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The Red-Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) is a raptor that can be found from the eastern United States to Mexico. This species of hawk has been observed by ornithologists since the early 19th century and continues to inhabit its range today.

It is an interesting species due to its complex life history, behavior and diet. This article aims to provide information on the ecology and conservation status of this bird of prey as well as its overall taxonomy, distribution, habitat and population size.

As a medium-sized Buteo in North America, the Red-Shouldered Hawk measures between 42 – 58 cm in length with a wingspan ranging from 96 – 127 cm. Its upperparts are reddish brown while its underparts have white patches along its chestnut belly. The head may appear whitish or grey depending on age and sex. The tail is typically banded black and white which distinguishes it from other hawks in its family.

This hawk prefers deciduous woodlands for nesting but has also been known to nest in wetlands or agricultural areas such as pastures or row crops. As an opportunistic feeder, it will hunt small vertebrates including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish and insects. Additionally, carrion may form part of their diet as well during winter months when food sources are scarce.


The Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) is an iconic predator of North America, ranging from southern Canada to northern Central and South America. It is the only species of hawk in its genus Buteo that exhibits a red patch on its shoulder. Identification of this species can be done by taking note of their size, coloration, shape, and behavior.

In terms of size, individuals range between 17–24 inches in length with wingspan measurements usually between 36–43 inches across. They weigh anywhere from 10 ounces up to 2 pounds and typically have longer tails than most other hawks found in the same region.

Coloration patterning varies geographically but generally the upper side parts are dark brown or blackish with lighter streaks while underparts are white or light colored with reddish barring along the flanks and shoulders. The signature feature for identification is the conspicuous bright red patches located just above each wing at the top part near their shoulders when perched atop branches or flying in flight paths.

Shape wise, they possess broad rounded wings which aid them during aerial maneuvers as well as soaring flights during migration periods. Their heads tend to be rounder compared to other members within their family like Sharp-shinned Hawks and Cooper’s Hawks, though all three can exhibit similar behavior such as hovering over prey before swooping down for capture.

In addition to typical behaviors associated with raptors like talon clutching preys and territoriality towards intruders through vocalizations, Red-shouldered Hawks also engage in communal roosts where multiple individuals aggregate together during winter months for protection against predators and harsh weather conditions.

Overall, identifying Red-shouldered Hawks involves assessing characteristics related to physical features including size, coloration patterns, shapes, and behaviour exhibited during certain activities like hunting and migrating. Through these criteria one should be able to discern if a bird belongs to this particular species without too much difficulty provided external factors do not interfere with observations being made in field settings.

Range And Habitat

The red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) is widely distributed in North America, ranging from southern Canada to northern Florida and Mexico.

It has a hawkish habitat preference for mature woodlands, including deciduous or mixed forests, bottomland hardwoods, riparian woodland corridors, swampy forest edges and coastal areas with tall trees. In the western US its range extends into open habitats such as oak savannahs, chaparral scrub slopes and grasslands adjacent to wooded canyons.

Red-shouldered hawks require well-structured habitats that provide ample food sources and suitable nesting sites. The species relies heavily on dense foliage near water for perching and nesting but also utilizes large hollow branches of dead trees for nesting purposes. They hunt primarily from lower parts of their habitat such as treetops or low shrubs where they have good visibility to detect prey movements on the ground below them.

This species exhibits typical seasonal movements related to climate change; individuals return northward in spring after wintering at more southerly ranges during cold months. Red-shouldered hawks occupy territories over a variety of sizes across different regions due to variations in availability of resources like food supply and nest sites; however, some birds may travel hundreds of miles while searching for new breeding grounds if required by environmental conditions.

In summary, the red-shouldered hawk’s range distribution allows it access to diverse habitats throughout much of North America which meet its basic requirements for survival thus enabling it to thrive year round within these various environments.

Diet And Feeding Habits

The diet of the red-shouldered hawk is mainly composed of small mammals and amphibians, as well as invertebrates such as insects. The bird’s hunting technique consists primarily of hawking its food from a low perch or in flight with short glides.

Prey capture is achieved by either diving directly on prey or by hovering at medium height before swooping down. In addition to this method of hunting, the red-shouldered hawk also scavenges for dead animals or carrion and occasionally eats fruit or berries.

A typical bird diet includes:

  • Small Mammals: mice, voles, squirrels, moles and rabbits
  • Amphibians: frogs, salamanders and snakes
  • Invertebrates: grasshoppers, crickets, beetles and caterpillars
  • Other sources of food: carrion, fruits and berries

An individual’s diet depends on what is available within their range; however studies have shown that rodents are the most common item found in the stomach contents of the red-shouldered hawk. Rodents offer high caloric value which helps support their active lifestyle during breeding season when energy requirements are higher than usual.

Therefore it may be assumed that they consume more vertebrate prey during periods where there is an increased need for energy reserves.

Breeding And Nesting

The red-shouldered hawk is a monogamous bird, and the breeding season of this species typically falls between February and April. During this period, the hawks work together to build their nests in trees or large shrubs that are usually located close to water sources such as wetlands, swamps, rivers, creeks or lakes. The nest is constructed from sticks and twigs lined with softer materials like grasses and bark strips which may be supplemented by feathers or fur.

During incubation of eggs, which takes around 28 days on average, both male and female share incubating duties until they hatch.

