Red-Shouldered Hawk Species Notes, Development Photos and Case Histories

The Red-shouldered Hawk is found in woodlands along creeks, lakes, and larger waterways, a habitat it usually shares with the Barred Owl.  Like the Barred Owl, this hawk has a piercing call that is distinctive and highly audible.  They have also become  accustomed to nesting in residential areas with suitable habitat, as well as city parks, office parks, and college campuses. These soaring hawks are easy to spot, especially during the early part of the nesting season, when they engage in spectacular (and noisy) aerial courtship displays.  However, once they have begun to nest, they are quiet and secretive around the nest, and may often be overlooked.  The nest is usually a sizeable mass of twigs and branches in one of the main forks close to the trunk of a large deciduous tree, although any sizeable fork may be used.

Incubation of eggs requires 33-35 days.  Young nestlings are brooded continuously for about 10 days to 2 weeks, and then decreasingly until juveniles are about 19-20 days old, about the time  the juveniles are fully able to feed themselves.  Branchers begin to leave the nest between 35 and 42 days, and continue to be fed by parents for several more weeks.  By 10 weeks of age, juveniles are usually fairly successful in foraging for their own food, but they continue to receive food from the parents for up to 19 weeks.  Red-shouldered Hawks prefer a diet that includes small rodents, reptiles, amphibians, crawfish and some larger insects.  Young birds can sometimes be observed foraging for insects and crawfish on the ground. Red-shouldered Hawks are particularly prone to sibling rivalry, and in most cases it is probably not advisable to reunite a third juvenile to its family.  There is a real possibility that the youngest and weakest sibling may be forced out by its larger, aggressive siblings.  Even if the bird is returned to the nest, it may not be able to obtain enough food from the parents to survive.  (See Case 4)

It was not difficult to record the alarm calls of an older juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk, but for birds that are old enough to make an alarm call, it is seldom necessary to use the recording, because the juvenile you are trying to reunite with the adults will almost certainly scream loudly and repeatedly as soon as it is removed from the carrying container.  This will bring in the parents before you have even had a chance to climb up and place the bird in the nest basket.  For very young nestlings, the calls obviously serve a different function, as the tiny birds cannot yet vocalize loudly.  The alarm call may serve to attract the adult bird to the immediate area where the nestling is located.


Red-Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

Development Photos



Young nestling


Older nestling






Case Histories

Case #1

Case #2

Case #3

Case #4


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