Red Shouldered Hawk Nest in Our Back Yard!

We first heard the Skree yah…Skree yah of the bird. Then we saw something very large in the tree behind us separating our back yards. DH pulled out the binoculars and there it was — a red-shouldered hawk and what looked to be a very large nest. How long has it been there? Was it there last year? He patiently set up one of his cameras on a tripod and sat quietly. The first vigil was for naught. Then we heard the Skree yah again. DH found two of the red-shouldered hawks in our sycamore in the front yard. He set up another camera and waited. Once, twice, with binoculars, watching and waiting. Here’s what he caught:

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The red shouldered hawk is perched on a limb close to its nest

The red-shouldered hawk or buteo lineatus is a relatively large, broad winged hawk with a long tail and heavy body. The female is larger than than male and are about 2 feet long with a wingspan of about 40+ inches. Although there are five subspecies, the ones found in Florida are paler than the others and reside year round here without migrating.

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Red shouldered hawk: This might be the male still scouting for security

Red-shouldered hawks are monogamous and territorial. Courtship displays occur on the breeding grounds, and involve soaring together in broad circles while calling, or soaring and diving toward one another. Males may also perform the “sky-dance” by soaring high in the air, and then making a series of steep dives, each followed by a wide spiral and rapid ascent. These courtship flights usually occur in late morning and early afternoon.

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Red shouldered hawk: Not sure she’s laid her eggs, but definitely settling in!

Red-shouldered hawks usually inhabit mature deciduous or mixed deciduous-conifer forests and swamps. They build their nests 20 to 60 feet above the ground in the branches of deciduous trees in wet woodland areas. They prefer to have dead trees nearby, where they can perch and enjoy an unobstructed view of the forest floor.

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Red shouldered hawk: Yes, nice and comfy!

Red-shouldered hawks breed once per year between April and July, with peak activity occurring between early April and mid June. They often use the same nest from year to year, refurbishing it each spring. Both the male and female build or refurbish the nest, which is large and deep, constructed from sticks, twigs, shredded bark, leaves and green sprigs.

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Red shouldered hawk: Is this Papa watching over the potential brood?

The female lays 3 to 4 white eggs with brown or lavender blotches over the course of 2 to 3 days. Incubation begins when the first or second egg is laid, and lasts for 33 days. Hatching is asynchronous, with up to 7 days between the first and last chick. The nestlings are brooded nearly constantly by the female for at least a week. The male brings food to the nest for the female and nestlings during the nestling stage, which lasts approximately 6 weeks. Chicks begin to leave the nest at 6 weeks, but are fed by the parents for another 8 to 10 weeks. Chicks become independent of the parents at 17 to 19 weeks old. After becoming independent, they may still roost in or near the nest at night. Red-shouldered hawks begin breeding when they are 1 year old or older.

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Red-shouldered hawk: Is she laying her eggs?

We’re still on our tiny lot in Central Florida, but only until the end of March, so we are not sure we will see the babies!

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2 thoughts on “Red Shouldered Hawk Nest in Our Back Yard!”

    1. Photos courtesy of DH! We understand they take about a month to hatch, so we are steeling ourselves that we will miss them, but we did catch the hatching of sandhill cranes on the lake in front of us, and we hope to post their portraits soon! Thanks so much for stopping by! Best to you

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