North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Red-Shouldered Hawk

Scientific Name: Buteo lineatus
Classification: Nongame Species

Abundance: Found statewide

Photo: Andy Morffew

Species Profile



Additional Red-Shouldered Hawk Information

The red-shouldered hawk is a fairly common bird in North Carolina. While most North Carolinians cannot identify this hawk by sight, many are familiar with its two-part call. The blue jay often imitates the red-shoulder’s scream, ‘’kee-ah kee-ah.” This handsome bird of prey can live right in towns and suburbs, wherever it finds its favorite habitat—mature woods along streams and rivers and in swamps. The red-shouldered hawk is a type of hawk that ornithologists term ‘’buteo.” Buteos have broad wings and wide tails that are usually banded. Like other buteos, the red-shouldered hawk likes to soar, but it flaps its wings more than the red-tailed hawk. In direct flight it beats its wings several times and then glides.
The red-shouldered hawk is a medium-sized hawk, smaller than the red-tailed hawk and larger than the broad-winged hawk. Adult red-shouldered hawks have a reddish, barred belly. One usually sees the red shoulders only when the bird perches nearby. Better field marks are the strongly barred black-and-white tail and upper wing feathers. This barring in the wing produces a translucent or light patch near the tip of the underwing. The male and female red-shouldered hawk have similar plumage, but the female is noticeably larger than the male.Other hawks show a similar size difference between the sexes.

Learn more by reading the Red-Shouldered Hawk species profile. (PDF)


The red-shouldered hawk is a nongame species with no open hunting season. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, a law passed by Congress, prohibits the killing of red-shouldered hawks as well as other migratory nongame birds.

The red-shouldered hawk is a federally protected bird. Under federal and state law, it is illegal for anyone to injure, harass, kill or possess a bird of prey or any parts of a bird of prey. This includes harming or removing a nest. If you find an injured hawk, contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator.

Please contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Wildlife Services for any issues with this species. The toll free number is (866) 4USDA-WS (866-487-3297)