Photographed at Brazos Bend State Park on a very cold January day.
Whether wheeling over a swamp forest or whistling plaintively from a riverine park, a Red-shouldered Hawk is typically a sign of tall woods and water. It’s one of our most distinctively marked common hawks, with barred reddish-peachy underparts and a strongly banded tail. In flight, translucent crescents near the wingtips help to identify the species at a distance. These forest hawks hunt prey ranging from mice to frogs and snakes.
Although the American Crow often mobs the Red-shouldered Hawk, sometimes the relationship is not so one-sided. They may chase each other and try to steal food from each other. They may also both attack a Great Horned Owl and join forces to chase the owl out of the hawk's territory.
The Great Horned Owl often takes nestling Red-shouldered Hawks, but the hawk occasionally turns the tables. While a Red-shouldered Hawk was observed chasing a Great Horned Owl, its mate took a young owl out of its nest and ate it.
Red-shouldered Hawks return to the same nesting territory year after year. One Red-shouldered Hawk occupied a territory in southern California for 16 consecutive years.
By the time they are five days old, nestling Red-shouldered Hawks can shoot their feces over the edge of their nest. Bird poop on the ground is a sign of an active nest.
The Red-shouldered Hawk is divided into five subspecies. The four eastern forms contact each other, but the West Coast form is separated from the eastern forms by 1600 km (1000 mi). The northern form is the largest. The form in very southern Florida is the palest, having a gray head and very faint barring on the chest.
This is a not so common hawk in southeast Texas. This one was photographed in the Hill Country. I once watch a pair of juvenile Swainson's hawks try to catch some squirrels in Memorial Park a few years ago. The squirrels evaded the pair by seeking shelter in one of the ball field dugout.
A classic species of the open country of the Great Plains and the West, Swainson’s Hawks soar on narrow wings or perch on fence posts and irrigation spouts. These elegant gray, white, and brown hawks hunt rodents in flight, wings held in a shallow V, or even run after insects on the ground. In fall, they take off for Argentine wintering grounds—one of the longest migrations of any American raptor—forming flocks of hundreds or thousands as they travel.
The Swainson’s Hawk initially suffered from a case of mistaken identity, when a specimen collected in Canada in 1827 and illustrated by William Swainson was confused with the common buzzard (Buteo buteo) of Europe. A nephew of Emperor Napoleon eventually corrected the error: in 1832, while working in Philadelphia, French biologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte identified the hawk as a new species and named it after the original illustrator—although he based his own description on a drawing by John James Audubon.
Swainson’s Hawk feed their chicks the usual “three r’s” of the North American buteo diet: rodents, rabbits, and reptiles. But when they’re not breeding, the adults switch to a diet made up almost exclusively of insects, especially grasshoppers and dragonflies.
Groups of soaring or migrating hawks are called “kettles.” When it comes to forming kettles, Swainson’s Hawks are overachievers: they form flocks numbering in the tens of thousands, often mixing with Turkey Vultures, Broad-winged Hawks, and Mississippi Kites to create a virtual river of migrating birds. Their daytime migrations create a much-anticipated spectacle for birders who in fall and spring form their own flocks at well-known migratory points in the southern U.S., Mexico, and Central America to watch the birds stream by.
Photographed in Anahuac NWR
Red Tailed Hawk Krider's
Description: The plumage is brownish with a cream colored head and breast- paler than the red-tailed hawk from the eastern US. The adult has a rufous or pinkish colored tail that may or may not have a black terminal bar.
Geographic Range: Native of North America, south to the mountains of western Panama: Bahamas and West Indies, east to St. Kitts and the Virgin Islands, north to Alaska.
Status: Protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This is the most wide-spread of all the hawks in the United States.
Length: 19 – 25 inches in height with a wingspan of 48 – 58 inches.
Weight: 2.5 to 3.8 pounds.
Habitat: Red-tailed Hawks feed in open country (open fields, open woodlands from forest to desert.) They often perch on poles, power lines and treetops.
Typical Diet: Rodents, small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, some poultry and game birds, some carrion.
Similar Species: Red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus)
-The Red-tailed Hawk is among the most common and best known of North America’s hawks.
-The Red-tailed Hawks most dangerous nemesis is the Great Horned Owl.