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Raptors - Red Shouldered Hawks

Updated on August 25, 2014
naturegirl7 profile image

Yvonne has been photographing and studying birds for 40+ years. She maintains bird and butterfly gardens in her Louisiana backyard habitat.

Buteo lineatus

Source

Red-shouldered Hawk in Louisiana

In the pine lands and hardwood forests of southeastern Louisiana, where we make our home, the Red Shouldered Hawks live and breed. Red-shouldereds are hawks of the woodlands and riparian areas. They are about the size of a crow. A pair often mates for life and will nest in the same area year after year, as long as the pair survives. This small Buteo is a permanent resident in Louisiana.

For several years, we have been fortunate to host at least one pair of Red-shouldered Hawks in our habitat along the Tchefuncte River. We have often observed them as they interact with the other birds and animals. On several occasions we have been able to photograph this handsome bird of prey in its natural habitat.

Tchefuncte River

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Red-shouldered Hawks matingPost coital preeningRed-shouldered Hawks nest by the road to the neighbors' house.  You can see the female hawks tail on the left side of the nest.
Red-shouldered Hawks mating
Red-shouldered Hawks mating | Source
Post coital preening
Post coital preening | Source
Red-shouldered Hawks nest by the road to the neighbors' house.  You can see the female hawks tail on the left side of the nest.
Red-shouldered Hawks nest by the road to the neighbors' house. You can see the female hawks tail on the left side of the nest. | Source

Hawks Nesting

These attractive hawks often nest in or near our habitat. One year, in early spring, we observed a pair of red-shouldered hawks mating. Later, the pair built a nest nearby, beside the road to the neighbors' house.

We weren't able to constantly observe the nest, but we did observe both birds hunting to feed their young. Both male and female thought that our yard was a prime hunting ground.

Red-shouldered hawk with prey.
Red-shouldered hawk with prey. | Source

Hawk Captures Dove

Red-shouldered hawk captures a morning dove.
Red-shouldered hawk captures a morning dove. | Source

Hawks Hunting

One morning, I was watching one of the many mourning doves which often sit on the driveway, when all of a sudden a Red-shouldered hawk appeared out of nowhere. It swooped down grabbing the dove and taking it up into the oak tree. I grabbed my camera and sneaked outside. For almost an hour I was able to take many pictures of the hawk as it fed on the dove. Right in front of me, predator and prey, the life cycle of nature in action unfolded.


Mobbing Blue Jays Pictures

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Red-shouldered Hawk perches in the Oak tree.Blue Jay (upper left)  begins to squawk at the hawk.The hawk tries to ignore them, but is getting a little flustered.More Blue Jays arrive to harass the hawk.Squawking continues until the Hawk gives up and flies away with the Blue Jays following.
Red-shouldered Hawk perches in the Oak tree.
Red-shouldered Hawk perches in the Oak tree. | Source
Blue Jay (upper left)  begins to squawk at the hawk.
Blue Jay (upper left) begins to squawk at the hawk. | Source
The hawk tries to ignore them, but is getting a little flustered.
The hawk tries to ignore them, but is getting a little flustered. | Source
More Blue Jays arrive to harass the hawk.
More Blue Jays arrive to harass the hawk. | Source
Squawking continues until the Hawk gives up and flies away with the Blue Jays following.
Squawking continues until the Hawk gives up and flies away with the Blue Jays following. | Source

Blue Jays Mobbing Hawk

Another morning a few months later, Linda Beall, a permitted hummingbird bander, and I were humanely trapping Ruby-throated hummingbirds for a study on their breeding habits. We heard a great commotion in the trees above and saw several Blue Jays mobbing a very irritated Red-shouldered Hawk. The Jays would scream at the hawk and then dive at it. One Blue Jay hit the hawk in the chest so hard that I thought it might have injured it.

I usually had my camera when we banded hummingbirds, so I took pictures of the whole thing. Finally after forty-five minutes of harassment, the hawk had enough and flew off to find a more quiet resting place.


