A Backyard Visitor: Red-Shouldered Hawk

I had a visitor to my yard recently.

Red-Shouldered Hawk, Georgia Backyard, January 2014


He was having his dinner on a tree branch in the backyard. I think a squirrel may have met with an untimely demise.

Red-Shouldered Hawk, Georgia Backyard, January 2014


This was one of those insanely cold days when the high for the day was around 10 degrees. I didn’t have on a coat, just ran out onto the porch and peeked my head through the screened door to capture these pics. I couldn’t stay out there very long since it was so cold.

Red-Shouldered Hawk in Georgia Backyard Eating Something He Caught


Isn’t he gorgeous! He’s a Red-Shouldered Hawk.

Red-Shouldered Hawk, Georgia Backyard, January 2014


Every year I see a hawk in the back yard during the month of January.

Red-Shouldered Hawk, Georgia Backyard, January 2014


Last year a Red-Tailed Hawk came by in January.

Red Tailed Hawk in Georiga Backyard


At least, that’s what we all thought he was. Does he look like a Red-Tailed Hawk to you? Update: Another reader identified this handsome fella as a juvenile Red Shouldered Hawk.

Red-Tailed Hawk


This year my visitor is a Red-Shouldered hawk. He stayed an hour or so, keeping a watchful eye on the ground as he continued to look for something new to eat.

Red-Shouldered Hawk in Georgia Backyard


Once he had finished eating his dinner, he casually lifted a talon and the remains fell to the ground. Then he cleaned off his beak by rubbing it back and forth on the branch.

Red-Shouldered Hawk, Georgia Backyard, January 2014


Do you get hawks in your area?

Red-Shouldered Hawk on Tree in Georgia Back Yard


Do you love watching them as much as I do?

Red-Shouldered Hawk, January, Georgia


If you enjoy posts about birds/birdwatching, ย you’ll find many more here: For the Love of Birdsย (Click on any photo at that link to view the full post)

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  1. I love hawks too, we have many of them passing through our property. They are such smart creatures and sure give the squirrels a scare. I love seeing them in the warmer months as I am hopeful they are looking for snakes and will rid our property of a few of those as well.

  2. We have a bunch of hawks around here, but they don’t land in the flimsy trees behind my house. However, they do soar around the house. One day, there was one flying right past my window on the third floor. Also, on a long drive by myself, one flew right next to my car. I think he was trying to tell me to slow down. ๐Ÿ˜€ I love watching them!

  3. They are magnificent creatures aren’t they? We have them here too,(20 min south of Raleigh). A few years back when my mother-in-law got a small Shitzu puppy, everyone laughed at me when I suggested they never let it out in the backyard off leash and alone for fear the hawks would carry it away. Then one day, within earshot of us all, the hawk swooped down, picked up a jackrabbit and flew off with it. She kept the dog on a leash and with her at all times after that lol!

    • Yikes! I’ve heard they will do that. Amazing how much they can carry. I wouldn’t let my kitty, Max on the deck alone for that reason. I was always afraid a hawk might come down and try to get him.

  4. He is a very handsome bird, Susan!
    We don’t have any hawks come to our yard, but we have plenty of non-predatory birds. A naughty woodpecker has recently discovered our backyard bird feeder, and he chases away the chickadees without fail every time he comes to get his fill of birdseed.

  5. We have a city block of black walnut trees just behond our backyard. We are avid bird watchers & love feeding the birds… So we have hawks. Every summer the red tail hawks bring in their young to teach them to catch their prey. Its really something to watch. I don’t like it but they are a protected species. Two summers ago when it was so hot we have pictures if the hawks cooling themselves in our birdbaths.

    • Beverly, I’m glad I didn’t see him catch whatever he had, that would bother me. I know they have to eat but I just can’t watch that. I bet they are amazing in the birdbaths. I kept wondering if he would come down to my heated birdbath, but I know he saw me on the porch, sticking my head out through the door to snap photos, so I’m sure that made him stay further back.

  6. Hi……yes we have them visiting here as well..I don’t know what kind they are I don’t get that close of a look…I have an owl that lives in my yard…I hear him all summer just outside my bedroom window..I have some other bird too..he’s a “night owl”..I counted 37 different tweets out of him one night and I got tried of counting..I don’t know what he is but he’s up pretty late some nights..I often wonder if he’s wondering why no one is answering him back..he goes on an on an on with nobody else making a peep..

