Large reddish patches on its shoulders, on the upper side of the wing near where the wing meets the body; under side is reddish with some barring or mottling; tail is striped with alternating light and dark. 43-60 cm (17-24 in). Broad wings and a large tail. When looking at a Red-shouldered Hawk from below, a semi-transparent patch, or "window," can be seen on both wings near the outer edges.
The breeding season begins in late January, peaks in early March to early April, and extends into June. Breeding habitat is usually associated with water, in swamps or bottomlands The nests are built by both the male and female, 20-60 feet above the ground in crotches of large trees. The nests are built of large sticks, twigs, leaves, moss, lichen, and conifer needles. The female lays 2-4 (usually 3) eggs that are whitish and marked with brown. The male and female both take turns incubating for approximately 28 days, at which time the young hatch. The young are semi-altricial, immobile, downy, and born with their eyes open. The young leave the nest in 39-40 days, but remain close to the adults after fledging for additional care.
The Red-shouldered Hawk is rarely seen far from wetlands or water. Its diet includes small mammals, frogs, snakes, lizards, large insects, and occasionally birds. It feeds over or near marshes, swamps, wooded lakes, or ponds. Commonly it will watch from a perch and fly down to capture its prey.
The Red-shouldered Hawk is widespread in the eastern United States and less common in the western United States. This species occurs regularly throughout most of Georgia, except in extreme northeastern mountainous areas. It is found more commonly in the southern portion of the state. birds from the extreme northern portions of this species' range migrate to southern parts of the United States for the winter.
The Red-shouldered Hawk is not listed as Threatened or Endangeredin any portion of its southeastern range. However, this species has been in decline and is found throughout the eastern United States only in low numbers. Habitat loss is the major threat faced by the Red-shouldered Hawk.
Similar species include the Red-tailed Hawk which is about the same size. An adult Red-tailed Hawk can be distinguished by the rusty red color of the upper side of its tail, a mottled barring of dark on its belly, and the lack of reddish shoulder patches. Another similar species is the Broad-winged Hawk, which is smaller (35-48 cm), has paler wing linings, and has broader bands on its tail.