Red-shouldered Hawk

Common Name: Red-shouldered Hawk

Class:  Aves

Order: Falconiformes

Family: Accipitridae

Genus: Buteo

Species: Buteo lineatus

photo M. Noonan

Taxonomy/Description

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

Habitat/Diet

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 nearby. 

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. 

Behavior/Reproduction

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 to spot. 

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 Wildlife Refuge.

 

CAC is a program of the Institute for the Study of Human-Animal Relations at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY.