Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk from Don DesJardin on Vimeo.

The first place I ever saw a Red-shouldered Hawk was Oak Canyon Nature Center. It was in the parking lot. A pair was nesting and could be seen in the oak trees in the parking lot. The ranger had gotten his hat knocked off by a hawk for just being there. This although sounds more like a Cooper's Hawk, but my recollection is that it was the Red-Shouldered Hawk. They are loud hawks, and several times recently when I went to Oak Canyon Nature Center, I could hear them. I did not see the Red-shouldered Hawks, but they sure were loud. They are considered one of the most vocal hawks in the US. One of the staff told me that they are often seen in the Anaheim Hills on the light posts.

Red-Shouldered Hawk Courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service

The Red-shouldered hawk has has barring across the chest and black-and-white checkerboard like pattern on the wings with a reddish, cinnamon shoulder. The underside of the wings are heavily barred with black and white bars and cinnamon wing linings. The most obvious difference between the Red-tailed Hawk and the Red-shouldered is the amount of cinnamon coloring and the black-and-white wings. The Red-tailed Hawk has a reddish tail and the Red-shouldered has a barred tail. Red-tailed do not usually call repeatedly like the Red-shouldered. The habitat is also different.

Stuffed Red-Shouldered Hawk at Oak Canyon Nature Center. A good place to see the real thing.

It makes sense that I first saw the Red-shouldered Hawk at Oak Canyon Nature Center and that I have seen them at El Dorado Nature Center. These two Nature Centers have two things in common: trees and water. Red-shouldered Hawks are hawks of the woodlands and forests more than the open spaces. They are larger than Accipiter who have smaller bodies and pointed wings and fly quickly through the trees after birds. Red-shouldered Hawks are Buteos like the Red-tailed Hawk. They have large, broad wings that are good for soaring. Of the five subspecies, only one is in the West. They are non -migratory.

YouTube video of a Red-Shoulder Hawk sitting in a tree. Notice the black-and-white wings.

The markings of male and female are the same with the only difference being size. As in most hawks, the female Red-Shouldered Hawk is larger than the male. It has a yellow cere above its beak. The legs are yellow as well. The male and female have a dramatic courtship in the sky like many hawks, diving and flying. The male and female build the nest. They are monogamous.

Loud Red-shouldered Hawk. After this, you will know what it sounds like.

Their diet consists mainly of mammals--especially rodents. They also will eat reptiles and amphibians and crayfish. Additionally, they will eat small birds. Large insects are sometime eaten. Since they have been known on occasion to eat chickens, they are sometimes hunted and killed by farmers trying to protect their chickens.

When you are birding among oak woodlands or among other trees, check the branches for the noisy, a cinnamon colored hawk. You just might spot a Red-Shouldered Hawk.

OC Birder Girl Links

American Kestrel--Falco sparverius

Cooper's Hawk--Accipiter cooperii

Osprey--Pandion haliaetus

Red-Tailed Hawk--Buteo jamaicensis

Turkey Vultures--Cathartes aura

White-Tailed Kite--Elanus leucurus

External Links and Resources

All About Birds: Red Shouldered Hawk

Usual detailed article includes range, call, diet, habits.

Animal Diversity Web: Red-Shouldered Hawk

Very good detailed article. Includes photographs, habitat info, description, conservation information, and much more.

Birding Sonoma County: How to Identify Red-Tailed and Red-Shouldered Hawks in Sonoma County, CA.

Great post by one of my favorite bird bloggers on how to differentiate the Red-shouldered from the Red-tailed. Very good color sketches--which are one of the highlights of this Northern California blog.

Internet Bird Collection: Red Shouldered Hawk

Videos of Red-shouldered Hawk

The Peregrine Fund: Red-shouldered Hawk

Nice article.

Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center: Red-Shouldered Hawk

Pictures of the Red-shouldered Hawk.

USGS Red-shouldered Hawk

Nice short article with photographs, sound and info about diet and more.

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