Red-tailed Hawks, especially in the West, have highly variable plumage, including dark and rufous phases. They have long, broad wings and short, wide tails. Most have light breasts and dark streaks forming a mottled ‘belly-band.’ Most have dark brown heads. The underwings are mottled dark and light. All plumages of Red-tailed Hawks have a darkish band on the leading edges of the inner underwings, known as the ‘patagial’ markings. The upper side of the tail of most adult birds is deep rufous, although the Harlan’s Red-tailed Hawk, a subspecies occasionally seen in Washington, has a light gray or banded tail. Light birds often have a faint white ‘V’ on their back-feathers that can be seen when they are perched. Juveniles lack the red tail.

 

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