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Red-shouldered Hawk Buteo lineatus


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Red-shouldered Hawk
credit: Rworsnop

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Accipitridae, Hawks and Eagles view all from this family

Description ADULT ssp. lineatus (the typical subspecies in east) Has mostly faintly barred reddish orange underparts, dark streaking on breast; vent feathers are whitish. Head is streaked brown, and feathers on upperparts are boldly marked with black, white, and brown; note the reddish "shoulders." In flight, seen from below, body and wing coverts are barred pale reddish orange, while flight feathers and tail are barred black and white (black bands wider than the white); note pale bases to primaries, which form a narrow band. From above, reddish inner wing coverts ("shoulders") and head contrast with otherwise dark plumage, but note the strongly barred tail. Southern subspecies are similar, but without streaks on breast. Florida ssp. extimus is very pale overall. Represented in California, outside region covered by this book, by ssp. elegans, which is more rufous overall and has wider tail bands. JUVENILE Recalls adult counterparts but is dark brown above and paler below, heavily streaked on breast, with dark-tipped primaries and more evenly barred tail.

Dimensions Length: 16-24" (41-61 cm); Wngspn: 3' 4" (1 m)

Habitat Common in riverside and swamp woodland, usually near water. Mostly resident but northern birds move south in fall.

Observation Tips Easiest to see displaying in spring.

Range Southeast, Texas, Eastern Canada, Southwest, Northwest, California, Florida, Plains, New England, Rocky Mountains, Great Lakes, Mid-Atlantic

Voice Breeding birds utter a shrill, repeated Kee-yur call.

Discussion Familiar and well-marked hawk. Subtle plumage variations exist among the several recognized subspecies that occur across its wide range, but all adults show striking reddish orange "shoulders." Adopts an upright posture when perched and mostly employs a sit-and-wait hunting approach, scanning ground from an unobtrusive woodland perch (typically a branch); feeds on small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and large insects. In flight, note broad, rounded wings and rounded tail, which is often fanned. Sexes are similar, but geographical variation is discernible with care.