And a Red-shouldered too!

Adult Red-shouldered Hawk hunting the upper swamp.

Not a day goes by that I don’t see or hear a red-shouldered hawk here at the Museum. I’ve been allowed to observe them hunting and courting. I’ve been able to get close looks at them in various plumages and molts. I’ve even seen them catch a variety of prey as diverse as frogs and toads, snakes, rats, and even fish.

It’s my opinion that red-shouldereds will eat whatever comes their way, as long as it’s not too large to catch and carry away. I’m not sure of the upper size limitations, how large a prey item has to be before it’s taken off the menu, but I believe they will give consideration to anything that moves into view. Everything from insects to rabbits, and certainly young of most any small to medium sized mammal, including ferrel cats, o’possum, raccoon, and more may be on the carte du jour.

The next time you’re strolling around Explore the Wild or Catch the Wind, or even your favorite hiking trail, and you see a shoulder sitting motionless on a branch, fence post, or power pole and its staring down at the ground, stop and give it your attention. Stand quietly and watch the bird for a while. The bird is hunting, looking for movement down below. Your patience may be rewarded by being witness to the bird catching a snake, a frog, a cotton rat, or even a squirrel.


2 responses to And a Red-shouldered too!

  1. Katy says:

    When I was cleaning the Q Birds at the Butterfly House Pavilion the other day I think I saw the Red-shouldered. He was messing in the little pond that is in that area. Of course when I tried to take a picture he flew away. At least I think it was the Red-shouldered (he looked an awful lot like a younger Misha – do we have a Red-tailed hanging out too by any chance?)

    • Greg Dodge says:

      We have at least three red-shouldered hawks that frequent the area. We also host red-tailed hawks, especially in winter. Two weeks ago I saw three red-taileds in the bird feeder area, one had a small mammal dangling from it talons as it flew off. So yes, it could have been a red-tailed hawk that you saw. Red-taileds have a band of dark spots across the upper belly area whereas red-shouldered (the immatures) have nearly the entire underparts, belly and chest, marked with dark spots. Adult red-shouldereds have reddish barring throughout the underparts. In no plumage do red-taileds show reddish barring on the underparts.
      Red-taileds are larger, admittedly difficult to tell when seeing a single bird.
      With all that said, I tend to see red-shouldereds here at the museum far more often than red-taileds, and certainly, they perch hunt here far more frequently than do red-taileds and are more habituated to we humans here at the museum.

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