OBJECTIVE: To compare isoflurane, sevoflurane and desflurane for inhalant anesthesia in red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) in terms of the speed and characteristics of induction; cardiovascular and respiratory parameters while anesthetized; and speed and quality of recovery. STUDY DESIGN: Prospective, cross over, randomized experimental study. ANIMALS: 12 healthy adult red-tailed hawks. METHODS: Anesthesia was induced with isoflurane, sevoflurane or desflurane in oxygen via face mask in a crossover, randomized design with a 1 week washout period between each treatment. Hawks were tracheally intubated, allowed to breathe spontaneously, and instrumented for cardiopulmonary monitoring. Data collected included heart rate, respiratory rate, end-tidal CO(2) , inspired and expired agent, SpO(2,) temperature, systolic blood pressure, time to intubation and time to recovery (tracking). Recovery was subjectively scored on a 4 point scale as well as a summary evaluation, by a single blinded observer. RESULTS: No significant difference in time to induction and time to extubation was noted with the administration of isoflurane, sevoflurane or desflurane. Time to the ability of the bird to follow a moving object with its eyes (tracking) was significantly faster with the administration of sevoflurane and desflurane. All recoveries were scored 1 or 2 and were assessed as good to excellent. No significant difference was noted in heart rate, blood pressure and temperature among the three inhalants. Administration of isoflurane resulted in lower respiratory rates. CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: Overall, although isoflurane remains the most common inhaled anesthetic in avian practice, sevoflurane and desflurane both offer faster time to tracking, while similar changes in cardiopulmonary function were observed with each agent during anesthesia of healthy red-tailed hawks.