Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk
(Buteo lineatus)

Order:  Accipitriformes
Family:  Accipitridae

Photo ©

Red-shouldered Hawk Information

Length:  16 - 24"

Habitat:  In the East, wooded edges of swamps and rivers, moist deciduous or mixed woodlands, bottomlands. Prefers habitat near open areas for hunting. Requires tall trees for nesting.

Diet:  Small mammals such as voles, moles, mice, and squirrels; also, some rabbits; snakes, toads, frogs, lizards, crayfish, large insects, small birds.

  Calls of the Red-shouldered Hawk

Interesting Facts about the Red-shouldered Hawk

  • The Red-shouldered Hawk usually builds its nest in the fork of the main trunk of a tree or near where a large branch juts out from the trunk. This bird prefers to nest near swampy areas or other sources of water.
  • This raptor is active during the day (diurnal) and rests at night. It often shares habitat with the Barred Owl, which is mostly active during the night (nocturnal). Since they both hunt at different times of the day, there is less likelihood for conflict.
  • The Red-shouldered Hawk will sometimes work together with crows to chase away Great-horned Owls or Red-tailed Hawks, both of which prey on the eggs and chicks of this hawk.
  • There are five subspecies of the Red-shouldered Hawk, mostly separated by geographic location: Eastern (lineatus), Southeastern (alleni), Texas (texanus), South Florida (extimus), and California (elegans).

    Each subspecies has somewhat different coloring, with the California species having the brightest rufous coloring and the Florida subspecies being the palest.

Additional Information

Red-shouldered Hawk Feather

Red-shouldered Hawk in Flight

Red-shouldered Hawk in Flight

© Mircea Costina

Red-shouldered Hawk
Identification Tips

  • Wingspan: 40 inches
  • Sexes similar
  • Short, dark, hooked beak
  • Large, fairly long-tailed, broad-winged hawk
  • Pale, translucent crescent at base of primaries


  • Brown head
  • Reddish breast and underwing coverts
  • Pale belly barred heavily with reddish
  • Reddish lesser uppersecondary coverts appear as reddish shoulder at rest
  • Flight feathers dark above with white barring
  • Flight feathers pale below with dark barring
  • Dark tail has several narrow white bars

(Credit: U. S. Geological Survey)

Red-shouldered Hawk
Breeding Bird Survey Map,

Red-shouldered Hawk  Breeding Map

(Image credit: USGS)

Red-shouldered Hawk
Range Maps from Cornell

Red-shouldered Hawk breeding, nonbreeding and year-round range

Includes separate map of sightings.