Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered hawks’ robust body, broad wings, short tail and soaring flight make is a perfect fit for the Buteo family. These crow-sized hawks, unlike the other Buteos, can be found in Ohio year round in moist woodland habitats including suburban woodlots. They can often be seen perched on a tree branch above a semi-open area hunting for food. Their diet includes medium-sized reptiles, including snakes, amphibians, small mammals, birds, insects and crayfish. They occupy the same range in the eastern United States as the barred owl. However, the red-shouldered hawks are active during the day, while barred owls are active at night.

In Ohio, red-shouldered hawks breeding season lasts from April to late June. In their nesting territory, they are vocal early in breeding season, and then become secretive later in the season. Generally by March they build or rebuild their nests with sticks, leafy twigs, leaves and lichen. Pairs or future generations usually remain in the same territories and reuse the same nest-sites for many years. The longest record of a nest used by red-shouldered hawks is 45 years.

Typically the red-shouldered hawks build their nest halfway up tree, in a fork of main trunk; in conifers trees nests are built against the main trunk where a whorl of other branches meets the trunk.  Mainly females incubate two to four eggs that are white with brown blotches. Incubation begins when the first or second egg is laid and lasts for 33 days. By the time they are five days old, nestling red-shouldered hawks can shoot their feces over the edge of their nest. Chicks leave the nest around 5-6 weeks, but are fed by the parents for another six to 10 weeks.

At one time the red-shouldered hawks were once the most common hawk in Ohio. Today, red-tail hawks are more common than red-shouldered hawks. The clearing of forests over the last two centuries and the use of the pesticide DDT has decreased the population. However in recent years, since the banning of DDT in the United States and the regrowth of forest, populations of red-shoulder hawks are on the upswing or have remained stable in Ohio.

What you can do to help? Plant trees in your neighborhood. Support organization such as The Holden Arboretum in protecting large forested tracts of land.