A common hawk of forested areas in North America (2), the red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) has dark brown upperparts and white or grey, red-barred underparts, with the barring being heaviest on the breast. The black tail is marked with four to six conspicuous white stripes, and there is a pale, almost translucent crescent near the wing tip. The tail and wings of the red-shouldered hawk are longer than those of other North American Buteo hawks (3).
The juvenile red-shouldered hawk closely resembles the juvenile broad-winged hawk (Buteo platypterus), but may be distinguished by the streaking on its chest and belly. The juvenile develops the adult plumage at around 18 months of age, and the eyes turn from yellow to brown with adulthood (3).
In flight, the red-shouldered hawk is characterised by its quick, choppy wingbeats. When soaring, the wings are slightly bowed, and when gliding, they are bowed even further (3).
Five subspecies of the red-shouldered hawk are recognized: Buteo lineatus lineatus, Buteo lineatus alleni, Buteo lineatus extimus, Buteo lineatus texanus, and Buteo lineatus elegans. Recent genetic analysis suggests that B. l. elegans is the most genetically distinct of the five subspecies (4).