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education: birds of georgia
Red-shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus

Photo of Red-shouldered Hawk, first winter plumage.
Red-shouldered Hawk, first winter plumage. Photographed on Tybee Island, Chatham Co, GA on Jan. 13, 2007.
This photograph may only be used for educational purposes. It may not be used for commercial purposes or in publications without permission.

Status: Locally common resident, breeding statewide to an elevation of 520 m; more common on Coast and in Coastal Plain. High count: 42 in Okefenokee CBC, 29 Dec 1993 (Beaton et al. 2003).

Habitat: Breeding: In the East, bottomland hardwood floodplain forest, riparian areas, and flooded deciduous swamps; also upland mixed deciduous-coniferous forest. Prefers extensive forest with mature to old-growth canopy trees with variable amounts of understory (Szuba et al. 1981). In the West, prefers riparian and oak woodlands but also occupier eucalyptus groves and residential areas (Armstrong and Euler 1983) In GA, common in swampy areas and along riparian courses; in mixed woodlands with mature trees and in suburban neighborhoods with mature hardwoods and loblolly pines as in Buckhead, Capital City and Druid Hills neighborhoods in Atlanta. Eastern form breeds from Canada (New Brunswick and s Ontario) to the edge of the Great Plains, south to Georgia and northern FL, and west along the Gulf Coast and into e MX. Winter: Similar to breeding habitat except that birds tend to use open habitat more often than during breeding (Bent 1937).

Diet: Small mammals and birds, reptiles and amphibians. Crayfish also important in some regions (Crocoll 1994). Meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus) and eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) are key prey in much of e North America (Welch 1987). Chipmunks are frequent prey in GA Piedmont (P. Howard pers. comm.). Known to cache and retrieve prey near nest (J. Bednarz pers. comm.) (Crocoll 1994). Snakes, toads and frogs commonly eaten (Palmer 1988).

Identification: A medium-sized Buteo (L 17 in; WS 40 in; WT males 550 g, females 700 g.). Sexes the same except for size. Three distinct forms: Eastern, seen in GA; Florida, only in Florida; and California, only in California and Baja California. In general, California form is richer in color and Florida form is much paler (Sibley 2000). Eastern Form Breeding: Head brown with tawny streaking; chin white; bill black with bright yellow cere; eye brown; upperparts mostly brown; wings boldly barred black and white above and less boldly below; underwing has black tips and rusty coverts; in flight, underwing shows a white translucent crescent-shaped patch at the base of primaries; trailing edge of underwing blackish; underparts barred rusty, with rusty bars thinning toward the undertail coverts; tail black with three or four thin white bars; tail tip narrow white bar. First winter: Upperparts brown; underparts white streaked with brown; translucent panels at base of primaries is buffy; tail has thin black and white bars, more numerous than in adult; tail tip black; upperside of tail has rusty wash; entire underwing pale with black tips (Sibley 2000) (Crocoll 1994).

Migration: Generally only migrates from northern part of its range in the east. Birds banded in WI migrated to 8 states directly south of WI and most did not travel far. There were 14 recoveries during the subsequent fall and winter: 6- IL; 2- IN; 1 KY; 1 TN; 1 MO; 1 MS; 1 AL; 1 AR. First winter birds move first in fall Sep-Dec; adults Oct-Dec (Dunne and Clark 1977). In northern states, fall migration peaks in late Oct-early Nov. Spring migration peaks late Feb-early Apr in north (Crocoll 1994). Georgia birds probably do not migrate to any great extent, but some northern birds winter in the state (Howard, P. pers. comm.).

Conservation: Large areas of contiguous forest favor the species because it can occupy them without predation by Great Horned Owl and competition from Red-tailed Hawk, which occupy thinner woods. Cutting such tracts and creating habitat for Great Horned Owl and Red-tailed Hawk (Bryant 1986) is thought to have cause declines in several areas (Peterson and Crocoll 1992). Selective thinning also was detrimental in WI (J. Jacobs, pers. comm.). Species is susceptible to chemical contaminants like mercury, Furadan, and Chlordane. Falconers remove young from nests in California (Wiley 1975) and probably in other areas. Shooting was an historical problem, but protective laws have reduced illegal shooting (Crocoll 1994). Enforcement of those laws is lax in some areas (P. Howard, pers. comm.). Preservation of large tracts of unbroken forest is important to the long-term survival of the species.

Works cited:

Armstrong, E. and D. Euler. 1983. Habitat usage of two woodland Buteo species in Central Ontario. Canadian Field. Nat: 97: 200-207.

Beaton, G., P.W. Sykes, and J.W. Parrish, Jr. Annotated Checklist of Georgia Birds; Occasional Publication No. 14. Georgia Ornithological Society. 2003

Bent, A.C. 1939. Life histories of North American birds of prey. U.S. Natl. Mus. Bull. 167. Washington, D.C.

Bryant, A.A. 1980. Influence of selective logging on Red-shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus, in Waterloo Region, Ontario. 1953-1978; Can Field Nat. 100: 520-525.

Craighead, J.J. and F.C Craighead, Jr. 1956. Hawks, owls and wildlife. Stackpole Co. Harrisburg. PA. (Reprinted 1969, Dover, New York).

Crocoll, Scott T. 1994. Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus). The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.), Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/107

Dunne, P.J. and W.S. Clark. 1977. Fall hawk movement at Cape May Point, NJ 1976.New Jersey Audubon 3:114-124.

Palmer, R.S. 1988 .Red-shouldered Hawk. Pp. 413-429 in Handbook of North American Birds, vol. 4 (R.S. Palmer, ed.).Yale Univ. Press. New Haven, CT.

Peterson, J.M.C. and S.T. Crocoll. 1992. Red-shouldered Hawk, Buteo lineatus. Pp. 333-351 in Migratory nongame birds of management concern in the northeast. (K.J. Schneider and D.M. Pence eds.). U.S. Dept. Inter, Fish and Wild. Serv. Newton Corner, MA.

Szuba, K.J., B.J. Naylor and J.A. Baker. 1991. Nesting habitat of Red-shouldered Hawks in the Great Lakes- St. Lawrence forest region of central and se Ontario. Central Ontario Forest Technology Develop. Unit Tech. Report 14.

Wiley, J.W. 1975. The nesting and reproductive success of Red-shouldered Hawk in Orange County, California 1973. Condor 77: 133-139.

Photo of Red-shouldered Hawk, first winter plumage.
Red-shouldered Hawk, first winter plumage. Photographed on Tybee Island, Chatham Co, GA on Jan. 13, 2007.
This photograph may only be used for educational purposes. It may not be used for commercial purposes or in publications without permission.

 

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