Red-tailed hawks build their nests by collecting and combining branches that are 1/2-inch thick and 2 to 3 feet long. Red-tailed hawks generally build nests at the top of trees, next to their trunks, or on cliff ledges and tall human-made structures.
Red-tailed hawk pairs create their nests at the beginning of the nesting season, which starts after the courting process in late winter and early spring. Many hawk pairs refurbish old nests that they constructed in previous years or that were abandoned by other pairs. Both male and female hawks take part in building the nests.
Nesting sites vary greatly depending on the local habitat. Red-tailed hawks prefer to build their nests high in the open, which provides them a good view of the surrounding land. In forests this means that red-tailed hawks generally nest on the tops of tall trees. In more open areas, the hawks may nest on trees in open fields, cliff ledges, telephone poles and even apartment towers in some urban areas. Red-tailed hawks may abandon their nesting site if disturbed early in the nesting process.
Red-tailed hawks spend approximately four to seven days building their nests. After completing the branch structure, they line the nest with bark, dry vegetation and fresh leaves to create a soft, warm environment for their young. The female then lays one to five eggs, which the pair incubates in turns for approximately 30 days.