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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

Red-shouldered Hawk -- Buteo lineatus

RANGE: Breeds from northern California south, west of the Sierra Nevada divide, to Baja California; and from eastern Nebraska, central Minnesota, southern Ontario, and southern New Brunswick south to Mexico. Winters primarily from eastern Kansas and central Missouri to southern New England southward, but also sporadically throughout breeding range.

STATUS: Common, but population is unstable.

HABITAT: Inhabits moist, well-drained woodlands, wooded river swamps, bottomlands, and wooded margins of marshes, often close to cultivated fields. Seems to prefer mature forests and is usually more common in lowland areas than in mountainous regions.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Riparian deciduous woodlands with tall trees for nesting.

NEST: Nests 20 to 60 feet above ground in tall trees. Usually builds nest 35-45 feet above ground on a main fork and close to the tree trunk. Has built nests in oak, pine, baldcypress, mangrove, cottonwood, birch, beech, sycamore, yellow-poplar, ash, sweetgum and maple. Occasionally uses an abandoned hawk, crow, or squirrel nest as a foundation for a new nest; often uses the same nest site year after year.

FOOD: Perches on a fence post, tree, or telephone pole and overlooks a meadow, marsh, open field, or forest to sight prey. Feeds primarily on small mammals but also takes rabbits, squirrels, small birds, frogs, small snakes, toads, lizards, fishes, and large insects.

REFERENCES: Bednarz and Dinsmore 1982, DeGraff et al. 1980, Forbush and May 1955, Heintzelman 1979, McAtee 1935, Portnoy and Dodge 1979, Sprunt 1955, Stewart 1949, Tate and Tate 1982.

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