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Remarkable Weights Carried by Red-shouldered Hawks

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Florida Field Naturalist
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Remarkable Weights Carried by Red-shouldered Hawks

In Everglades National Park on 14 November 1971 a Red-shouldered Hawk of the small, very pale south-Florida race (Buteo lineatus extimus) appeared from beyond a line of trees 100 meters from where, partly concealed, my mother, my daughter Heidi, and I stood. It flew straight toward us, while carrying a Louisiana Heron (Hydranassa tricolor) of considerably greater dimensions than itself, and lit on the ground only 3 meters away. It began to tear into its prey which, judging by the bleeding, had just been killed. Then it saw us and flew away screaming. We stepped off the distance to the heron and withdrew to perhaps 100 meters. The hawk did not resume its repast, so we drove away to assure it privacy.

On 19 January 1969 another Insular Red-shouldered Hawk crashed into Black Mangrove (Avicennia nitida) pneumatophores beside my boat, barely missing a Green Heron (Butorides virescens). I assumed that prey of that size could be carried, but a big, gangly Louisiana Heron being borne through the air by one of these buteos was astonishing. This species can make off with prey of almost unbelievable size and weight. On 21 November 1970 Paul Fellers and I parked just 2 m from an immature Red-shouldered Hawk in Lake County which frantically got away from us with its full-grown Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis), by dragging and actually lifting it in very short, laborious flights. That young hawk very possibly was briefly lifting a weight equal to its own. Perhaps even heavier was the small Opossum (Didelphis marsupialis) which I saw an adult Red-shoulder carry off strongly on 10 March 1973 in Polk County.

Specimens at the University of Miami include south Florida Red­shouldered-Hawks of 384, 402, 409, 424, and 584 grams, Louisiana Herons of 265, 299, 378, 380, and 390 grams, and Gray Squirrels of 401, 410, and 499 grams.

John B. Edscorn

Rt. 14, Box 350, Lakeland, Florida 33801.

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