May 2013 Bird Photo of the Month

An appetizer before breakfast © Maria Heffernan
Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

The most vocal raptor, the Red-shouldered Hawks’ “Kee’-ah” Kee’-ah! Kee’-ah!” can be heard far away. They loudly announce their territory or give alarm when other males or predators (e.g. Great Horned Owls) are in their territory. Common in human habitats with nearby woodlands, they usually are seen on an open perch or telephone wire overlooking their territory.

These hawks often sit very still (its light coloration blends with the bare tree), watching for unsuspecting prey: small mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, insects, crayfish, then swooping down to snatch them. Maria Heffernan photographed (with a Canon, 100-400mm lens set at 370mm) this Red-shouldered Hawk after it had caught a frog and returned to its regular perch to enjoy the meal.

Once, an immature night-heron landed in the same bare tree where a Red-shouldered Hawk was sitting at the top, not moving. The hawk seemed to be part of the tree, watching silently, waiting. Seeing the heron take flight, “Red” rapidly attacked along the birds’ trajectory – out of sight. Squawk!
Nesting occurs once a year. Red-shouldered Hawks are monogamous. Pairs often use the same nest year after year. After the nest is refurbished or built, courtship lasts about three weeks. One early February morning in Sebastian, a male was observed doing the courtship “sky-dance,” soaring high and calling. With repeated dives toward the female, who sat on a bare tree perch, he made a wide spiral around her, then rapidly ascended. When she crotched low on the branch, indicating her receptivity, he alighted on top of her, with copulation taking only five seconds. Then he stood down on the branch beside her for a minute of “pillow talk” and left. She fluffed her feathers and stayed about five minutes.

Beware. During nesting season from January-May, if humans venture near nests, they may be dive-bombed as the hawks try to protect their nests and young.

Juanita Baker, Coordinator
Florida Bird Photo of the Month
Pelican Island Audubon

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