Red-shouldered Hawk

Buteo lineatus




Kites, Eagles and Hawks (Accipitridae)

Code 4


Code 6




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Least Concern

The Red-shouldered Hawk is a medium-sized hawk ranging from eastern North America to the coast of California and northern and northeastern-central Mexico. Most of these birds are permanent residents, but some northern populations will migrate to central Mexico in the winter months. Breeding habitats include deciduous and mixed woodlands, typically near a body of water. This species swoops from a perch to catch prey, and typically eats amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, birds, insects, voles, mice and chipmunks. They may also occasionally feed on small birds in their natural habitat. The conservation rating for the Red-shouldered Hawk is Least Concern.


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Red-shouldered Hawk: Medium-sized polytypic hawk with brown-mottled upperparts, rufous breast and shoulder patch, and rufous-barred whitish underparts; black tail has 3-4 white bands; rufous underwing coverts, black-and-white barred flight feathers; brown head has tan streaks, yellow cere, and dark eyes; legs and feet are bright yellow. Sexes are similar but females are slightly larger. Immature has brown head and upperparts with tawny feather edging and whitish underparts with heavy brown streaking; dark brown tail has multiple thin light brown bands; underwing coverts have brown streaking, cream flight feathers have narrow brown barring and conspicuous translucent crescents near tips; eyes are gray-brown, cere is yellowish-green; legs and feet are light yellow. Extimus subspecies of Florida is paler overall and elegans subspecies is darker than lineatus subspecies found in the eastern US. Soars on thermals with wings held flat. Diet consists of small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and some insects.

Range and Habitat North America

Red-shouldered Hawk: Resident in the eastern woodlands from southern Michigan south to the Gulf of Mexico and west of the Rocky Mountains from Oregon south to Baja California. Breeds in the northern part of range from Ontario and New England south and migrates into Mexico. Prefers mixed woodlands near water.

Range and Habitat Hawaii

Range and Habitat Palau

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  • The Red-shouldered Hawk and the Barred Owl occupy the same range in the eastern United States. They prefer the same moist woodland habitats and eat similar animals. The hawk is active during the day, and the owl is active at night.
  • 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.
  • A group of hawks has many collective nouns, including a "boil", "knot", "spiraling", "stream", and "tower" of hawks.



About this North America Map

This map shows how this species is distributed across North America.



Xeno-Canto Sound

Red-shouldered Hawk C1

  • Title: Red-shouldered Hawk C1
  • Recordist: Paul Marvin
  • Description: Call is a repeated "kee-aah"; second note descends in pitch.
  • Location: FL
  • Date: "07/19/2016"

Red-shouldered Hawk C2

  • Title: Red-shouldered Hawk C2
  • Recordist: Paul Marvin
  • Description: Series of rapidly repeated calls.
  • Location: FL
  • Date: "07/19/2016"

Red-shouldered Hawk C3

  • Title: Red-shouldered Hawk C3
  • Recordist: Paul Marvin
  • Description: Various calls given by a bird in flight.
  • Location: FL
  • Date: "07/19/2016"

Red-shouldered Hawk C4

  • Title: Red-shouldered Hawk C4
  • Recordist: Paul Marvin
  • Description: Calls from a juvenile.
  • Location: FL
  • Date: "07/19/2016"

Similar Sounding Xeno-Canto

Red-tailed Hawk A1

  • Title: Red-tailed Hawk A1
  • Recordist: Andrew Spencer
  • Description: Call is a harsh "keee-aarr" or "keeer-r-r-r".
  • Location: WA
  • Date: "07/19/2016"

Swainson's Hawk B1

  • Title: Swainson's Hawk B1
  • Recordist: Richard E Webster
  • Description: Descending "kreee-e-e" calls.
  • Location: AZ
  • Date: "07/19/2016"

Similar Sounding Lang

Swainson's Hawk 1

  • Title: Swainson's Hawk 1
  • Recordist: Lang Elliott
  • Description: Call is a plaintive, down-slurred "kreeeeeeerr".
  • Date: "April 28, 2014"
  • Location: AB

Voice Text



Red-shouldered Hawk: Screams a repeated "kee-yer" during courtship, audible for miles. Also gives a quick series of slurred-together whistles.





Yury Lisyak


Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
The upper front part of a bird.
Also called the operculum, it is a smooth and featherless patch of skin located where the beak attaches to the forehead.
Flight feathersX
Located on the wing, and collectively called remiges (singular, remex). The long stiff feathers are subdivided into two major groups based on the location and are called primaries and secondaries.
The short feathers overlying the median secondary coverts on the top of the wing. They are located near the back and can be seen as the “first row” of feathers on the birds wing. They are also called marginal coverts and lesser secondary coverts.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X