    • Wende, I bet it was a mockingbird. I used to have one outside my window and he sang allllll night long. I taped him and played it on the blog. Unfortunately, the service I used to upload that audio to went out of business, so I lost it. ๐Ÿ™ He imitated so many other birds and other noises like car alarms. He drove me nuts the first night or two but I got so used to hearing him all night that when he finally quit, I missed it.

      • Yeah I figured it was..I really hate them when they go after my cats..I root for the cat to get them..I don’t mind listening to them sing at night tho…my in laws had one that sounded like their squeaky screen door..my mother in law said sometimes she thought it was the Mr. coming in and it was the bird..LOL

  7. We have a hawk that visits us routinely in our backyard… same tree, EVERY day! We have a small creek that flows near the back of our property line and “his” tree sits just above it. I’ve no doubt that there must be plentiful meals there that he anticipates! I love watching him and have come to “expect” him! Have no idea what type of hawk he is. Your post has inspired me to take pictures and begin to research!

    • Sandy, let me know what he is when you find out. Would love to know!

      • Will try to keep my camera and “zoom “ready! I’m very curious as well! Never knew there were so many species of hawks! Between them and the deer every morning during my tea I am totally entertained in the am! Loving nature!

  8. We live pretty close to the river and the hawks come up and all the birds, squirrels , rabbits and small animals disappear when they here the sound of those wings flying over head. Every once in awhile they do get one of these little creatures. Once while we were pulling into the Home Depot lot a big hawk come flying down and got a dove. We blew the horn but he didn’t let go and carried the dove up with him. I felt so sorry for one of my favorite birds.

  9. Wow, these are spectacular photos! We have hawks around here, but I’ve never been lucky enough to capture of photo of one up close like this.

    • Thanks, Amy! I wish they had been sharper but I had to take them hand holding the camera. I didn’t know how long he would stay and didn’t want to miss getting the shots while trying to set up a tripod, plus he probably would have flown off. I need to buy a monopod or whatever they are called for these rare visits. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. I’d never seen a hawk close up until this fall when a red-tailed hawk landed on my deck railing. I had no idea how beautiful and wild they look. I was blown away. You got some great pictures!

  11. Doreen Krajzel says

    What a beautiful hawk! This past summer we had 2 black hawks (??) Not sure excally what they were. But they were big, and beautiful. They stayed about 2 weeks, and kept swirling in the sky. Such a regal bird!

  12. Good for that Hawk, I hope he got the squirrel. I know I am a hater, but squirrels cause nothing but trouble. They are rodents! My sister used to have a huge bird bath and a hawk that visited for his daily bath. Hawks are amazing and scary at the same time.

  13. This was so cool! We, too, had a hawk and it landed on our newly installed fountain!! I thought it might be good luck! franki

  14. Yes we have a red tail hawk that comes all the time. I feed the other birds and he knows it.. He has swooped down and caught something faster than we can see him. He is big and pretty but he and my mother chicken didn’t get along at all. They a a fight in the back yard one afternoon over a baby chick. The mother won the baby back but it was dead. Her other babies fled the scene and she hunted for 4 hours calling till she got them all back together. She was a good mom till a coon got her one night. I’ve got 2 bay chicks right now trying to learn the way of the world. I hope the hawk doesn’t get them. Love you photos by the way.

  15. We get hawks occasionally, too. Because we feed the birds and they (the hawks) are looking for dinner! It is amazing when the hawk appears how the rest of the birds disappear — until he is good and gone! I had a friend that ended up not feeding her birds anymore because of the hawk! Thankfully, we haven’t seen one in a while.

    • I think one of the reasons the hawks come here is because the bird seed that gets pulled out and dropped by the woodpeckers who are digging for the nuts, attracts chipmunks and squirrels. I noticed when he was here, he was scouring the ground underneath the trees, so I think he was shopping for chipmunks and squirrels. Whatever he goes for, I don’t want to witness it!

  16. Susan, we have hawks who nest in our neighborhood. They took up residence in one of our trees several years ago. The nest was just outside out upstairs guest room window, but a tad too high for me to peek inside. I could see their heads bob up on occasion. When they were learning to fly, they would perch on a limb in the back yard. It was fun to watch this family. They left out tree for better real estate across the street. Now I think there may be more than one family here. Not certain what type of hawks they are. Love seeing your images. I never did get a good shot of our little family.

