About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fun Facts on the Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

Red-shouldered Hawks belong to a group of hawks called “Buteos” or soaring hawks.  Buteo is the Latin name of the Common Buzzard. In the Old World, members of this genus are called "buzzards", but "hawk" is used in North America.

The Red-shouldered Hawk is a medium-sized raptor with a chunky appearance, broad wings and fan-shaped tail. They have a brown head, a dark brown back and reddish brown finely barred under parts. The Red-shouldered Hawk gets its name from reddish brown feathers on their upper wings giving the bird the appearance of having red shoulders, although this part of the wing is actually the hawk’s wrist. Their tails are dark brown/black with narrow white bands.

They range from the Great Lakes region east to Maine and south to Texas and Florida. They are also found along the coast of California. Populations of this hawk in the northeast migrate to northern Mexico for the winter.

Red-shouldered hawks usually live in deciduous or mixed deciduous-conifer forests and swamps. They like to perch on dead trees to observe and hunt animals on the forest floor. You may be able to locate them by one of their common calls, “keeyuur, keeyuur”. They hunt mainly small mammals, no larger than a rabbit or squirrel. They will also eat snakes, toads, frogs, small birds, and large insects.

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Gene said...

A nice site with good information and great photos. Thanks

Dennis said...

What hawks are in mid-Michigan in the winter? I was watching my feeder 2 days ago and a hawk swooped down and tried to snag a house finch. The finch took off and there was a wild chase and I don't think the hawk got him. I did not get a good look at the hawk as it happened very quickly.

Wild Birds Unlimited Mid-Michigan said...

The most common neighborhood winter hawks in Michigan are the Sharp-shinned Hawks and the Cooper's Hawks. They are usually woodland hunters, and with their habitat shrinking more people have reported seeing them at well-stocked feeding stations.

Less common in the neighborhoods are the Red-tailed Hawks, Northern Harriers, and Northern Goshawks.

Life is very difficult for raptors. An estimated 80% of raptors don't make it through the first year. Studies have shown that the success rates for hawks capturing their prey are less than 20%. And there is evidence that hawks catch a higher percentage of weak and diseased birds simply because they are easier to catch. As a result, this helps to keep the remaining bird population healthier.

Some steps to take if you have hawks in your yard:

-First and foremost, federal and state laws prohibit the capture, killing, or possession of hawks and owls. Raptors at bird feeding stations are a problem only when they perch nearby all day. The birds return as soon as the Hawk flys away. So rather than get upset, enjoy a close-up look at these magnificent birds while they are in your yard.

-Place your feeders where there is ample natural protection. Evergreen shrubs and trees can provide an easy escape for the birds. If there is none available, consider planting a few varieties.

-Lastly, acknowledge that a few birds and squirrels will be caught by Hawks at your feeders. This is part of the cycle. Raptors play an important role in controlling the populations. Also keep in mind; songbirds are difficult for hawks to catch. Few are caught by birds of prey.

-Ultimately, the only thing you can do when a hawk comes to dinner is wait it out. Most hawks that settle in at feeders do so for two or three weeks and then they are off again to different territory. The presence of hawks at your feeders should in no way cause you to discontinue feeding birds. Just take a few simple steps to protect them and enjoy a season of bird feeding.

Thank you for your comments and questions. Sarah