I found this hawk(?) sitting on a fence near a small duck pond with a fountain near my workplace in Fort Smith, Arkansas, USA. There are some wooded hills (deciduous) nearby. It let me get within 3 meters or so before flying up to a tree across the pond. Based on measurements made of the fence it was sitting on, I'm guessing a height of 50 cm (20 inches) head to tail, I assume it'd have a wingspan of 60-70 cm perhaps (24-28 inches).

Hawk on fence

My best guess it either the Red-shouldered Hawk or Red-tailed Hawk. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a good picture of its back/tail. Any idea what species this is? I came across the bird during winter.

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    $\begingroup$ Any guess on the height or wingspan? (just for completeness sake). $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 18:23
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    $\begingroup$ @theforestecologist Thanks for the tip. I updated the photo with measurements of the fence and included my guesstimate for height/wingspan. $\endgroup$
    – Jeff B
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 22:05

1 Answer 1


It looks very much like an immature red shouldered hawk.

Immature Red-shouldered Hawks can be tricky to identify. Immature Red-tails show a belly band and are less heavily marked on the upper chest than young Red-shouldered Hawks.

Red shouldered hawks are smaller and like deciduous forests, like perching on wires, branches, etc. Red tailed hawks are usually birds of open spaces. They hunt from lower down than red tails, and they're often found near water (especially rivers and swamps), as they like frogs and snakes.

Look for Red-shouldered Hawks in deciduous woodlands, often near rivers and swamps. They build stick nests in a main crotch of a large tree. During migration, Red-shouldered Hawks often move high overhead along ridges or along the coast.

Limited to a phone for a while and can't do much (I'm a dinosaur) but info and pictures here.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure if the white eyebrows lean towards the red-shouldered more than red-tailed hawks (which appear to be that case from the guide you posted). $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 3:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Wayne Werner - I agree that the white eyebrow leans more towards a red-tailed, but if you look at a lot of pictures, some red shouldereds have white eyelines, and the size, chest markings, and habitat all point more to a red-shouldered. They aren't big. I surprised an adult red shouldered eating a snake on my driveway (in the woods). They're quite a bit smaller than red tailed hawks (who used to eat my guinea hens.) $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 20:04
  • $\begingroup$ A local outdoorsman also pointed out the possibility of it being a Sharp-shinned Hawk or Cooper’s Hawk. Not sure how good of a match those are, but thought I'd mention it. $\endgroup$
    – Jeff B
    Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 19:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Jeff Bridgman - I know nothing about Sharp-shinned Hawks, but the shape is not quite right for a Cooper's Hawk. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 22:50
  • $\begingroup$ Sharp Shins are much smaller , close to the size of a robin. $\endgroup$ Commented May 11, 2022 at 15:03

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