Physical TraitsThe Red-shouldered Hawk is a medium to large size hawk. It has wings and tail that are striped black and white. The underparts are barred with reddish tones. The pale crescents near the wingtips are clearly visible in flight.
HabitatForests with open understory, especially bottomland hardwoods, riparian areas, and flooded swamps.
DietSmall mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and crayfish.
BehaviorDrops on prey from perch in canopy. May hunt from ground to catch mammals in burrows, hopping after them when they come out.
Nest Building TechniquesNest a large bowl of sticks, dried leaves, strips of bark, Spanish moss, lichens, and live conifer twigs. Lined with fine bark, mosses, lichens, and conifer twigs. Placed in main crotch of tree, often near water.
Migration and RangeShort Distance Migrant
Cool FactsThe Red-shouldered Hawk is divided into five subspecies. The four eastern forms contact each other, but the West Coast form is separated from the eastern forms by 1600 km (1000 mi). The northern form is the largest. The form in very southern Florida is the palest, having a gray head and very faint barring on the chest.
Although the American Crow often mobs the Red-shouldered Hawk, sometimes the relationship is not so one-sided. They may chase each other and try to steal food from each other. They may also both attack a Great Horned Owl and join forces to chase the owl out of the hawk's territory.
By the time they are five days old, nestling Red-shouldered Hawks can shoot their feces over the edge of their nest. Bird poop on the ground is a sign of an active nest.
The Great Horned Owl often takes nestling Red-shouldered Hawks, but the hawk occasionally turns the tables. While a Red-shouldered Hawk was observed chasing a Great Horned Owl, its mate took a young owl out of its nest and ate it.