Thursday, March 31, 2016

Red-shouldered Hawk

Rare Hawk Makes Visit

Red-shouldered Hawk
On March 24 and 29 a RED-SHOULDERED HAWK paid us a visit.  On the first occasion it was perched in a nearby tree and appeared to be sleeping.  As we watched, it was harassed by a red squirrel which forced it to leave.  On the second occasion it appeared in a tree near the house and we watched it for about 30 minutes.  It flew down and caught a rodent on two occasions and we watched it eat its prize, preen and rest.  What a wonderful opportunity for viewing and photography.

Red-shouldered Hawk

The Red-shoulderd Hawk is a medium-sized buteo which rarely appears in New Brunswick.  It is a permanent resident of the eastern half of the United States where it winters, also moving into Mexico.  Its breeding range extends into southern Ontario and Quebec and occasionally into southwestern New Brunswick.  There is also a population along the southwestern coast of the US.  

It prefers wet deciduous woodlands especially near water.  It is very vocal and emits a high-pitched kee-urh sound.  Females are larger than males and they look alike.  As you can see in the photos, they are quite mottled in appearance.  The breast is orange with horizontal and vertical stripes.  The back is dark brown and mottled with light areas.  The tail is striped and they normally show 3 narrow white stripes.  I am including a rear view to show just how mottled they are.  These hawks show white crescents on their wingtips in flight.  This is an identifying feature which separates them from all other species.  

Red-shouldered Hawk - Showing Tail and Back
The juveniles are similar to adults but show bold vertical stripes on the breast and are brown and beige, not showing any orange.   There are 5 subspecies.  The Eastern subspecies (lineatus) shows vertical stripes on the breast as can be seen in the photos above.  The southeastern (alleni), the Texas (texanus), the south Florida (extimus) and the California (elegans) are the other subspecies.

But, why is it called the Red-shouldered Hawk?  Adults in good light show red on the forward part of the wing/shoulder.  It is not visible in the bird illustrated here indicating it is a young adult.  The red shoulder is visible in older adults but is never an outstanding feature.  


video


The video above shows the hawk just after it had consumed a rodent.  It shows it cleaning its beak on the branch.  The bird we saw on the 24th (it may or may not have been the same bird as seen on the 29th) whistled for us, giving us a fine display of its vocal abilities.  

We should all be watching for more sightings of this species as a few of them move into New Brunswick to establish breeding territories.   

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