Red Shouldered Hawk


{ buteo lineatus }

The mating ritual of a red-shouldered hawk is called a “sky dance.


Hawkee was found by the volunteer that drove him and the other birds from Florida up to our facility. The volunteer said he was walking his dog and his dog kept pausing by a dumpster. Upon closer investigation he found Hawkee on the ground, unable to fly away due to an injury.


Yellow River Wildlife Sanctuary Least threatened

Least Concern

red-shouldered hawk size compared to man

Compared to a 6′ Man

YRWS weight icon

1.5 lbs

YRWS lifespan icon

20 Years

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YRWS regions icon

North America, Greenland

Red-shouldered hawks are forest raptors, commonly found in the Nearctic region (North America and Greenland). In the east, they live in bottomland hardwood forests, flooded deciduous swamps, and upland mixed deciduous–conifer forests. They tend to like areas with an open subcanopy, which makes it easier for them to hunt. You can also find red-shouldered hawks in suburban areas. In the west, they live in riparian and oak woodlands, as well as in eucalyptus groves and some residential areas. Some migrate as far south as Mexico in winter months.


They are a medium-sized bird, with broad, rounded wings and medium-length tails that they fan out when soaring. In flight, they often glide or soar with their wingtips pushed slightly forward, imparting a distinctive, “reaching” posture. Females are larger than males. They have brownish heads and backs, reddish breasts, reddish shoulder patches, and black and white flight feathers. Their tails are commonly black with several narrow white bands. Juveniles are mostly brown from above and have cream-colored underparts with brown streaks.


Red-shouldered hawks soar and circle with wings and tail spread out, but they also flap their wings quickly and glide through forests underneath the canopy. When hunting, they perch in a wooded area and watch for their prey to appear below them. These hawks can be aggressive. They can be seen attacking intruding hawks, crows, Great Horned Owls and even humans.

They hunt mostly small mammals including lizards, snakes, and amphibians, but also eat toads, snakes, and crayfish. They occasionally eat small birds.

Red-shouldered hawks are typically monogamous. The pair will remain in the same area for years, reusing the same nesting sites. As a mating display, the male enacts a “sky dance” in which he soars while calling, then makes a series of steep dives toward the female, climbing back up in wide spirals after each descent, before finally rapidly diving to perch upon the female’s back.

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