Buteo lineatus

Status:  Rare regular resident southeast, rare casual elsewhere.

Documentation: Specimen: UNSM ZM12519, 15 Jan 1941 Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co.

Taxonomy:  Five subspecies are recognized (Gill and Donsker 2017): alleni of south-central Texas to North Carolina and northern Florida, extimus of south Florida and the Florida Keys, texanus from south Texas to southeast Mexico, elegans from southern Oregon to Baja California, and lineatus of eastern North America.  Nebraska breeders are presumed to be lineatus (Dykstra et al 2020).

Resident: Although there is no information such as banding data to confirm that breeding birds in Nebraska are resident, Dykstra et al (2020) show that the species is resident north in the Missouri River Valley to extreme southeast Nebraska. Although data in eBird show no major seasonal shifts in number of reports, there are fewer in summer, possibly because this species is harder to locate in leafed-out woodlands during the breeding season.

Breeding records are limited to extreme southeastern Nebraska, in Lancaster, Otoe, Douglas, and Sarpy Cos (Ducey 1988).  Bruner et al (1904) described the species as “not uncommon” along the Missouri River bluffs and nesting during this time was reported, albeit without details, by Bruner (1901) from Omaha, Steven’s Creek near Cheney (now part of Lincoln), and Nebraska City.  Carriker (1900) considered the species “quite rare” in Otoe County but did describe finding a nest in a wooded area along Camp Creek about 12 miles south of Nebraska City.  There were no other nesting records away from Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co (see below) with the exception of a nest observed near Carter Lake, Douglas Co, 13 Apr – 10 May (Cortelyou 1959).

The most consistent location for breeding activity has been Fontenelle Forest, where the species has nested somewhat regularly throughout the 20th century. Nesting there recommenced in 1989 after having last been reported in 1964 (Cortelyou 1965), with recent activity limited to a single pair, but has not been reported since 2000.  Of interest, however, were sightings of single birds 27 Mar-16 Apr 2009, and a pair was in the area of Fontenelle Forest in 2013, seen circling there 30 Jun, and nearby over Bellevue 14 Jul. A pair over Omaha 2 Aug 2015 may have been based at Fontenelle Forest. Nests at Fontenelle Forest have been located both on wooded upland slopes and the floodplain.  Breeding activity, including courtship, has been observed as early as late Jan and fledging on 6 and 15 Jun.

After several sightings of single birds in 2008 in the Pawnee Lake area of Lancaster Co, two birds were seen for the first time 9 Mar 2009 and breeding was confirmed with the discovery of a pair tending a nest 30 feet up in a green ash 30 Mar; two chicks were present 9 May and four birds were seen 25 Jun. However, the chicks may have been predated, as the adults apparently deserted the area after 26 Jun. Sightings of singles in the Branched Oak Lake, Lancaster Co area over the same period may have been these same birds. There have been no reports in the area since.

Additional reports suggestive of breeding are all from the east. A juvenile possibly accompanied by an adult was at Indian Cave SP, Richardson Co 29 Jul 2009; oddly, breeding has not been proven at this seemingly-suitable location. There were reports from Cass Co 8 Jun 1989, 6 Jun 1990, and 18 Aug 1991. Northernmost are reports are from Thurston and Dakota Cos: two were in Thurston Co 23 Feb 2013 and 11-13 Jun 2006 at Ashford Scout Camp, and 5 Aug 2015, and one was at Basswood Ridge WMA, Dakota Co 21 Jul 2020.  Breeding may occur at Rose Creek WMA, Jefferson Co; in 2016, one was recorded 3 Jun; very vocal birds were there 27 Jul 2016 and again 11 Jul 2017.

There are about 20 reports north and west of a line from Washington to Jefferson Cos, eight of these in Apr-May suggesting some dispersal in spring, and 15 of these since 2000. Reports away from the southeast have increased in recent years as this species and Broad-winged Hawk, also a forest hawk, have expanded their ranges westward in major riparian corridors, although such expansion by Red-shouldered Hawk has been limited by comparison.

Reports in Aug away from known breeding locations may be recently-fledged juveniles or non-breeding immatures, although very small numbers of migrants may occur. The Hitchcock Nature Center Hawk Watch, Pottawattamie Co, Iowa has recorded an average of four birds per fall, occurring mid-Aug through late Nov (, accessed Aug 2017).

Winter sightings have increased in recent years; five were reported in the southeast, with ad apparent adult westerly in Adams Co.

An albino specimen from Loomis, Phelps Co 12 Aug 1954 is HMM 28383.


HMM: Hastings Municipal Museum
SP: State Park
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum
WMA: Wildlife Management Area (State)

Literature Cited

Bruner, L. 1901.  Birds that nest in Nebraska.  Proceedings Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union 2: 48-61.

Bruner, L., R.H. Wolcott, and M.H. Swenk. 1904. A preliminary review of the birds of Nebraska, with synopses. Klopp and Bartlett, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Carriker, M.A., Jr. 1900. Some notes on the nesting of the raptors of Otoe County. Proc. Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union 1: 29-34.

Cary, M. 1900. Some bird notes From the Upper Elkhorn. Proceedings of Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union 1: 21-29.

Cortelyou, R.G. 1959. Douglas County Notes. NBR 27: 31.

Cortelyou, R.G. 1965. Nesting Report, 1964. NBR 33: 9-13.

Ducey, J.E. 1988. Nebraska birds, breeding status and distribution. Simmons-Boardman Books, Omaha, Nebraska, USA.

Dykstra, C.R., J.L. Hays, and S.T. Crocoll. 2020. Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Gill, F., and D. Donsker (Eds). 2017. IOC World Bird List (v 7.3), accessed 30 January 2018.

Rosche, R.C. 1982. Birds of northwestern Nebraska and southwestern South Dakota, an annotated checklist. Cottonwood Press, Crawford, Nebraska, USA.

Wheeler, B.K. 2003. Raptors of Western North America. Princeton University Press, New Jersey, USA.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2021. Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus). In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 15 Mar 2021