My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Red-shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Red-shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus

The Red-shouldered Hawk is a medium-sized hawk. Its breeding range spans eastern North America and along the coast of California and northern to northeastern-central Mexico. Red-shouldered Hawks are permanent residents throughout most of their range, though northern birds do migrate, mostly to central Mexico.

While in forested areas, these birds typically wait on a perch and swoop down on prey. When in clearings, they sometimes fly low to surprise prey. Red-shouldered Hawks, like most raptors, have very sharp vision and reasonably good hearing, with talons capable of killing animals at least equal to their own size. Small mammals are typically the most important prey, especially rodents. Voles, gophers, mice, moles and chipmunks may locally be favored based on abundance. Slightly larger mammals, such as rabbits and tree squirrels, are also occasionally predated. Other prey can include amphibians, reptiles (especially small snakes), small birds, and large insects. They will attack birds as large as pigeons. Blue jays, a potential prey species, sometimes habitually imitate the call of the Red-shouldered Hawk and are known to be difficult to distinguish on voice alone. During winters, Red-shouldered Hawks sometimes habituate to preying on birds commonly found at bird feeders. In some areas where they are common, crayfish can be important prey for this species. Unusual food items recorded for the species have included nocturnal animals such as Eastern Screech Owls and flying squirrels and road-killed deer.

The breeding habitats of the Red-shouldered Hawk are deciduous and mixed wooded areas, often near water. Like almost all raptors, the Red-shouldered Hawk is monogamous and territorial. While courting or defending territories, the distinctive, screaming kee-aah call (usually repeated three to four times) of this bird is heard. Courtship displays occur on the breeding grounds, and involve soaring together in broad circles while calling, or soaring and diving toward one another. Males may also perform the “sky-dance” by soaring high in the air, and then making a series of steep dives, each followed by a wide spiral and rapid ascent. These courtship flights usually occur in late morning and early afternoon.

Red-shouldered Hawks’ mating season is between April and July, with activity usually peaking between April and mid-June. The breeding pair builds a stick nest (also sometimes including shredded bark, leaves and green sprigs) in a major fork of a large tree. They often use the same nest year after year, refurbishing it annually with sticks in the spring. The clutch size is typically three to four eggs.

In Florida, Red-shouldered Hawks sometimes collaborate and peaceably coexist with American Crows (usually an enemy to all other birds because of their egg-hunting habits) so they cooperatively mob mutual predators, mainly Great Horned Owls and Red-tailed Hawks.

On to my photos:

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered hawk

Red-shouldered hawk

This is number 70 in my photo life list, only 280 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!

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11 responses

  1. Nice shots!

    March 29, 2013 at 7:08 am

    • Thank you!

      March 29, 2013 at 8:20 am

  2. Great photos and informative post. Very much enjoyed reading it. Good luck with your ambitious project! 🙂

    March 29, 2013 at 10:05 am

    • Thank you very much, glad that you enjoyed it.

      March 29, 2013 at 12:30 pm

  3. Love all these shots and especially the one where he’s looking straight at me! A few weeks ago, I’m pretty sure my neighbor in back of me had one in his tree. He sat there for about 10 minutes eyeing my bird feeder… but, the birds were nowhere around. Maybe they knew this raptor was watching?!
    Just a question for you… would you ever allow me to use one of your photos as reference for a painting (NOT to copy) ?

    March 29, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    • Thank you! Yes, the birds probably new the hawk was there, I’ve watched small birds hide quickly when a hawk approaches.

      I would be honored for you to use one of my photos for reference!

      March 29, 2013 at 12:50 pm

      • Thanks so much! I don’t have a specific idea… but, birds seem to be “entering” my paintings more lately. I’ll let you know if and when I come up with something. thanks so very much, you are very generous.

        March 29, 2013 at 12:53 pm

      • You may want to visit my other blog…

        http://jerryvis.wordpress.com/

        I don’t post there often, but the photos are much better quality

        March 29, 2013 at 2:46 pm

      • OK, thanks! I’ll go soon to visit.

        March 29, 2013 at 3:41 pm

  4. What a gorgeous bird! You are very fortunate to have been able to photograph him so beautifully.

    March 29, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    • Thank you, but I consider those photos acceptable, I can, and will do better!

      March 30, 2013 at 12:47 am