  17. How cool is that! We also get hawks in our area, and my mom and I have also seen bald eagles too. They’re nesting near the Tennessee River, which is about an hour from where we live, and they’re coming southward a lot. They’re so beautiful to watch.

    • I would love to see an eagle up close. I saw some at a distance on a birding trip once. I wonder if they come south to get a bit warmer.

      • It is a sight to see…we had a pair of eagles nest in one of our tall pines…they had three eaglets…they were ravenous (and left many “leftovers” below!) I do believe that two of them come back as we were sitting on our deck (eating watermelon) and they landed on a branch close to us. A sight to see! franki

  18. We have a pair of red-shouldered hawks in our neighborhood. I heard them long before I spotted them. Yes, I do love seeing them, the male hangs out on a branch right in front of my big window in the living room, awesome! Lucky you and lucky me.

  19. Peggy Thal says

    The Hawk is beautiful. We have many different hawks soaring in our area. I always chase them away. Most of the time they just look at me like I am crazy. I just love my backyard bunnies, squirrels and my Mockingbird Charlie. I once saved a baby squirrel from being taken by a hawk. The hawk just became annoyed by me banging on a pot and left. Mom and baby were reunited and high tailed it away. I know that I am nuts! ( Chase crows away in the Spring!)

    • Peggy, I would do the exact same thing. If I saw something about to become lunch, I wouldn’t be able to stand it and would scare the hawk away, too. I just couldn’t bare to see it happen.

  20. Susan, in our yard in Wheaton, (35 mi west of Chicago) we feed many species of songbirds, as well as Red Tailed Hawks, Barred Owls, Screech Owls, and Great Horned Owls, along with voles, chipmunks, squirrels, and way TOO MANY rabbits!
    Here in Illinois, along the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, the Bald Eagles winter from Dec through March. US game officials estimate more than 3,000 eagles in IL this year! My husband & I are planning an “eagling trip” to Starved Rock State Park for Valentines Day. ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. Pictures just don’t do them justice do they!! So much bigger and impressive in person, but you got some really good shots. Seems every time I get just my binoculars out the glare from the lens spooks them! Love your posts.

  22. He is beautiful! We used to get a hawk at the old house, he even came down one day and perched on my bench back!!! I got a few pics of him then too! Your red shouldered one is a handsome guy!!!!

  23. They come to my yard for the same reason – squirrels. My real thrill was to see an owl this late summer on top of my bird feeder. He was just about to get a squirrel so I opened to door as I couldn’t bare to watch! Lovely photos.

  24. Love these hawks! Thanks so much for sharing, Susan! My family and I were just watching Sharon Collins’ (Georgia Outdoors) show on our local raptors. Such grace, beauty and incredible power! Here in Stockbridge, we have regular visits from a pair of red-tailed hawks as well as the occasional owl passing overhead. Nice to know I’m not the only bird-nut in our area! ๐Ÿ™‚

  25. Iam like you Susan I sure don’t want to see what they get. When we lived out in the country, one winter we had a lot of snow and I would feed the birds, there was a big Hawk that came down and got one of the male red birds. I ran and got our pistol and shot up in the air. He sure let go of that bird and off he went. I could see that the red bird set under the tree for some time bit then he flew off. So glad I was around to scare off the hawk. They are pretty but I sure did not want to see that.

    • That’s funny he let go of the bird. He knew he was in trouble…that woman is bringing out the guns! ๐Ÿ™‚ Usually they injure them so badly that I wouldn’t think they wouldn’t survive. That birds owes you its life! I know Hawks have to eat but I would hate to see them get another bird right in front of me.

  26. I used to love to see them but now that I have free range chickens, not so much. They are overhead every day and I keep a wary eye on them. My hens are pretty smart and they are well aware themselves and keep close to cover.

  27. Beautiful, love your pictures Susan.

  28. We have a large expanse of glass across the back of our house which faces into the woods. One morning when I was drinking my coffee, I haard a loud bam against the glass. Birds often fly into the glass, but not as hard as that time. Whnn I looked out, a blue jay was lying on the deck either dead or stunned, and a huge red tailed hawk was standing over the blue jay. I ran for my camera, but when I came back, both were gone. We have a bird feeder at the side of the deck. i googled some info about hawks hunting other birds, and I read that hawks will stake out a feeder and devour the birds when they are hanging around the feeder. So essentially the hawk uses the feeder as his feeder!

