When Marion resident and bird enthusiast Lloyd Davies discovered a nest of red-shouldered hawks recently near his house along Luta Creek he was excited — they are the first of the species to nest in Marion County.
“That was pretty cool,” he said. “They’re really striking with the black and white speckles, and the striping.”
Davies heard the hawks before he saw them.
“The first thing I heard was the call,” he said. “It was very distinct. It sounded almost like a crow.”
The bird’s call can be surprising because it doesn’t sound like what people expect, said Rachel Roth, a naturalist at Great Plains Nature Center.
“It’s not like that Hollywood eagle scream you hear,” she said. “It’s more of a pure, whistling scream. They might hear the sound before they see the bird.”
Seeing the hawks around Marion County is rare because they tend to perch in wooded regions further east like Manhattan, Roth said.
“They’re a bit more of an uncommon hawk,” she said. “If you were to see them, you’d see them in the winter.”
Red-shouldered hawks vary in their migration distance similar to mallard ducks, Roth said. The hawks’ range can fluctuate as far north as Canada and south to Mexico, depending on the season.
“They don’t typically come this far central, but we see them in Wichita occasionally, too,” she said. “There are so many possible factors that it’s hard to say what could be the driving factor.”
Migrating hawks stay in one area a few days or a week, but the pair at Luda Creek is doing more than passing through.
There is evidence of a nest being built, which Tom Ewert said would be a first in Marion County.
“They’re moving up along with a few other birds,” he said. “I don’t know if it is climate change or because there are more large trees.”
Ewert lives in Wichita but has family in Marion County and visits the area for bird watching.
While smaller than red-tailed hawks, Roth said the red-shouldered hawk has noticeably more rustic feathers.
“Sometimes those names can be a bit of a misnomer,” she said. “This guy really does have this beautiful rusty, rufous red coloration on the edge of the wings.”