By Amber Veverka
Red-shouldered hawks are making their presence loudly known in Charlotte neighborhoods this month as the birds begin to pair up and get ready for nesting season. If you’ve noticed loud “keer, keer” sounds in the skies lately, it’s red-shouldered hawks you’re hearing, says Ron Clark, president of the Mecklenburg Audubon Society.
“Some 80 to 90 percent of hawks calling in Charlotte neighborhoods are red-shouldered hawks,” Clark said. “They are noisy all the time but right now they are getting ready to start in on the breeding period,” making them even louder and more active in flight.
The hawks have broad wings with barred markings and, of course, red shoulders, and they favor swampy woods. They eat rodents and snakes, but they aren’t the raptors who pick off songbirds from bird feeders. As big soaring hawks, red-shouldered hawks aren’t agile enough to hunt small birds, Clark said.
To listen to the call of the red-shouldered hawk, click here.
Red-shouldered hawks aren’t to be confused with larger red-tailed hawks, which can most easily be seen roosting in trees or on light poles alongside highways. Red tails need open country to hunt for prey, and the clear vistas around roadsides work well for them. What doesn’t work well, Clark says, is the steady stream of traffic and the food too many people toss from their cars.
“When you throw food out of your car window, it attracts rodents, and that attracts hawks – who get hit by the cars,” said Clark, a bird rehab volunteer at the Carolina Raptor Center. “I’ve been at the Raptor Center 20 years and that is the biggest injury we see – getting hit by a car.”