Red-shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus


Red-shouldered Hawk
The beautiful adult Red-shouldered Hawk has red underparts, usually finely barred, and a black-and-white checkerboard pattern on the wings, with red background replacing the white on the lesser wing-coverts or "shoulders." This is one of the smallest of the buteo hawks, with a relatively slender build, longer tail, and more rounded wing tips that give it an appearance somewhere between a typical buteo, like the Red-tailed Hawk, and an accipiter, like the Cooper's Hawk. Red-shouldered Hawks mostly feed on small mammals, like other buteos, but also hunt birds, the primary prey of the accipiters; this accounts for their relatively slender build and rounded wingtips, adapted to rapid pursuit flight in wooded areas. The Red-shouldereds in the image above and the two directly below are feeding on birds. The first seven pictures show California birds; the contrasting Florida type of Red-shouldered Hawk is illustrated further down the page.


Red-shouldered Hawk


Red-shouldered Hawk


Red-shouldered Hawk
The "red shoulder" is visible on the bird above, distinctly set off from the otherwise dark-and-white pattern of the wings, and also seen on several other birds pictured on this page.


Red-shouldered Hawk


Red-shouldered Hawk


Red-shouldered Hawks
Red-shouldered Hawks have two entirely separate populations in North America, a western (mostly California) subspecies, and three eastern subspecies extending from the northeast to south Florida. The eastern birds are somewhat larger and generally more pale than the Californians, with the south Florida subspecies the palest. Above, a pair of California adults, one with wings raised, the other clearly showing the red "shoulders"; below, a Florida adult, wings raised in flight, showing paler underparts.


Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawks taking off, above a Florida bird, below a California.



Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk
First-cycle Red-shouldered Hawks, standing, from California, above, and Florida,
below. Like other raptors, Red-shouldereds retain their juvenal plumage for their
entire first year of life. The western juvenile has bib of thick vertical stripes on the
breast, with thick barring below; the stripes and bars can be rufous as in this individual,
or brown. The Florida bird has thinner stripes above and less well-defined bars below
and a higher ratio of light to dark feathers; the color is rufous here, compare the brown
coloring of the Florida juvenile in flight further down.


Red-shouldered Hawk


Red-shouldered Hawk
California and Florida juveniles in flight, above and below respectively. Where the California
bird shows heavy striping on the bib, and heavy barring on the breast and belly, with the
forward part of the wing strongly marked with reddish brown, the Florida juvenile is nearly white
on the forward part of the wing, with an almost entirely white breast, only thin dark stripes
making up the bib, and no barring but only a few dark spots below it. As noted above on the
page, the coloring of the dark parts of the undersurface varies among individuals of both types
from red to brown.


Red-shouldered Hawk