A relatively large (17-24 inches) hawk, the Red-shouldered Hawk takes its name from the large rust-colored shoulder patches visible from above or while perching. This species may also be identified by its brown back, barred white-and-black wings, and broad black tail banded with white. A pale form, with washed-out plumage on the chest, back, and head, occurs in south Florida. Like most species of raptors, females are larger than males. The Red-shouldered Hawk primarily breeds in the eastern United States and southeastern Canada, withdrawing from northern portions of its range and expanding south into northern Mexico in winter. Unusually for a North American hawk, the Red-shouldered Hawk has another population, separated from the main population by thousands of miles, that is a permanent resident along the Pacific coast of California. Eastern Red-Shouldered Hawks inhabit mature forests with deciduous or mixed deciduous and evergreen trees. Western populations also inhabit these habitat types, but are also likely to be found in human-altered environments near woods. Red-shouldered Hawks primarily eat small vertebrates, including small mammals, amphibians, and occasionally small songbirds and doves. Red-shouldered Hawks may be most easily observed while hunting, when they drop down from high perches to capture terrestrial prey with their talons. This species may also be observed perching, although this hawk’s coloration and the dense vegetation of its preferred habitat help to provide camouflage. Red-shouldered Hawks are most active during the day.
Permanent resident, fairly common in flood plains, deciduous upland forests, and agricultural areas. Nests from mid-March, to late June. Females are larger than the males.
The bird on the right is an adult, the one on the left is immature, and a chick is in the center.
This record for a Red-shouldered Hawk is one of the oldest in the collection. This likely does apply to one of these birds in the exhibit, but additional information is not available to confirm a link to a particular specimen.
Collected By: Not recorded
Locality: Washington, DC
Sex: Not stated
Catalog ID: 12004