  29. Shelly Powell says

    I have a screened in porch much like yours. We live in the woods and have seen many hawks. This past spring, while it was still chilly out, and overcast, I noticed a bat that kept flying in front of one of the screens. He kept flying back and forth and did this for several minutes. It was like a hummingbird will do flying back and forth. I assumed something was wrong with it being out during daylight hours and flying back and forth. All of a sudden as I stood on the other side of the screen, a hawk, right in front of me came swooping in and caught the bat and flew away with it. I was stunned!! It happened inches from my face on the other side of the screen as I stood there! I had been standing there for some time and could not believe I did not prevent him from coming for the bat! It took a good hour before I could stop freaking out about it!
    Also, many cats and kittens of my neighbor’s has been eaten by the hawks around here! They can nab a good sized cat and fly away with it according to my neighbor!
    I am not too fond of hawks, but I know they have to eat! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • That is so scary! I would have been freaking out, too. It surely wasn’t your fault. I would have felt bad, beating myself up because I do stuff like that. But there is nothing we can really do in that situation since we don’t know what’s going on until it’s too late. That bat must have known the hawk was stalking him. Wonder what he was doing out during the daytime. I have heard they will go for small dogs and cats. Unfortunately in the Atlanta area, we have a terrible, terrible problem with coyotes attacking/killing dogs and cats. When my neighbors walk their small dogs, they carry a big stick because they have had coyotes follow them on their walks, hoping to grab one of their dogs. They have even had the coyotes come up to their storm door and stare in at the dogs. Coyotes are supposed to be nocturnal, but these are even coming out in the daytime!

  30. Oh, he is a handsome fella!!! Beautiful!! The other one looks like a red tail, we get plenty of them around here. Hawks, falcons and other raptors migrate back here in May around Mother’s Day. That is also when the salmon return to spawn, so it is feast time for those predators. Our community is near Lake Ontario and we are in a flyway, so it is very exciting to see them flying in rather large groups over the Bay and River on their way to the lake and streams.
    I’ve watched many a time as they catch their prey, gross but that is nature!!! Around here the coyotes have mated with stray dogs and the result is called a Coydog……they have long legs like the coyote but act more like dogs….however they go after cats and other small animals just the same and seem to not be afraid of going close to dwellings. They are about during the day and you can see them in the corn fields and in the local orchards. There are no natural predators here like the big cats out West, so their population is growing. Don’t know if its legal to hunt them or not. The forests and woods are becoming smaller and smaller………….

    • Maybe that’s what we have running around our neighborhood, Coydogs. Thanks for mentioning that…I’ll tell my neighbor. That may explain why they have been seen during the daytime.

    • Maybe thatโ€™s what we have running around our neighborhood, Coydogs. Thanks for mentioning thatโ€ฆIโ€™ll tell my neighbor. That may explain why they have been seen during the daytime.

  31. Hi Susan,

    Love your blog. Have followed you for a long time. I am going to again attempt to feed the birds. I have a terrible time with squirrels. What bird feeder would you recommend? I noticed that you had several types.

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you and keep up the good work!

  32. We live on a lake and have had a hawk nest in the trees near the lake. Unfortunately,
    several crows chased our hawks away. We still see several flying around but they never came back to their nest.

    • I am not a fan of crows! That try to take over the feeders but they seem to have given up since a crazy woman runs out of the house yelling at them each day. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Hope your hawks come back! They are so much bigger, I’m surprised the hawks left. They could probably eat a crow for snack!

  33. Hi Susan! Yes, I live on the other side of Atlanta from you and I love to watch the hawks over here. You may be interested in the website allaboutbirds.org. It is run by Cornell Unitversity. During mating season, they have several bird cams and one is of the red taield hawk pair that live on their campus. This is very interesting as it shows the entire process from the preparation of the nest to the fledging of the young birds. Also, I just learned that Berry College has a bald eage cam. That should be fun to watch.

