Order: Falconiformes, Family: Accipitridae
Appearance/Behavior: This woodland hawk (43 – 61 cm) has a relatively long tail. Its dark gray back is speckled with white (blue arrow). The bird’s shoulder, wing underside, chest (red arrow) and belly are rusty red, with white speckles. Black and white banding is visible on the underside of the tail during flight. At the compost piles, the red-shouldered hawk appears individually or in pairs. It frequently appears along with crows at the piles and occasionally with turkey vultures.
Relative Frequency of Visitation in Study: A moderately frequent visitor.
Seasonal Activity: Year-round.
Daily Activity: Strictly diurnal.
Two other birds that may be confused with the red-shouldered hawk have been recorded at the compost piles: the red-tailed hawk and the turkey vulture. The red-tailed hawk is slightly larger than the red-shouldered and lacks its rusty shoulder, fine orange-white striping on the breast, and substantial black and white tail banding. The turkey vulture’s bare head sets it apart from the red-shouldered hawk. Another congener of the red-shouldered hawk occurs in the vicinity of the study site, but has not been encountered at the piles: the broad-winged hawk (Buteo platyterus). Like the red-shouldered hawk, the slightly smaller broad-winged hawk has some reddish brown speckling on the chest; however, this brown plumage does not extend to the shoulder. The broad-wing hawk, a forest-dweller, has more white on the underside of its wings, as well as fewer, yet broader bands of black and white on the tail’s underside.