Once hatched, juveniles remain in the nesting area for up to two months before attempting flight at approximately 8 weeks old. Both parents contribute to rearing young during this time; providing food and protection while teaching them hunting skills needed for survival when they become independent adults.

In addition to parental care after hatching, mating behavior has also been observed amongst adult pairs prior to egg laying in order to strengthen pair bonds for successful reproduction. Such behaviors include calling back and forth between partners followed by aerial displays involving swooping dives towards each other before flying off into different directions.

These activities have been documented as common occurrences amongst red-shouldered hawks during their breeding season and serve an important role in ensuring successful offspring production for future generations.

Behaviors And Adaptations

The red-shouldered hawk is an active predator that employs a variety of hunting strategies. It often hunts in pairs or small groups and uses cooperative hunting techniques to flush out its prey, such as rodents, birds, snakes, and other creatures.

The hawk also utilizes soaring flight while searching for food. Its wings are long and broad which allows it to remain aloft without flapping them. During the spring months, individuals migrate southwards from their breeding grounds in North America towards warmer climates during wintertime.

Vocalization plays an important role in communication between members of the same species. Red-shouldered hawks have five distinct calls – kyeee-ahh, keeyuhk-aaww, kiik-kiik, quaaawk and cheeer – which they use to deliver messages about territory boundaries or general warnings.

Visual signals are another form of communication utilized by these raptors; males spread their tails and raise their crests when interacting with potential mates.

Red-shouldered hawks possess several adaptations that help them survive within their environment including sharp eyesight for spotting prey from great distances and powerful talons for grasping onto victims. They can live up to 15 years in the wild but typically do not exceed 10 years due to predation pressures from larger predators like eagles or owls.

Conservation Status

The conservation status of the red-shouldered hawk is an area of concern due to population decline. Conservation efforts are being employed in order to protect and preserve this species.

EndangeredHawaii, Puerto Rico, California
ThreatenedEast Coast (U.S.)
Secure/StableElsewhere in North America

At a global level, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature classifies the red-shouldered hawk as “Least Concern” due to its relatively wide distribution across North American habitats. In specific regions, however, levels of endangerment have been reported.

For example, populations on Hawaii and Puerto Rico are listed as endangered since they exhibit sharp declines from habitat destruction and other human activities that threaten their survival.

Likewise, throughout much of the eastern United States including parts of Florida and Georgia there has been an overall decrease in breeding pairs which has led to its threatened classification by The U.S Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS). Conversely, some areas such as Pennsylvania show stable or secure trends with no significant population decreases over time.

This exemplifies how complex conservation efforts must be tailored towards protecting local populations while preserving broad geographic ranges.

In order to ensure a healthy future for the red-shouldered hawk it is important that conservation initiatives continue especially within regions exhibiting declining numbers. Such measures include habitat protection plans through legislative reform along with public education programs aimed at raising awareness about this species’ plight.

Research into potential causes behind population fluctuations should also be conducted in order to gain further insight into how best to help this species survive long term threats posed by climate change and land use transformation among others. With concerted effort these actions may prove successful in safeguarding against extinction allowing us all to appreciate both the beauty and importance of this raptor for years ahead.

Fun Facts

The red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) is a medium-sized bird of prey that is part of the buteonine group. This species ranges throughout most parts of North America and some Caribbean islands, with its migration patterns varying by region.

They have a distinct vocalization which consists of both loud screams and softer calls; their call has been described as “kee-aah” or “kierr-aahoo”. It hunts for small to medium sized prey such as squirrels, snakes, lizards, rodents and birds using two main hunting techniques: sitting still on an exposed perch while scanning for potential meals or actively pursuing them in flight.

Due to its large size compared to other raptorial birds like kestrels and falcons, they are able to hunt larger animals than these smaller species can handle. Their diet includes amphibians, reptiles, fish and invertebrates making it one of the more diverse feeders amongst raptors.

Red-shouldered hawks also often use teams when feeding on large mammals like rabbits – two hawks will approach from different directions so that there’s no escape route for the prey item. Additionally, this species tends to form family groups during nesting season where parents take turns caring for offspring until they fledge at about 6 weeks old.

This species’ wide range across North America makes it one of the continent’s most commonly seen hawks; however due to habitat destruction and illegal shooting it remains vulnerable in certain areas. Conservation efforts focus on protecting migratory routes, promoting public education programs about this species and continuing research into their ecology and behavior.


The red-shouldered hawk is a medium sized raptor native to North America, and it has adapted well to living in close proximity to humans. This species is easily recognizable due to its distinct markings of reddish shoulders and barred tail feathers. It inhabits deciduous woodlands across the eastern half of the United States, with some populations found as far west as California.

Red-shouldered hawks feed mainly on small mammals such as mice, voles, squirrels and rabbits; they may also supplement their diet with birds or reptiles when available. The breeding season usually begins in late winter and nesting often takes place in tall trees near water sources. Pairs will defend their territories aggressively against intruders, though these behaviors are most common during breeding season.

In recent years there has been an increase in conservation initiatives aimed at preserving this species’ population numbers. Although still listed as a least concern species by the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species, human activities have caused significant decline in the number of red-shouldered hawks over time. Various protection measures have been implemented to ensure that this beautiful bird can thrive for many more generations to come.