Here in Arkansas we had the frist snow fall of the year on January 9. It was a light dusting and the weather continued to get colder as the day went by. Right around lunch time, when there was just a few flurries of snow, a red-shouldered hawk was hunting for a meal. This bird of prey is sometimes confused with the red-tailed hawk.
He perched on a limb for a while and then decided to fly off and search for some more food before the weather turned very bad.
It’s one of our most distinctively marked common hawks, with barred reddish-peachy underparts and a strongly banded tail. In flight, translucent crescents near the wingtips help to identify the species at a distance. These forest hawks hunt prey ranging from mice to frogs and snakes.
- Although the American Crow often mobs the Red-shouldered Hawk, sometimes the relationship is not so one-sided. They may chase each other and try to steal food from each other. They may also both attack a Great Horned Owl and join forces to chase the owl out of the hawk’s territory.
- The Great Horned Owl often takes nestling Red-shouldered Hawks, but the hawk occasionally turns the tables. While a Red-shouldered Hawk was observed chasing a Great Horned Owl, its mate took a young owl out of its nest and ate it.
- Red-shouldered Hawks return to the same nesting territory year after year. One Red-shouldered Hawk occupied a territory in southern California for 16 consecutive years.
- By the time they are five days old, nestling Red-shouldered Hawks can shoot their feces over the edge of their nest. Bird poop on the ground is a sign of an active nest.
- The Red-shouldered Hawk is divided into five subspecies. The four eastern forms contact each other, but the West Coast form is separated from the eastern forms by 1600 km (1000 mi). The northern form is the largest. The form in very southern Florida is the palest, having a gray head and very faint barring on the chest.
- The oldest-known Red-shouldered hawk was a female, and at least 25 years, 10 months old when she was recaptured and re released during banding operations in California. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Redshouldered_Hawk/lifehistory
In this photo take a look at this birds talons. I never knew that a hawks talons were so big. It is so amazing to see these birds up close. Such beauty with red and brown markings and bars on their tails.
Size & Shape
Red-shouldered Hawks are medium-sized, with broad, rounded wings and medium-length tails that they fan out when soaring. In flight, they often glide or soar with their wingtips pushed slightly forward, imparting a distinctive, “reaching” posture.
Adults are colorful hawks with dark-and-white checkered wings and warm reddish barring on the breast. The tail is black with narrow white bands. Immatures are brown above and white below streaked with brown. All ages show narrow, pale crescents near the wingtips in flight.
Red-shouldered Hawks soar over forests or perch on tree branches or utility wires. Its rising, whistled kee-rah is a distinctive sound of the forest. They hunt small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles either from perches or while flying.
Look for Red-shouldered Hawks in deciduous woodlands, often near rivers and swamps. They build stick nests in a main crotch of a large tree. During migration, Red-shouldered Hawks often move high overhead along ridges or along the coast.
Red-shouldered Hawks in the Northeast tend to be brownish overall. Florida birds have very pale, grayish heads, while those in California are very richly colored with a rusty head.
Such a beauty.