photo M. Noonan
The Red-shouldered hawk is a
member of the Falconiformes order, the order of diurnal birds of
prey. It is also a buteo, the genus of robust birds, usually
hawks. The name “buteo” means hawk in Latin while “lineatus” means
“striped” in Latin.
Red-shouldered Hawks are medium
sized birds of prey, with the females being larger than the males.
Males weigh about 550g (1.2lbs), are 43-58cm (17-23in) long, and
have a wingspan of 96cm (36in). Females weigh 700g (1.7lbs), are
48-61cm (19-24in) long, and have a wingspan of 105cm (42in). They
derive their name from their “red” shoulders; however, they also
have a reddish chest and bars on their underside, which is usually
light in color.
photo M. Noonan
Red-shouldered Hawks tend to live
in more densely wooded areas than the Red-tailed Hawk, and appear to
be negatively affected by human development. Their habitat focuses
around deciduous forests areas and often has a body of water
Their favorite prey is small
mammals such as mice, voles, and chipmunks. However, they will also
hunt amphibians, reptiles, and small birds such as House Sparrows,
Mourning Doves, and European Starlings at bird feeders.
Red-shouldered Hawks hunt from a
perch, however, they will sometimes fly low to ambush prey. They
may also hunt on the ground, waiting outside of the burrows of small
mammals and pouncing on them when they come out. They are often
found lower in trees than the Red-tailed Hawk and are more difficult
Red-shouldered Hawks are
monogamous and males court females through a series of aerial
maneuvers. The female lays between 2 to 4 eggs which incubate for
around 33 days. Eggs hatch at different times with a time
difference between hatching lasting up to 7 days. The male brings
food to the female while she broods the nest. After 17 to 19 weeks
the chicks become independent of the parents.
Where to see them in WNY
Red-shouldered Hawks cannot be as
easily spotted as Red-tailed Hawks. The best place to find them is
in forested areas around a body of water. One place like this in
Western New York is a Wildlife Refuge like Iroquois National