Buteo Lineatus – Red-Shouldered Hawk

Buteo lineatus - Red-shouldered hawk

Known as the Red-shouldered hawk, Buteo lineatus, breeds in eastern North America, California, and northern and northeastern-central Mexico. Throughout its range, it is a permanent resident, however, northern birds migrate to central Mexico. Deforestation is the biggest danger to the species’ survival.

Quick Overview: Buteo Lineatus – Red-Shouldered Hawk
Body size: Around 17-24 in (43-61 cm) and a weight of 499 g (17.6 oz)
Main colors: Brown, Red, Cream, Yellow
Range: Coastal and the Northeastern United States
Migratory Bird: No
Best time of the year to see in the U.S.: All Year (January – December)
Conservation Status: Least Concern

Red-shouldered hawk Description

Red-shouldered hawks have big broad-winged bodies and lengthy tails. In this species, females outnumber males. Male red-shouldered hawks weigh 550 g and are 43-58 cm in length, while females weigh 700 g. Adults have 92-107 cm wingspan (average 100 cm). Brown head, dark brown back, reddish underparts with brown stripes. Adults have creamy underparts with dark brown dots and streaks. Adults and youngsters have reddish lesser secondary upper wing coverts that resemble red shoulders, thus the name. The red-shouldered hawk’s tail is dark brown with white stripes. They have yellow billed and legs.

Buteo lineatus - Red-shouldered hawk
Buteo lineatus – Red-Shouldered Hawk. Photo by: Andy Morffew


These hawks have a length of 17-24 in (43-61 cm) and a weight of 499 g (17.6 oz). Their wings could range from 32-50 in (81-127 cm).


Red-shouldered hawks eat mostly small animals, such as rabbits, and squirrels. Other foods include snakes, toads, frogs, lizards, tiny birds, and insects. In some areas, red-shouldered hawks feed on crayfish. Red-shouldered hawks hunt prey from treetops or flying above forests. When they see prey, they descend directly on it from the sky. So they can eat later.


Forested areas and swampy areas are preferred habitats for red-shouldered hawks. Usually found in moist woodlands, they construct their nests 6 to 15 meters (20 to 60 feet) above ground. They love dead trees nearby where they may perch and see the forest floor.


They are solitary and territorial. Even in the cold, they do not flock. They don’t migrate in most cases. They stay in one place all year. Birds that breed in the north (northeast US and southern Canada) migrate to northern Mexico during the winter.

Buteo lineatus Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Chelicerata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Accipitriformes
  • Family: Accipitridae
  • Genus: Buteo
  • Species: Buteo lineatus

Best time of the year to see

In the United States, the best time of year to see these birds is all year round, regardless of the season. This refers to any month of the year between January and December.

Distribution of the Red-shouldered hawk in the USA

Red-shouldered hawks inhabit the Nearctic. Red-shouldered hawks are residents in the eastern United States and California. Breeding populations in the northeastern United States and southern Canada winter in northern Mexico.

The Red-shouldered hawks can be found in the following states in the United States – Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Buteo Lineatus – Red-Shouldered Hawk

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