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Rich Staffen
Conservation Biologist

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)



Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus), a bird listed as Threatened in Wisconsin. This species prefers larger stands of older-aged to mature bottomland hardwoods along riparian areas, deciduous swamps, and northern hardwoods or mixed deciduous – coniferous upland forests with wetland pockets or ephemeral ponds interspersed or located in close proximity. The recommended avoidance period is from March 15 to July 31 in southern Wisconsin, and April 1 to July 31 north of Highway 64. See the species guidance document for avoidance measures and management guidance from the Natural Heritage Conservation Program.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where this species has been found to date and is not meant as a range map.

Documented locations of Buteo lineatus in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.

Summary Information
State StatusTHR
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS3S4B,S1N
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

This document contains identification and life history information for Red-shouldered Hawk. It also describes how to screen projects for potential impact to this species, lists avoidance measures, and provides general management guidance.

Red-shouldered Hawk species guidance [PDF]



Red-shouldered Hawk  [Photo #12541]

Photo © Gene Jacobs.

Red-shouldered Hawk  [Photo #12542]

Photo © Gene Jacobs.

Red-shouldered Hawk  [Photo #12543]

Photo © Gene Jacobs.

Red-shouldered Hawk  [Photo #12544]

Photo © Gene Jacobs.

Red-shouldered Hawk  [Photo #12545]

Photo © Gene Jacobs.

Red-shouldered Hawk  [Photo #12546]

Photo © Gene Jacobs.

Red-shouldered Hawk  [Photo #12547]

Red-shouldered Hawk nestlings. Older stands of extensive forest in close proximity to wetlands provide suitable breeding habitat for this WI Threatened species.

Photo © Gene Jacobs.

Red-shouldered Hawk  [Photo #12548]

Red-shouldered Hawk nest (near top of tree).

Photo © Gene Jacobs.

Red-shouldered Hawk  [Photo #12550]

Red-shouldered Hawk nest.

Photo © Gene Jacobs.

Red-shouldered Hawk  [Photo #7570]

Photo © Lee Karney.

Red-shouldered Hawk  [Photo #12539]

Red-shouldered Hawk fledglings.

Photo by Jim Woodford, WDNR.

Red-shouldered Hawk  [Photo #10864]

Photo © Lana Hays.

Red-shouldered Hawk  [Photo #9965]

Active nest of Red-shouldered Hawk (WI Threatened) in oak. Fresh greenery has been added to the nest rim.

Photo by Rich Staffen, WDNR.

Red-shouldered Hawk  [Photo #9499]

Red-shouldered Hawk Nest.

Photo by Rich Staffen, WDNR.

Red-shouldered Hawk  [Photo #12540]

Red-shouldered Hawk nestlings.

Photo by Jim Woodford, WDNR.

Wildlife Action Plan

Note: the information presented here comes from the 2005 Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan. The Wildlife Action Plan is currently under revision, so this page will be updated with new information before the end of 2015.

Native community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Red-shouldered Hawk. Only natural communities for which Red-shouldered Hawk is "significantly" (score=3) or "moderately" (score=2) associated are shown. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Red-shouldered Hawk. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of Red-shouldered Hawk occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

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Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

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Conservation actions

  • Designating Red-shoulder Hawk nesting territories is recommended where and when appropriate. Bryant (1986) recommends leaving an uncut buffer zone around traditional Red-shouldered Hawk nests to discourage Red-tailed Hawks.
  • Research is needed to evaluate how Red-shouldered Hawks respond to different management regimes.
  • This area-sensitive species benefits from maintenance of large blocks of relatively undisturbed, mature mixed riparian woods and mature upland deciduous woods (with a preference for bottomlands and wooded margins adjacent to marshes) where at least 70% or

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Threats and issues

  • One of several raptors adversely affected by organohalogens.
  • Hydrological alterations due to dams may be a long-term detriment to the health of floodplain forests and thus be a threat to Red-shouldered Hawk habitat.
  • Loss and fragmentation of large blocks of forest, particularly riparian forests.
  • A reduction in forest canopy cover, or removal of nesting trees, can be detrimental to this species. Red-tailed Hawks can outcompete Red-shouldered Hawks in forests with parially open canopies.
  • Human use of forest roads and trails near nest sites during the breeding and nesting seasons may disturb Red-shouldered Hawks and cause them to abandon nests and possibly territories.
  • Invasive plants such as reed canary grass or buckthorn are a threat to the long-term health of the floodplain forest systems.

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Last revised: Tuesday, August 11, 2015