Friday, November 21, 2014

Red-shouldered Hawk

This week John Holden called to report an oddly colored, orangey breasted hawk perched above his bird feeders near Dundas, Minnesota. “It is relatively tame, and you should have no problem seeing it,” he claimed. Sure enough, on 19 November 2014, when I drove over to see if I could find it, a Red-shouldered Hawk swooped low across his front yard and landed above his backyard feeders.

Red-shouldered Hawks are found in many North American forests and in nearby urban woodlands. The hawks generally hunt from a perch, waiting to spy prey on the ground. John confirmed that his bird spent most of its time looking towards the ground. These hawks eat a variety of vertebrate prey. In Minnesota in the winter, they especially favor chipmunks, mice, and voles (Dykstra et al. 2008). Small birds are also taken, but, curiously, the birds at the nearby feeders paid the hawk little attention (unlike the panic shown when an Accipiter is nearby). Note the bloody belly feathers on the bird in my photo. I suspect those are the result of the hawk’s taking squirrels or chipmunks (and the latter really should be hibernating now). Squirrels are certainly abundant at the feeder. I doubt that smaller prey would leave such a bloody mess.

Janssen (1987) rates this hawk as “casual” in the winter in Minnesota. (Note that Janssen’s book is currently available for a penny through this link—I assume postage is additional.) In the past 30 days, only about a half-dozen eBird records exist for the state.

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