red-shouldered hawk

Interesting Facts About Red-shouldered Hawks (Detailed)

Hawks are amazing birds that we have grown to admire. They are graceful and efficient hunters, as well as beautiful creatures.

Red-shouldered hawks in particular have some interesting facts about them that many people may not know. This information can help people learn more about these fascinating birds of prey.​​​​​​​

Quick Facts

  • Identification: The red shouldered hawk has a reddish-brown head, with black and white barring on the wings, red patch on the shoulder, and a rust orange color on the breast with faint white barring and a pale belly. The tail is black with white bars.
  • Length: 16.5-24.4″ in. (42-62 cm)
  • Weight: 17.1-27.3 oz. (485-775 g)
  • Wingspan: 37.4-44.0″ in.(95-112 cm)​​​​​​​
  • Order: Accipitriformes
  • Family: Accipitridae
  • Genus: Buteo
  • Scientific Name: Buteo lineatus
  • Range: Eastern North America, the Great Plains of the United States and Canada, and parts of Central America​​​​​​​.
  • Habitat: Open country such as fields, meadows, pastures, parks, woodlands, orchards, vineyards, suburbs.
  • Diet: Small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, large insects, and other invertebrates​​​​​​​.
  • Population: 100,000 individuals
  • Conservation Status: Listed Least Concern (Population is Increasing)

The Red-shouldered Hawk Has a Large Distribution Range.

The Red-shouldered hawk is a bird of prey that lives in the United States and parts of South America. They are usually found from southeastern Arizona to South Carolina and south to Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, and northern Argentina. This means they have a large range! 

They Prefer To Live In Open Habitats.

The red shouldered hawk prefers open habitats such as meadows, prairies, savannas, wetlands, deserts and pastures. They are seen in most habitats, but they prefer to be near water sources like lakes or rivers because it provides food for them.​​​​​​​

Red-shouldered Hawks Have a Unique Diet.

They usually eat small mammals like squirrels, rabbits, rats and mice; however they will also eat other animals such as frogs, fish and even snakes if the opportunity arises.

They Get Their Name From The Red Patches On Their Shoulders.​​​​​​​

Red-shouldered hawks get their name from the red patches on their shoulders. They have a red patch on their shoulders that is difficult to see in flight, but is visible when they are perched. The patch can vary in size from male to female, with males having larger patches than females do.​​​​​​​

Red-shouldered hawk
Photo by Trac Vu on Unsplash

Red-shouldered Hawks Have a Long Lifespan.

Red shouldered hawks typically live for an average of 19 years in the wild, but some have been known to live for almost 30 years! 

Red-shouldered Hawks Are Large Birds.

Red-shouldered hawks can grow up to 2 feet tall and have a wingspan of over 3.5 feet wide, making them one of the largest members of the hawk family found in North America.

The Red Shouldered Hawk Doesn’t Migrate, But It Still Moves.

The red shouldered hawk is not a migratory bird, but does move from areas with extreme winter conditions. They stay in one area during the winter months, but will relocate to more temperate areas for breeding season and nesting grounds. 

In the northeast, this means that they may be found in Connecticut and Massachusetts during the winter months before returning to their original range near South Carolina.

Females Are Larger Than Males. 

Female red-shouldered hawks are larger than males. Females are about an inch taller, and weight about 200 grams heavier than the male. This is due to a higher metabolic rate in females, which makes them more likely to be dominant over males.

Female red-shouldered hawks will hunt for food with their mate during the breeding season, but when it comes time to nest, they do most of the work themselves.

Red-shouldered Hawks Mate For Life.

Red-shouldered hawks mate for life. The male and female of the species form monogamous relationships, and both sexes will work together to find food for their young.

The mating season starts in March, when they can be seen flocking with other red-shouldered hawks in large trees near water sources such as creeks or ponds.

Males are territorial during this time, defending a nest site from others males and any other potential predators that may try to intrude.

Red-shouldered Hawks Breed Between March and July.

The breeding season for red-shouldered hawks begins in March and continues until July. They have 1 brood per year, and can lay up to two to five eggs at a time, which hatch after about five to six weeks of incubation. ​​​​​​​

Red-shouldered Hawk
Photo by Ryk Naves on Unsplash

They Build Massive Nests.

Red-shouldered hawks build nests out of sticks, sprigs, lichens, bark, twigs and grass that can be up to 2 feet in diameter. The nest is usually placed high on a tree or utility pole for protection from predators.

Red-shouldered Hawks Fly at an Average Speed of 20-40 mph.

Red-shouldered hawks are known for their speed and agility. These raptors typically fly at an average speed of 20-40 mph (32-64 km/h).​​​​​​​

These Hawks are One of the Fastest Animals on Earth.

The Red-shouldered Hawk is one of the fastest animals on Earth. While hunting, they can reach speeds up to 100 mph (160 km/h). These hawks are known for their skills in catching other birds mid-flight.

They hunt by watching and waiting from a perch or circling high above in the sky until prey comes into view. They use this speed to their advantage in order to catch prey and are able to strike with great force and accuracy at high speeds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why are Red-shouldered hawks so noisy?

Males will screech during mating season to declare its territory, which is usually an area with water or wetlands nearby. Females may also call out while perched in the nest when she has found food for her offspring. 

How much can a Red-shouldered hawk lift?

The maximum weight that the Red-shouldered hawk can fly off with at once is four pounds, and even then it can be difficult for them to take off.

Are Red-shouldered hawks dangerous?

Red-shouldered hawks can be quite aggressive when they have eggs or a nest with their young nearby. It is possible for them to attack people that come too close to them while they are nesting. There have been cases where they have attacked humans, but it is very rare for them to do so.

Where do Red-shouldered hawks sleep?

There are several possible places red-shouldered hawks could sleep: on branches or in tall trees near the trunk, in thick brush, under loose bark, in caves, on cliff ledges or outcroppings.

Do Red-shouldered hawks hunt at night?

Red-shouldered hawks are a type of bird that prefers to hunt for mall mammals, amphibians, reptiles and insects during daylight hours, though they will hunt at night if necessary.

Are Red-shouldered hawks rare?

The red-shouldered hawk, which is found throughout North America, was once considered to be a common bird but has now become rare due to its shrinking habitat and exposure to environmental hazards such as pesticides. The largest population of Red-shouldered hawks can be found in Florida where they occupy most forested habitats and wetland areas. 

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