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Adults have brownish heads, reddish chests, and pale bellies with reddish bars. Their tails, which are quite long by Buteo standards, are marked with narrow white bars. Red "shoulders" are visible when the birds are perched. These hawks' upper parts are dark with pale spots and they have long yellow legs. Western birds may appear more red, while Florida birds are generally paler. The wings of adults are more heavily barred on the upper side. Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawks are most likely to be confused with juvenile Broad-winged Hawks, but can be distinguished by their long tails, crescent-like wing markings, and a more flapping, Accipiter-like flight style. This bird is often confused with the Red-tailed Hawk.
Mature lowland forests with clearings and water.