The White-tailed Hawk is a hawk of the prairie. It is a medium-sized hawk, 18-22 inches in length and has a 49-53 inch wingspan.
The plumage is generally gray. The upper back is neutral to dark gray; the lower back is white. The shoulders of the wings are reddish brown, while the wings themselves are darker gray. The tail is white, barred with thin bands of grey, ending in a broad black bar and a thin white tip. The underparts are white with reddish-brown barring on the sides of the breast and belly, ending at the rump. The head is dark gray, with white chin and neck. The spot between the beak and the eye, or the lore, is white. The White-tail is reported to have a dark phase, but this is unconfirmed. The Handbook of North American Birds, v.5 states simply that the White-tailed Hawk has a darker-colored version, which is not a phase but just a darker bird. The darker version, or perhaps phase, has a dark grey lower back and underside, the belly barred reddish brown and white, and darker grey stripes on the tail. Notes- Color Phases
Immatures are dark brown on the top, as well as the undersides. The breast has a white patch, and there is a white U above the base of the tail. The tail is light gray, with fine, undistinguishable bands.
Nests are built in trees, usually within 12 feet of the ground. They are built of sticks, and become quite large after constant reuse. 2-3 eggs are laid between February and May. The eggs are white to pale blue. Most of them have small brown spots. They are incubated for 31 days, and fly in 54-57 days.
White-tailed Hawks usually soar and circle in search of prey, but may also perch-hunt for food. They are adept at piracy and often use wildfires as sources of easy food. The White-tail mainly eats small birds, mammals up to the size of a jackrabbit, lizards and snakes, frogs, large insects, and the occasional carcass.
They are found along the Gulf Coast of Texas as far south as the Rio Grande and north almost to the Texas-Louisiana border. They prefer open and sub-open spaces, such as prarie, savanna and sparsely forested areas.