Plants and Animals

Buteo lineatus Red-shouldered hawk

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Aaron Kortenhoven
species photo
Aaron Kortenhoven
species photo
Aaron Kortenhoven
species photo
Aaron Kortenhoven
species photo
Aaron Kortenhoven

Key Characteristics

Adult Red-shouldered hawks can be distinguished by the reddish coloration of their underparts and wing linings and their 5 - 6 narrow, white tail bands. In flight, they show crescent-shaped translucent patches lining the bases of the long, outermost wing feathers (the "primaries"). These patches are sometimes referred to as "windows". The bird's red shoulders are often not readily visible. Their call during the breeding season is distinctive; a loud, rapidly repeated "kee-yer", though it is closely imitated by Blue jays. Immatures have their underparts streaked with brown, teardrop-shaped spots.

Status and Rank

US Status: No Status/Not Listed
State Status: SC - Special Concern (rare or uncertain; not legally protected)
Global Rank: G5 - Secure
State Rank: S4 - Apparently secure


CountyNumber of OccurrencesYear Last Observed
Alcona 7 2020
Alger 10 2022
Allegan 9 2013
Alpena 11 2023
Antrim 14 2004
Arenac 2 2004
Benzie 15 2023
Berrien 2 1998
Charlevoix 14 2009
Cheboygan 82 2015
Chippewa 11 2017
Clare 1 2003
Crawford 6 2024
Delta 13 2016
Emmet 21 2015
Gladwin 2 2003
Gogebic 1 1994
Grand Traverse 5 2004
Ionia 1 2015
Iosco 8 2020
Iron 1 1984
Kalamazoo 1 2022
Kalkaska 5 2022
Kent 1 2016
Lake 8 2021
Lapeer 1 2006
Leelanau 1 2015
Livingston 1 2004
Luce 3 2004
Mackinac 59 2017
Macomb 1 1974
Manistee 55 2021
Marquette 2 2013
Mason 8 2021
Menominee 5 2009
Midland 3 2012
Missaukee 1 2003
Montcalm 2 2015
Montmorency 17 2004
Muskegon 2 2014
Newaygo 7 2016
Oakland 4 2022
Oceana 2 2016
Ogemaw 5 2020
Osceola 1 2021
Oscoda 6 2020
Otsego 19 2004
Ottawa 1 2000
Presque Isle 4 2004
Roscommon 1 2003
Schoolcraft 10 2016
St. Clair 1 2004
Tuscola 2 2016
Van Buren 1 2015
Washtenaw 2 2022
Wayne 1 2006
Wexford 23 2021

Information is summarized from MNFI's database of rare species and community occurrences. Data may not reflect true distribution since much of the state has not been thoroughly surveyed.


Red-shouldered hawks will nest in a variety of habitats but seem to be closely associated with mature forests in or adjacent to wet meadows and swamps.

Natural Community Types

For each species, lists of natural communities were derived from review of the nearly 6,500 element occurrences in the MNFI database, in addition to herbarium label data for some taxa. In most cases, at least one specimen record exists for each listed natural community. For certain taxa, especially poorly collected or extirpated species of prairie and savanna habitats, natural community lists were derived from inferences from collection sites and habitat preferences in immediately adjacent states (particularly Indiana and Illinois). Natural communities are not listed for those species documented only from altered or ruderal habitats in Michigan, especially for taxa that occur in a variety of habitats outside of the state.

Natural communities are not listed in order of frequency of occurrence, but are rather derived from the full set of natural communities, organized by Ecological Group. In many cases, the general habitat descriptions should provide greater clarity and direction to the surveyor. In future versions of the Rare Species Explorer, we hope to incorporate natural community fidelity ranks for each taxon.

Management Recommendations

Management practices that maintain greater than 70% canopy closure, retain large trees for nesting, and conserve large contiguous blocks of deciduous or mixed forest stands and associated wetland habitat should benefit this species.

Active Period

Migration from fourth week of February to second week of March

Migration from fourth week of August to fourth week of October

Nesting from third week of March to fourth week of June

Survey Methods

Surveys are best accomplished from mid-March through early May (SLP) or mid-April through early May (NLP & UP), when birds are exhibiting territorial behavior, roads are relatively accessible, and leaves have not obscured nests. A standard and effective survey methodology for this species is to broadcast a Red-shouldered Hawk call with a CD player (or other electronic device) in suitable habitat.

Broadcast conspecific call

Survey Period: From first week of April to first week of June

Time of Day: Daytime


Survey References

  • Bibby, C.J., N.D. Burgess, and D.A. Hill. 1992. Bird Census Techniques. Academic Press, New York.

Technical References

  • Cooper, J.L. 1999. Special Animal Abstract for Buteo lineatus (Red-shouldered hawk). Michigan Natural Features Inventory, Lansing, MI. 3pp.
  • Evers, D.C. 1994. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife of Michigan. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor. 412pp.
  • Sibley, D.A. 2000. The Sibley Guide to Birds. Knopf, Toronto. 544pp.

More Information