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Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo Lineatus)

COSEWIC Status Report
on the
Red-shouldered Hawk
Buteo lineatus
in Canada

Species Information

Name and Classification

Common names:
Red-shouldered Hawk, Chicken Hawk, Elegant Hawk, Hen Hawk, Red-bellied Hawk and Winter Hawk
Buse à épaulettes

The Accipitridae family is comprised of 233 species worldwide (Dickinson 2003). The genus Buteo is the largest in the family, and contains 26 species. There are five recognized subspecies of Buteo lineatus: lineatus, alleni, extimus, texanus, and elegans (Crocoll 1994) that are separated based on geography and physical characteristics. The lineatus subspecies is found in the eastern half of North America from central Ontario (46th parallel) south to the east coast of Mexico (Crocoll 1994). Lineatus, the only subspecies confirmed in Canada, is the subject of this report.


Morphological Description

The Red-shouldered Hawk is a medium-sized hawk that can be distinguished by its reddish-brown shoulder patches, notched outer four primaries and less than half-feathered tarsus. Its upper parts are mainly brown, its tail blackish above and whitish below with several wide dark bars with intervening narrow white bars and a white tip. Its underparts are white with reddish-brown barring. Females are larger than males but have similar colouring. Immatures are more uniformly brown with streaking on the underparts and numerous whitish crossbars on the brownish tail. The immature plumage is retained for 18 months before it moults into adult plumage (Bent 1937). In the field, the Red-shouldered Hawk is most often confused with the Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) and the Broad-winged Hawk (B. platypterus). The Red-shouldered Hawk can be distinguished from other hawks by shape (longer tail and rounded wing-tips), flight action (fast flapping) and a crescent-shaped translucent panel in the outer primaries (Crocoll 1994). The most common vocalization is the “kee-aah” call that is given early in the breeding season.


Genetic Description

There is no information available.