Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

Red-shouldered Hawk

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Buteo lineatus | [authority] Gmelin, 1788 | [UK] Red-shouldered Hawk | [FR] Buse a epaulettes | [DE] Rotschulter-Bussard | [ES] Busardo Hombrorrojo | [NL] Roodschouderbuizerd


Monotypic species


Members of the genus Buteo are broad-winged, broad-tailed hawks, Well adapted for soaring. The bill, legs and talons are of average proportions. There is much colour variation both within the species, and, by way of phases, within individual species. In all cases the young are quite different from adults in that they are all well camouflaged with an overall brown appearance with varying amounts of striping below and paler mottling above.
The 25 species are spread worldwide with the exception of Australasia and much of the Indian sub-continent.

Physical charateristics

Recognized as a buteo by the ample tail and broad wings; as this species by the heavy dark bands across both sides of the tail. Adults have dark rufousshoulders
(not always easy to see) and robin-red underparts. In flight, note the translucent patch, or “window,” at the base of the primaries.
Streaked; recognized by proportions, tail bands, and, in flight overhead, by the wing “windows.”

Listen to the sound of Red-shouldered Hawk

[audio: Hawk.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 90 cm wingspan max.: 127 cm
size min.: 43 cm size max.: 61 cm
incubation min.: 30 days incubation max.: 35 days
fledging min.: 42 days fledging max.: 48 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 5  


North America : Southeast, Central, also Northeast Mexico


Bottomland woods, wooded streamsides, swamps.
In East, nests in deciduous and mixed forest, with tall trees and relatively open understory, often along rivers and swamps. May move into more open habitats in winter. In West, typically in riverside forest or in oak woodland, sometimes in eucalyptus groves. Florida birds may be in pine woods, mangroves.


In courtship, male displays by flying upward, calling, then diving steeply. Pairs may soar together in circles, calling, high over nesting territory.
Nest: Site usually in deciduous tree (sometimes in conifer), in fork or at base of branches against main trunk, usually 35-65′ above ground. Nest (built by both sexes) is platform of sticks, lined with bark, moss, and sprigs of green vegetation. Nest may be used more than one season.
Clutch is Usually 3-4, sometimes 2. Pale bluish white, blotched with brown and lavender. Incubation is mostly by female, roughly 33 days. Male brings food to female at nest and may sit on eggs while female eats.
Young: Female remains with young most of the time for first 1-3 weeks after they hatch; male brings food, female feeds it to nestlings. Young leave nest at about 5-7 weeks after hatching, are fed by parents another 8-10 weeks.

Feeding habits

Includes small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds. Diet varies with region and season. Main items are often mammals such as voles and chipmunks, at other times frogs and toads; may eat many crayfish in some areas. Also eats snakes, small birds, mice, large insects, occasionally fish, rarely carrion.
Behavior: Usually hunts by watching from a perch, either within forest or in open, swooping down when it locates prey. Sometimes flies very low in open areas, taking creatures by surprise. May use hearing as well as sight to locate prey.

Video Red-shouldered Hawk


copyright: Redknot


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Red-shouldered Hawk status Least Concern


Southeastern Canada, eastern United States, California, Mexico. Migration: Mostly a permanent resident in West and South; northern birds migrate, but do not travel far. Some movement in winter as far south as central Mexico.

Distribution map

Red-shouldered Hawk distribution range map

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