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Winter 2010

Urban Jungle

The changing natural world at our doorsteps | Illustration and text by Patterson Clark      

March 16, 2010

Red-shouldered hawks put on a showy display

One of the more raucous early spring bird calls comes from a shy raptor that is relatively easy to see while deciduous trees are still bare. On sunny days in late March, around noon, male and female red-shouldered hawks engage in a courtship of circling, swooping and diving, while repeating the cry, KEE-aahh.

The hawks quiet down after the female lays her eggs in a nest built high up in the crook of a tree. Once leaves emerge, the hawks are much harder to see, as they spend their time silently perched in the tree canopy, watching for small rodents, such as chipmunks, mice and voles. They may also feed on amphibians, reptiles and an occasional starling or mourning dove snatched from a bird feeder.

The birds may still be part of a noisy show, though, if they join with crows to mob a shared predator, such as a great horned owl.

SOURCES: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Wilson Journal of Ornithology

red-shouldered hawks