Red-shouldered Hawk

Buteo lineatus

Summary 3

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) is relatively large (17-24 inches) hawk with a brown back, barred white-and-black wings, broad black tail banded and large rust-colored shoulder patches visible from above or while perching. The chest is also rust colored. Like most species of raptors, females are larger than males.

They have a distinctive call that you can listen to here:

Similar speciesCooper's Hawk (and Sharp-shinned Hawk) - the Red-shouldered Hawk is larger, chunkier, has a much shorter, fan shaped tail. Cooper's hawks are accipiters and have lankier bodies and shorter wings, with long tails.

Red-tailed Hawks are larger than Red-shouldered Hawks, with broader wings, and slower wingbeats. Adult Red-tails usually show a reddish top of the tail, a dark-streaked “belly band,” and pale wings with a dark bar at the leading edge. (

Where on campus? 4

Often seen perching in trees along edges of campus or flying overhead. We probably have a resident nesting pair (or at least they nest very close by). You are more likely to hear them than to see them.

Habitat 4

In the West, they live in riparian and oak woodlands, and also in eucalyptus groves and some urban and suburban parks and neighborhoods.

Life History 4

Nesting Males and females build nests from sticks, moss, bark and other materials, typically high up in a tree. They continuously bring leaves to the nest throughout the nesting period. Red-shouldered hawks are territorial and will return to the same nest and refurbish it year after year. Usually only produce one brood/year.

Feeding Red-shouldered Hawks primarily eat small vertebrates, including small mammals, amphibians, and occasionally small songbirds and doves.

Distribution 4

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.

Migration 4

Western populations are non-migratory.

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Mike Baird from Morro Bay, USA, some rights reserved (CC BY),
  2. (c) Andy Jones, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  3. Adapted by gillian360 from a work by (c) Unknown, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA),
  4. (c) gillian360, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA)

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