Hawks with the same names as the Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks live in North America. These ferocious birds of prey may be difficult to distinguishes from afar, especially when they’re flying. We’ll take a look at eight important distinctions between Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks in this article. After that, we’ll discover more about each species in the last section.
8 DIFFERENCES BETWEEN RED-TAILED VS RED-SHOULDERED HAWKS
Both the Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks are predators that consume tiny reptiles, mammals, and amphibians. There are ways to hear and see the differences that distinguish them, despite their similar appearance.
1. RED-TAILED HAWK CALLS ARE ONLY ONE NOTE, WHILE RED-SHOULDERED HAWKS ARE TWO
A single “keeeeeaaa” is a shrill scream or screech made by the Red-tailed Hawk. It is drawn out and lasts for a count of 2-3 seconds. When they’re in the air, this cry is most commonly heard.
The Red-shouldered Hawk’s two-note “keee-yaah,” which is higher and clearer in tone, is quickly distinguishable. They repeat this summons typically several times in a row, and the second note lowers in pitch. While flying or perched, they may do this.
2. RED-TAILED HAWKS HAVE SHORTER TAILS AND LARGER BODIES THAN RED-SHOULDERED HAWKS
The red-tailed hawk is a big hawk species. The wingspan of these bigger birds is greater, the chest is more barrel-shaped, and the tail is small yet broad.
The medium-sized red-shouldered hawk is Since their tails are proportionally longer to the size of their bodies, they appear more delicate yet lengthier.
3. RED-SHOULDERED HAWKS LIVE MOSTLY IN THE EASTERN US, BUT RED-TAILED HAWKS LIVE FROM COAST TO COAST.
Across the United States, Red-tailed Hawks may be found. In reality, they are the most widespread hawk in North America. Some of the same territory is shared by red-shouldered Hawks, but not all. The eastern United States and a narrow band along California’s western coast are home to Red-shouldered Hawks. Southwest, northwest, northern plains, and Rocky Mountain states are all missing them.
4. RED-TAILED HAWKS LIVE IN OPEN AREAS WHILE RED-SHOULDERED HAWKS PREFER FORESTS.
In open areas, such as fields, meadows, and open landscapes, red-tailed hawks are far more common. Because they can capture bigger updrafts and travel farther while hunting prey, their greater bulk helps them there. They won’t avoid many places, from desert to grassland to shattered woodland.
Red-shouldered Hawks prefer to reside in the woods, unlike their red-tailed relatives, who prefer to frequent open areas and dry desert. In suburban regions with woodland mixed in, you may encounter Red-shouldered hawks.
Their different sizes are also influenced by their varied habitat. When flying through the woodland, red-shouldered Hawks have a lower profile that aids them navigate amid the trees.
5. IF THE TAIL IS RED, IT’S A RED-TAILED HAWK
A Red-tailed and a Red-shouldered Hawk may be distinguished in this manner. There is no question that a Red-tailed Hawk if you see the hawk’s tail is crimson. The brick-red tail of no other North American hawk is the same.
The black tail of Red-shouldered Hawks is small and white.
Of course, juvenile red-tailed hawks do not yet have a red tail, so it’s even more confusing. They have a brown and white tail that is barred. The Red-shouldered Hawk’s tail will have deeper and thicker black stripes.
6. RED-TAILED HAWKS HAVE VERY RED UNDERPARTS
The belly of red-tailed hawks is usually light colored. They might have a band of dark brown streaks running horizontally across their midsection, and they may have fine streaking on their breast. While they are less frequent and appear more brown than red, certain dark color morphs will have a dark breast and belly.
7. RED-SHOULDERED HAWKS HAVE MORE WHITE ON THEIR WINGS AND BACK.
You should be able to tell the difference in coloration between the two hawks if both are perched and you are viewing their backs.
The back and wings of red-shouldered hawks are heavily feathered. This will be combined with reddish feathers at the summit of their back and shoulders (hence their name). A lot of white barring will be mixed in with the dark feathers from the mid-back down.
From behind, red-tailed hawks may take on a variety of hues, however they will appear brown in the vast majority of instances. Their back will be darker brown, and the reddish coloration will not be visible. They’ll be strewn with white and brown, but unlike the red-shouldered hawk’s crisp stripes, it’ll seem more mottled.
8. THESE HAWKS LIKE TO NEST IN SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT LOCATIONS
Both hawks choose somewhat different heights for nesting, despite the fact that they nest in tall trees. The crown or top of tall trees are favorite feeding habitats for Red-tailed Hawks. They have a wonderful perspective of the surrounding countryside from up there. Cliff ledges, pane ledge on tall buildings, and billboards are among the many surfaces they may use.
The secretive nature of Red-shouldered Hawks persists. They choose to nest beneath the forest canopy, near the top of trees with large leaves. Ponds, streams, and swamps are examples of locations near water.
In the United States, red-tailed hawks are one of the most frequent types of hawk. Their cry has been used in films to replace the call of eagles, who have far less dignified noises than they.
Red-tailed Hawks prefer large, open areas where they can survey their surroundings while flying. They’ve found a way to survive in human civilization, perched on wires and walls.
The Red-tailed Hawks are carnivores who eat mostly small mammals and reptiles. Lizards, mice, rats, frogs, and small birds are among the animals they eat.
Much of North America’s continent is home to these falcons of prey. They may be found year-round in the United States and Mexico. Some dogs have been known to go as far north as Alaska!
If both Red-tailed Hawks and Red-shouldered Hawks are flying overhead, it’s simple to distinguish between them. Except for coppery tail feathers, black wingtips, and a brown bar on its neck and upper wings, the former has a mostly white underside.
The rust-colored tail feathers of the Red-tailed Hawk are visible from above and below, giving it its name. They have a thick copper tint that goes all the way to the feather tips on top. The copper color on the underside of the tail feathers gives way to white bars towards the end.
Length: 16-24.0 in
Weight: 17.1-27.3 oz
Wingspan: 3 ft 1 in – 3 ft 7 in
Although it is smaller than the Red-tailed Hawk, the Red-shouldered Hawk is less well-known. This hawk is more cautious and will only live in thick vegetation, since it can’t be seen as readily as other raptors.
These birds of prey prefer to dwell in woodlands, where they may rest high in the trees and observe for their meal of choice. They’ve become scarce due to the destruction of numerous forests on the East coast. In the western United States, where they prefer to dwell among imported Eucalyptus trees, they have grown in numbers.
The Red-shouldered Hawk, like most hawks, is a meat eater. It finds small animals, reptiles, and amphibians using both its hearing and its acute sense of sight, and Hunts and Eats them.
The habitats of red-shouldered hawks are mostly restricted to the Mississippi River’s east coast. They can be seen year-round in the United States’ South. Others may be found south of the Baja Peninsula on the west coast of California.
The red shoulders of the Red-shouldered Hawk give it its name. Both boys and girls have these dark copper shoulders. They are smaller than Red-tailed Hawks and have a copper head and breast.
The tail of a Red-shouldered Hawk is wider than that of a Red-tailed Hawk. It’s also colorized in a different way. It has brown bands of white on the bottom that is pale. It has white stripes on top, and is black in color.
You’ll be ready to go out into nature and identify the Red-tailed Hawk and Red-shouldered Hawk once you have a clear picture of the differences and similarities between them.