Red-shouldered Hawks Important Indicators

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By Karen Menard

If you visit Oak Openings Preserve or the surrounding region in the spring or the summer, you may have heard a red-shouldered hawk loudly calling a repeated “kee-errr,” or may have even caught sight of one flying above.

 As a member of the buteo group, these birds are robust, soaring raptors with broad wings and a wide tail. Several black and white bands on the underside of the tail and light, rusty-red barring across the chest and belly make for easy identification components.

Oak Openings homeowners with large trees may be lucky enough to host a nesting yard bird. Research data collected through the Metroparks Breeding Raptor Survey shows that most of our northwest Ohio population (an average of about 20 pair per year) resides in this region. Many tend to prefer to live near homes or buildings. This hawk is actually known primarily as a swamp woodland bird, mostly preying on wetland morsels like crayfish, salamanders, worms, frogs and toads. However, the Oak Openings population seems to have a preference for backyard ponds that offer sort of an easy “fast food” prey buffet.

Raptors, like the red-shouldered hawk, are important ecosystem components as predators in the food chain. They are key indicators of overall ecosystem health.

This spring, on a sunny day at Oak Openings Preserve or Secor Metropark, make it a point to look or listen for one of these beautiful birds soaring above. Many times they will make their presence known by their loud call, but on a rare occasion, you may spot one of their stick nests built high up in a tree. Each nest is easily identified by fresh green springs of evergreen or cherry branches, indicating that the nest is ready for the next generation of Red-shouldered hawks that will call the Oak Openings “home.”

 Did You Know?

Red-shouldered hawks are considered swift flyers, traveling at speeds between 18 and 34 mph.

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March 2022 photos by volunteer Tiffany Hyland