  34. We live in city limits along a main river, and walk almost every day. Yes, we get red-tail hawks in our area, more now in the city than ever before, as is the case with deer, geese, ducks, and many other forms of wildlife. About a week ago, we were walking, and we saw a swooping action, along with a shrill sound, just to our right. It was a hawk, and we saw him swoop down and pounce on what we thought was a squirrel, as he stood on the ground over top of the victim. Then, lo and behold, another hawk swooped in, chasing the first hawk away, and we could see the victim was a bird, squealing helplessly. It appeared to be a mockingbird, not my favorite, but still – the course of nature in action was mesmerizing. I only had my cell phone for a photo, and it wasn’t real clear, but I captured it. Very cool. There’s been a snowy white owl captured in our area over the past week, too. A local photographer has gotten some fantastic photos. Interesting to watch the crow/owl standoffs in stills

  35. I have been longing for a bird feeder. There is some excellent information in this article. I wanted to share in case there is someone else looking to add one. The last thing I want to do is attract a mischief of rats.


  36. I feed all birds at my feeders. I love the raptors! I’ve seen them pick a sparrow off on the wing. They are magnificent creatures and keep rodent and other bird populations in control.

  37. Tamara Lin says

    Hi Susan. He’s magnificent! You are so lucky you got to see him. We have red tail hawks and some others I’m not good at identifying, but I get so excited whenever I’m lucky enough to see any birds of prey. I’m a total bird nerd. I’m always on hawk watch! Happy new year!

  38. We have red shouldered hawks, too, and hear their high-pitched call often, just south of Birmingham. We were able to see a baby hawk poke its head out of a nest, and at first thought it was an eagle since it had a white-feathered head. The parents were very attentive, taking turns bringing food to their little one–who really wasn’t very little at all. Even if we don’t hear them, we know they’re near whenever all the little birdies aren’t near the feeder. They disappear! As for crows, I can entice the them to come for leftover bread by placing it on the railings of the deck. What I didn’t expect, though, was to see how fond they are of peanuts. That’s the first to go, and a real favorite of all the birds. Thanks for sharing your photos!

  39. What a beautiful birdโ€ฆWe used to live on a lake in Florida and we never had a problem with ducks..it was because hawks nested in the ridge nearby!โ€ฆWe were very thankful that they kept the messy ducks away!โ€ฆLove the beautiful pics!

  40. SharonFromMichigan says

    Susan – How cool is that? What a beautiful bird! I work in a high-rise building in downtown Detroit and we have Peregrine Falcons that fly around and take care of the excess pidgeon population. They can devour a whole pidgeon in no time! They are such beauties. I’ve seen a turkey vulture not too far from my house. Talk about a bird that will make you do a double take (they are very ugly). They clean up the roads of the assorted road kill. I suppose somebody has to do it! I am breathlessly awaiting the return of the precious hummingbirds! Spring, where are you????? (Do you think I have a little cabin fever? – LOL)

    • I’m with you, Sharon! I have a serious case of cabin fever, too. Thanks for the story about the Peregrine Falcons. That’s amazing about the pigeons. I guess nature knows what it’s doing, huh?

  41. I have hawks who frequently visit my yard since I have a bird feeding station. Unfortunately I have witnessed one “stealing” a goldfinch from the feeder . Just the other day, a Cooper’s hawk attempted to capture one of the blue jays perched atop the station. What a sight. The blue jay did fly to safety and the hawk retreated.

    • Yikes! I wish they didn’t eat other birds, I would hate to witness that. I read online that they usually resort to that during the coldest winter months, like January/February when food is the most scarce to find. I guess that explains why they get brave enough to come so close to my home in January each year. I’ve never seen one go for a bird, but they are def finding something on the ground behind my house. I’ve seen them dive down from the tree to the ground before, probably going for a chipmunk or a squirrel. A Blue Jay is pretty big but I guess that’s nothing for a Cooper’s hawk. I’m not a big fan of Blue Jays since they scare away all the smaller birds from my feeders and scatter seed like crazy, but I would still hate to see one become dinner.

  42. A couple of years ago there were three hawks on the overhang of our deck. I was looking at them and they were looking at me. They won the stare down!!! I think they were after some baby bunnies. You were a brave soul to dip outside and take pictures.

  43. I believe the other bird is a juvenile red shouldered hawk, not a red-tailed hawk. The juvenile red shoulder looks very different from the mature bird. Your bird seems to have the marking of a juvenile red shoulder on the wings and breast. Just an opinion. Keep up your interest in birds!!!

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