.3 to 2.8 meters.
- Their wings are very broad, but their tails are short and black.
Griffon vultures have brown plumage like red-tailed hawks. Like the red-tailed hawks, the griffon vultures also have hooked beaks, rounded eyes, broad wings, and relatively short tails. When in flight, both species look pretty similar in their tail shape.
The most noticeable difference between these two birds is griffon vultures come with bald heads with a creamy-white neck ruff. Also, these birds are much larger than red-tailed hawks. While the legs of red-tailed hawks are yellow, griffon vultures have pale black legs.
08. Andean Condor
Andean condors are mostly available in the mountains and coastal regions of North and South America. These birds are the national symbol of Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Bolivia, and Chile. They prefer open and semi-open areas, and meadows and cliffs to overwinter.
- Andean condors are entirely dark black with white feathers at the base of the neck.
- They have short, sharply hooked beaks with no eyelashes.
- They have bald, red to blackish red heads.
- There are large white patches on the male wings.
- The average wingspan of these birds is 120 inches (50.8 cm).
Both Andean condors and red-tailed hawks are birds of prey. Andean condors feature sharply hooked beaks, short legs, and sharp claws, almost the same as red-tailed hawks have. When in flight, Andean condors look pretty similar to red-tailed hawks in their tail shape.
While red-tailed hawks have brown plumage, Andean condors come up with dark black feathers with some white feathers at the base of the neck. The most noticeable difference between these two species is the bald head and the strange-looking face of Andean condors.
09. Red-Shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered hawks are medium-sized raptors found in the eastern United States and northern Mexico. These birds of prey prefer living in bottomland forests, open upland forests, wooded suburbs, and near swamps, rivers, ponds, and lakes.
- Red-shouldered hawks have broad, rounded, black-and-white wings.
- They have warm reddish barring throughout the breast.
- They have relatively short, black tails with narrow white bands.
- They have short, sharply hooked beaks and orangish legs.
- Red-shouldered hawks in Florida have very pale, grayish heads.
Both red-tailed hawks and red-shouldered hawks belong to the same family, Accipitridae. When it comes to similarities, both birds of prey have sharply hooked beaks with a yellow cere, short legs with sharp claws, and rounded eyes.
While red-tailed hawks have wings mixed with brown and white, red-shouldered hawks feature black-and-white checkered wings. The legs of red-tailed hawks are yellow, but red-shouldered hawks have orangish legs. Besides, red-shouldered hawks are a bit smaller.
10. Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Sharp-shinned hawks are one of the smallest hawks found in North America. These birds of prey breed in deep forest areas. They’re usually available in open habitats or flying high in the sky. In order to survive in nonbreeding seasons, they hunt small birds and mammals.
- Sharp-shinned hawks have slaty blue-grey plumage.
- They have red-orange bars throughout the breast.
- They have long, square-tipped tails with broad dark bands.
- They have short, rounded wings and relatively small heads.
- Their beaks are black with a yellow cere, and their short legs are yellow.
As you already know, both sharp-shinned hawks and red-tailed hawks belong to the same family, Accipitridae. When it comes to physical similarities, sharp-shinned hawks have yellow rounded eyes, short yellow legs, and sharply hooked beaks like red-tailed hawks.
Sharp-shinned hawks are much smaller than red-tailed hawks. While red-tailed hawks have brown and white plumage, sharp-shinned hawks come up with slaty blue-grey feathers above and horizontal red-orange bars below. Besides, sharp-shinned hawks have much longer tails.
Now that you know the birds that look like hawks, you can easily identify red-tailed hawks and their lookalikes and similar species. In terms of appearance, golden eagles, prairie falcons, black kites, and other hawk species are quite similar to red-tailed hawks.
However, other similar birds, such as western ospreys, northern harriers, and griffon vultures are quite easy to identify due to their distinctive features. Many birders consider bald eagles as the same as red-tailed hawks, but bald eagles have white heads and necks.