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Red shouldered hawk VS red-tailed hawk ID No picture (yet)


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I'm in central WA state and there has been repeated sightings of a red shouldered hawk here by an experienced birder.  I haven't seen it yet but I'm going out today.  What would I look for when comparing it to the very common red-tail hawk?  It could be some distance away so I would be looking thru binoculars.  We have LOTS of large hay fields so that is what I'll be scanning across.  I have no doubts about the bird is out there.  So would I look for dark belly band. no belly band, light head or dark head etc.  Thanks in advance.

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Depends on the age of the bird. Either way it will be smaller, and in flight look for crescent-shaped pale “windows” in the flight feathers. Young Red-tails have a large, square window, while it isn’t really present in adults. 
In adults, a RSHA will have a black-and -white speckled back, while RTHA have the white V, and an obviously red tail (depending on subspecies). The chest of an adult RSHA will be reddish orange (like a Cooper’s).  

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1 hour ago, Seattle said:

I'm in central WA state and there has been repeated sightings of a red shouldered hawk here by an experienced birder.  I haven't seen it yet but I'm going out today.  What would I look for when comparing it to the very common red-tail hawk?  It could be some distance away so I would be looking thru binoculars.  We have LOTS of large hay fields so that is what I'll be scanning across.  I have no doubts about the bird is out there.  So would I look for dark belly band. no belly band, light head or dark head etc.  Thanks in advance.

Is it an adult or a juvenile?

Red-shouldered has breast and belly more or less the same, vent area lighter.  Tail more dark than pale.  In flight, pale or translucent crescents near and parallel to the wingtips.  Soars with wings flat, wing outline doesn't have the bulge of Red-tails.  When it's perched, you can often see neat rows of pale icicles or shark's teeth on a dark background on the secondaries--flashy white on black in adults, two shades of brown in juveniles.

Don't forget to look in woods as well as fields.

Good luck!

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3 hours ago, Seattle said:

We have LOTS of large hay fields so that is what I'll be scanning across. 

Red-shouldered prefer hunting in wet areas - marshes, along side streams and creeks, etc.  If there are any of those environments in the area, check them first before trying drier ones like agricultural fields.

EDIT - well, it looks like that advices was not only late but unneeded!  I'm glad you got your bird!

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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