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Fledgeling Red-shouldered Hawks

June 1, 2011
Photo: Mike Coll

Photo: Mike Coll

While southeastern PA is dominated by Red-tailed Hawks, it is a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks that have made Hildacy Preserve their territory. Last year, this pair nested in a pine tree just off the southern edge of the preserve. There the pair successfully fledged two young hawks.

The adult hawks remained at Hildacy throughout the year. Many Red-shouldered Hawks migrate south in the fall, but apparently this pair was able to continue to find enough food to sustain them through the cold months. When spring arrived, the pair constructed a new nest less than a hundred yards from the Hildacy office building. During the construction of the nest, both birds were often seen and heard flying over the office and defending their territory. (In my last blog, I included a video in which you can hear one of these hawks as it swoops in to attack an owl).

The new nest was completed in late March and, based on a change in the hawks’ behavior (the hawks became less vocal and more secretive), I expect that eggs were laid in the first week of April. The pair took turns incubating the eggs and tried to draw as little attention to themselves as possible. The incubation period for Red-shouldered Hawks lasts approximately 25 days. In the first week of May a few fragments of egg shells were found on the walkway to the office. I identified these pieces as Red-shouldered eggs and believe they were cast out of the nest as the young birds hatched.

This past week, three young birds have become visible in the nest. I imagine that they are now three or four weeks old; brown flight feathers have started to replace some of their white down. They’ll remain in the nest for five to six weeks, after which time they will be the same size as the adults and ready to go hunt for themselves.

Photo: Mike Coll

Red-shouldered Hawk young
Photo: Mike Coll

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