Red-shouldered Hawks, Buteo lineatus
Red-shouldered Hawks have a widespread distribution across eastern and parts of western North America. They are found from southern Canada to Florida and as far west as California. They inhabit a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, swamps, and riparian areas near water bodies. They are adaptable birds and can tolerate some level of human presence as long as suitable habitat features and prey availability are present.
Red-shouldered Hawks have a distinctive reddish-brown coloration on their shoulders, which contrasts with their barred underparts and reddish barring on the breast. They also have a prominent white belly with black bands. They are known for their loud, piercing vocalizations, including a distinctive call that sounds like “kee-yer.”
They perch on a high vantage point and scan their surroundings for prey. They also engage in aerial hunting, swooping down to capture prey on the ground or in flight. They primarily feed on small mammals, including mice, voles, rabbits, and squirrels. They also consume birds, reptiles, amphibians, and occasionally insects.
Red-shouldered Hawks build stick nests in the canopy of trees, usually near water sources. They often choose tall trees, such as oaks or pines, for nesting. The nests are constructed by both the male and female and are composed of sticks, lined with softer materials like moss, bark, leaves, or greenery. The nests are typically located near the trunk or main branches of the tree, providing stability and protection.
Females lay 2 to 4 eggs, with each egg laid at intervals of about 1 to 2 days. Incubation lasts around 28 to 32 days, primarily performed by the female, while the male provides food. After hatching, both parents participate in raising and feeding the young. The chicks are initially fed a diet of small prey, such as insects, and as they grow, they are gradually introduced to larger prey brought by their parents. The young hawks develop their flight feathers and coordination before fledging.
The fledging period for Red-shouldered Hawks occurs approximately 5 to 6 weeks after hatching. The young hawks leave the nest and begin to explore nearby branches, gradually strengthening their flight muscles and improving their hunting skills. The parents continue to provide food and guidance during this period.
Red-shouldered Hawks are generally non-migratory birds. However, some individuals and populations may undertake short-distance movements in search of food during winter or in response to habitat conditions.