Scream of the Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk with a fish perched along The Sill Recreation Area; Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia. March 13, 2015. ©

Noises carry in strange ways in the Okefenokee Swamp. A silent solitude lies upon the blackwaters as one paddles through the refuge. But the dead stillness is suddenly broken by the scream of a Red-shouldered Hawk. Its call seems to emanate from over your shoulder, but the echo carries ahead, to the left, and to the right. It may take a few squawks from the raptor to pinpoint its location.

For many decades, the Red-shouldered Hawk has been one of the most common raptors in the Okefenokee Swamp. In 1913, Albert Wright and Francis Harper published “A Biological Reconnaissance of Okefinokee Swamp: The Birds” in The Auk, the scientific journal of the American Ornithological Society. Of the Red-shouldered Hawk, they wrote,

Buteo lineatus alleni. FLORIDA RED-SHOULDERED HAWK: ‘Hen Hawk’; ‘Chicken Hawk.’- Very common. This is one of the most widely distributed birds, as its scream is one of the most characteristic sounds, of the Okefinokee.”
The call of the Red-shouldered Hawk is still piercing the stillness of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge today.

Albert H. Wright and Francis Harper, The Auk, Vol. 30, No. 4 (Oct., 1913), pp. 477-505; Oxford University Press.

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