March 4th , 2013 9:42 am Leave a comment

Red-shouldered Hawk a new bird for yard and year


A visiting Red-shouldered Hawk became Bird No. 76 on my year list when I saw the bird Sunday, Feb. 24.

The hawk’s visit stirred the resident Blue Jays and American Crows into action. They noisily followed the hawk to a perch in a tall tree. The crows were more direct than the jays and swooped at the raptor each time it took flight.
A week had passed since I had added my latest bird to the list, so the addition of this hawk was a welcome event. The Red-shouldered Hawk also represented a new yard bird.

This raptor often hunts from a perch on a tree which allows it to swoop down in an ambush and catch its prey. They feed mostly on rodents — voles, mice and chipmunks — but also eat large insects, small birds, reptiles and amphibians, as well as the eggs of other birds.

Its call is a loud two syllable scream which is repeated two or three times. This screeching call sounds like “keeyar” and carries a long distance. This distinctive call is often the first clue to this bird’s presence in an area. The first time I ever heard this hawk I was reminded of a much-amplified call of a Killdeer.

The Red-shouldered Hawk belongs to a genus of raptors known as the buteos. For the most part, buteo hawks are raptors with a robust body and broad wings. Buteo is the Latin term for “buzzard.” In North America, most members of this genus are known as hawks, but in the rest of the world they are often known as “buzzards.” That can be confusing in the United States where the term “buzzard” is often used to refer to our two native vultures.

The Red-tailed Hawk is resident throughout the year and more common than the Red-shouldered Hawk. In summer, the Broad-winged Hawk is also resident in the region and is a more common bird than the Red-shouldered Hawk.

While not common, this raptor is widespread in the region in favored woodland habitat bordering open areas. I have found Red-shouldered Hawks in Limestone Cove in Unicoi County, at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park in Elizabethton, on Ripshin Mountain in Carter County, in Shady Valley in Johnson County and in the Limestone community of Washington County.

I’ve also seen these hawks in Florida, where they seem to be more abundant. During a visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida several years ago, I observed a perched Red-shouldered Hawk during a safari ride. I had my binoculars focused on the hawk while other people were watching exotic animals native to Africa.

Other members of the Buteo hawks in North America include the Rough-legged Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk and Swainson’s Hawk. Worldwide, the genus Buteo is comprised of about 30 species of raptors. Some other common names for some of these hawks include Grey-lined Hawk, Grey Hawk, Zone-tailed Hawk, Upland Buzzard, Red-necked Buzzard and Jackal Buzzard.


I turned in my reports for the Great Backyard Bird Count this past week.
This year was a first in many respects for the GBBC. For instance, birders around the globe could participate, and they certainly did so. To date, a total of 132,300 checklists have been posted. A total of 3,422 species of birds had been found, based on the checklists so far submitted. Worldwide, there are about 10,000 species of birds, which means this year’s GBBC recorded about a third of the world’s known birds.

So far, all the continents are represented save for Antarctica. I think it’s a shame no one in Antarctica bothered to count the penguins.

This year’s checklists were submitted using eBird, which is a free, real-time, online checklist program. You can use eBird to store and retrieve your bird observations and to explore where people are finding birds across North America.

I was new to eBird, but I have enjoyed using my new account, Warblerwatcher22, to survey the results of the GBBC. To learn more about this year’s GBBC, visit To fully explore the results, you may need to create your own eBird account.

Results are still being processed, so when the definitive numbers are released, I will re-visit this year’s GBBC with a focus on state and local results. Thus far, I’m in the lead for birds reported from Carter County with the 35 species I recorded at home in Hampton and while birding around Elizabethton.

In second place is Brookie Potter with 33 species. Tom McNeil took third place with 31 species. Overall, a total of 58 species of birds have been reported so far in Carter County from Feb. 15 to Feb. 18.

Overall, I found 55 birds during the four-day count period. I also birded in Sullivan and Unicoi counties with my mother, Peggy Stevens, to obtain this total.
Statewide in Tennessee, 141 birds have been reported through GBBC checklists. I am in 21st place statewide with 55 species. In first place in the Volunteer State is Stephen J. Stedman with 84 species.

In Sullivan County, I am in second place with a total of 46 species. In first place is John Moyle with 52 species. Roy Knispel is in third place with 36 species for Sullivan County. A total of 80 species have been reported from Sullivan County.

I didn’t spend as much time birding in Unicoi, but I was pleased to add a Northern Pintail to my list from Erwin Fishery Park. I reported only a total of 10 species from Unicoi County.

Brian Rovira was in first place with 22 species. Taking second place and third place, respectively, were Allen Clark and Wade Franklin, with 14 and 12 species. Donna McCoury was in fourth place with 11 species. A total of only 30 species has been reported to date in Unicoi County.

Any of these statistics could change as more checklists arrive. Checklists were accepted through March 1.


Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife ServiceA Red-shoulder Hawk photographed in South Carolina.

Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
A Red-shoulder Hawk photographed in South Carolina.

Call me at 297-9077 or 542-4151 to share an observation, make a comment or ask a question. Readers can also send email to or I’m also on Facebook.


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