The Red-shouldered Hawk is a forest bird with a loud call (Kee-aah) early in the breeding season when it is courting and establishing its nesting territory. The call is often mimicked by the Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata). These hawks are usually seen perched where they wait to pounce on prey rather than soaring as do Red-tailed Hawks (B. jamaicensis) of adjacent upland areas.
DISTRIBUTION: Red-shouldered Hawks are primarily uncommon to common year-round residents of the Pineywoods, Post Oak Savannah and Blackland Prairies, Coastal Prairies and Edwards Plateau regions of Texas. Breeding becomes rare to casual west, primarily along wooded riparian drainages to the 101st meridian, and south to the Rio Grande River (TBBA, Lockwood and Freeman 2004).
SEASONAL OCCURRENCE:: Red- shouldered Hawks breed in Texas from mid-February to late June, based on eggs collected between February 28-early June (Oberholser 1974). In South Texas Red-shouldered Hawks are primarily uncommon winter residents (TBBA, Lockwood and Freeman 2004, McKinney 1998).
BREEDING HABITAT: The Red-shouldered Hawk inhabits a variety of forested areas from bottomland hardwood, riparian corridors and flooded deciduous swamps to upland mixed deciduous-coniferous forest. In general, it prefers extensive forest stands consisting of mature old-growth canopy trees with sub-canopy generally open giving a park-like appearance, and with variable amounts of understory vegetation (Crocoll 1994).
These habitats coincide very closely with those of the Barred Owl (Strix varia) with which these hawks often nest in close proximity without apparent conflict. These raptors often use the same nest in alternate years. The owl
and then the hawk occasionally use the same nest successively in the same season; and, there are some cases of mixed clutches which one or both species may incubate (Bent 1937, Bent 1938). Also, they eat similar prey and hunt in the same area, one by night the other by day (Bent 1937).
Nest sites are usually in a large deciduous tree in a stand of mature trees. They are often located near water (i. e. reservoir, stream, or swamp) which probably facilitates prey access (Crocoll 1994, RCT). The nest is securely built, below the canopy, more than halfway up the tree in a main fork: if in a pine, set on part of a whorl and against the trunk of the tree (Palmer 1988). The nest may be reused for many years Crocoll 1994).
STATUS: Deforestation and harvesting of large trees degrades Red-shouldered Hawk habitat. Also, bottomland forests have been greatly reduced by reservoir construction and inundation and adjacent development (Oberholser 1974, Gunter and Oelschlaeger 1997,Telfair 1999). Increased opening and fragmentation of contiguous forests creates habitat more suitable to the Red-tailed Hawk and more aggressive Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) which feed on nestling, fledgling, and adult Red-shouldered Hawks (Oberholser 1974).
North American Breeding Bird Survey data for Texas (Sauer et al. 2005) give annual trends of 12.5 (1966-1979), -1.5 (1980-2005), and 1.1 (1966-2005); thus, showing a decreasing trend.
Text by Raymond C. Telfair II (2007)
Bent, A. C. 1937. Life histories of North American birds of prey. Pt. 1. U.S. Natl. Mus. Bull. 167.
Bent, A. C. 1938. Life histories of North American birds of prey. Pt. 2. U.S. Natl. Mus. Bull. 170.
Crocoll, S. T. 1994. Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus). In The Birds of North America, No. 107 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.
Gunter, P. A. Y. and M. Oelschlaeger. 1997. Texas land ethics. University of Texas Press, Austin.
Lockwood, M. W. and B. Freeman. 2004. The TOS handbook of Texas birds. Texas A&M. University Press, College Station.
McKinney, B. 1998. A checklist of Lower Rio Grande birds. Rancho Viejo, Texas: B. McKinney.
Oberholser, H. C. 1974. The bird life of Texas. University of Texas Press, Austin.
Palmer, R. S. 1988. Red-shouldered Hawk. in Handbook of North American Birds, vol. 4, pp. 413-429 (R. S. Palmer, ed.). Yale Univ. Press, New Haven, CT.
Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, and J. Fallon. 2005. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, results/analysis 1966-2005. Version 6.2.2006. USGS Patuxent Wildl. Res. Cnt., Laurel, Maryland. http://www.mbr-pwr.usgs.gov/bbs/bbs.html.
Telfair, R. C. II, ed. 1999. Texas wildlife resources and land uses. Univ. Texas Press, Austin.