Saturday, October 13, 2012

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk circling above DeGrasse on October 21, 2006 (note the wing tips pushed slightly forward, a typical soaring aspect for this species) - © Dave Spier

Red-shouldered Hawks (Buteo lineatus) can be expected anytime from mid-March through early November in the Adirondacks, based on the combined eBird bar chart for four northern New York counties. More of the reports come from St. Lawrence and Franklin, with few from Hamilton and a moderate number from Essex. The red-shoulder is considered a woodland species associated with mature deciduous and mixed deciduous-coniferous forests and likely to be found near rivers, streams, ponds and swamps. It typically avoids pure-conifer stands and it may hold to this pattern during migration.

Their primary diet is rodents followed by frogs and snakes. (A Michigan study placed small birds a close second behind mice.) It was getting late in the season for reptiles and amphibians when I found a red-shoulder soaring near DeGrasse in St. Lawrence County one October 21st.

Red-shouldered Hawks breed across the entire state of New York, with heavier nesting concentrations in southwestern NY, the Tug Hill Plateau and the Catskill Mountains. Slightly lower densities occur across south-central NY and the Taconics. There is a scattering of possible, probable and confirmed nest records across the Adirondacks with Essex County having the highest number of confirmed blocks at six. (Each Breeding Bird Atlas block is 5 x 5 km or roughly nine square miles.) Overall, nesting activity has increased statewide since the initial 1980-85 Atlas, although it may have declined slightly in the Adirondacks.

Rather than re-invent the wheel, so to speak, you can learn more about Red-shouldered Hawks at the All About Birds website along with a variety of photos. If you have The Sibley Guide to Birds, the species is illustrated on page 117. (There's a smaller Eastern version of Sibley's which I don't own.)

For a list of birds in St. Lawrence County and their seasonal abundance, I've linked to that eBird bar chart too.
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