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I have watched three pairs of Red Shoulders this week. They fly in ever tightening circles locking talons occasionally like Bald Eagles. One pair, here in my yard, has performed the mating flight or sky dance all week long. I got a few distant photographs. Taken with a Canon 1DS Mark III full frame and a Canon 300mm f/2.8 L IS Lens so the images appear small. Click to enlarge.

Red-shouldered hawks soar and circle with wings and tail spread out like a typical buteo hawk, but they also flap their wings quickly and glide through forests underneath the canopy, the way an accipiter such as Cooper’s Hawk does. When hunting, they perch near a wooded water body and watch for their prey to appear below them. In populated areas, such as forested suburban developments, they can become very unconcerned and approachable by people, but in wilder areas they flush easily. On their territories, Red-shouldered Hawks are aggressive, sometimes locking talons with intruding hawks and also attacking crows, Great Horned Owls, and even humans. As a mating display, the male enacts a “sky dance” in which he soars while calling, then makes a series of steep dives toward the female, climbing back up in wide spirals after each descent, before finally rapidly diving to perch upon the female’s back.

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