For some reason, as I view the pictures, visions of Beatrix Potter's, Squirrel Nutkin and Old Brown, the owl come to mind. I think it was the look on the hawk's face. The expression was, "If you don't leave me alone, I'm going to eat you!"


Red-shouldered Hawk's Call Video

Immitating Hawk Calls

Recently, I kept hearing what sounded just like a red-shouldered hawk. As I searched the trees for the source of the calls, time and time again, all I saw was a blue jay with its mouth open. This jay has the call down pat and it has continued to fool me on more that one occasion.

The trademark black and white striped tail.
The trademark black and white striped tail. | Source

Eastern Red-shouldered Hawk Facts

Characteristic
Details
Description
Stocky with relatively short, broad wings; rusty red shoulders; Black/white stiped tail
Voice
Very vocal, far-carrying calls.
Weight
17.1 – 27.3 ounces
Length
16.9 – 24 inches
Wingspan
37 – 43.7 inches
Habitat
Forest with open understory, riparian areas & swamps
Diet
Small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians & crawfish
Nest Site
In the main crotch of a tree, usually near water
Nest Description
Bowl of sticks, twigs and leaves lined with mosses, lichens & bark
Eggs
2 – 5 eggs (dull white or faintly bluish with brown markings)
Hatchlings
Precocial - eyes open, but helpless and covered with buff colored down
Pairing
Monogamous
Conservation Status
Stable but declining in some areas
Reference: AllAboutBirds.org

Hawk Sitting Among Cypress Branches

Red-shouldered hawks often perch to watch for ground prey.
Red-shouldered hawks often perch to watch for ground prey. | Source

We are glad to provide a good habitat for this bird of prey. Hopefully, we are helping to prevent the further decline in numbers due to the deforestation that Hurricane Katrina and the clean up clearing caused on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.

Good Binoculars for Birdwatching

Hawk Poll

Do you have hawks or other raptors nesting near you?

See results

Louisiana Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk in early spring.
Red-shouldered Hawk in early spring. | Source

© 2011 Yvonne L. B.

Please leave a remark.

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    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 

      5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Being a fellow bird lover and protector I enjoyed this hub immensely. I have blue jays that imitate our hawks exactly and fool me every time. They fool the birds at the feeder as well. All will scatter when the blue jay makes the hawk call. I have also heard the blue jays making a loud racket and look out to see them harassing a hawk mercilessly.

      We have hawks nesting in our woods, which are quite near the back of our property. I love to watch as they coax the young ones into taking off for the first time, and 'trying their wings' in short flights as they are escorted by their parents. Voted this way Up and pinned!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 

      7 years ago from Wales

      What a beautiful and brilliant hub. I vote this one up without a doubt and look forward to reading many more by you.

      Take care

      Eiddwen.

    • naturegirl7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne L. B. 

      7 years ago from South Louisiana

      NotTooTall,

      On long car trips, when we were children, we would entertain ourselves by counting the hawks in the trees and on the wires. Great fun! Occasionally we would see one swoop down to get a rodent. Most of those were the larger, Red-tailed Hawks.

    • NotTooTall profile image

      NotTooTall 

      7 years ago from The Land of Pleasant Living

      Hi naturegirl7,

      Great Hub! On occasion I'll hear a hawk screatching as it circles the sky. How can you not look upwards?

      Once, many years ago while driving home, I heard the screetch and looked over just in time to see a hawk swoop down and take a dove in mid-flight.

      Wow, what a sight. After an explosion of feathers, the hawk basically rode the captured bird to the ground ~ it was amazing. I felt bad for the dove, but I figured that the hawn has babies to feed . . . and such is life.

      Thank you for reminding me to look up!

      N T T

    • naturegirl7 profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne L. B. 

      7 years ago from South Louisiana

      Thanks Wesman Todd Shaw,

      I really appreciate your comments. Like you, we love the wildlife and will take time to observe and photograph just about any creature. ;)

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      7 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      What an AWESOME and BEAUTIFUL hub you've created!!!!!

      I'm not a big "bird guy," but I do love the wildlife. Thank you very much for this fine hub, and your enthusiasm for the subject certainly shined through!

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