Hey guys, welcome back! Today we head back to the world of raptors and meet the red-shouldered hawk. When I lived in NYC, I only ever saw them flying over the park during migration, although they’ve been known to stop by every once in a while, though never for long. I saw many more, including the first one I ever saw perched (pictured above) when I moved to St. Louis. But since coming back home to Ohio, I see them all the time. In fact, the red-shouldered hawk is in serious competition with the red-tailed hawk for the “Most Common Hawk in Ohio” award!
A medium sized hawk, the red-shouldered has a wingspan of about 40″ give or take a couple inches. Adults are easily picked out by their reddish-brown shoulders and breast, and they have a distinctly striped black and white tail. Juveniles are a little more confusing, looking similar to juvenile broad-winged hawks, but red-shoulders are slightly larger birds. They are also very noisy, which is a bit uncharacteristic of a raptor. You’ll often hear them before you spot them. They actually sound a bit like a gull. In fact, shortly after I moved back to Ohio, I would hear what I thought was a gull every morning. I didn’t think much of it, as I only live a few miles from Lake Erie, but then I realized I had a red-shouldered hawk in the neighborhood. I think its nest is down the street. I still see it fairly often.
Red-shouldered hawks are found throughout the country, with the exception of the Rockies and most of the Great Plains. Like many hawks, there are a number of subspecies. The largest and most common is the Northern subspecies, which is the one found here in Ohio. The florida subspecies is very pale, almost a washed out gray, with only slight reddish brown on the shoulders. The western subspecies is the most colorful being a reddish brown throughout the shoulders and breast, as well as having a brightly colored reddish head. The red-shouldered has an interesting relationship with out next bird. They will on occasion team up with crows to mob them out of their territory. Red-shoulders will also sometimes have their nests raided by them, and will do the same in turn to the other bird. The bird in question? The great horned owl. We’ll talk more about them next time. See you then!