About three years ago I got a photo of a red-tailed hawk in an evergreen tree across the road from Brookfield High School in SW Connecticut. Yesterday, I was able to photograph another hawk in the same tree — this one a red-shouldered hawk.
There is often confusion between the two species as they are both large birds of the genus buteo. Throw in the broad-winged hawk and there’s even more confusion with three common buteos to be found in New England. (There are others, too, but not as commonly seen.)
The red-tailed hawk is the largest and broad-winged the smallest, but size is of little help in the field — unless, of course, individuals of all three species are perched next to each other, which never happens. I find the easiest way to distinguish the red-shouldered hawk is with its reddish or rusty chest and belly. Young birds, however, have tan or brown chests and bellies, similar to the other buteos in question.
For comparison’s sake, here’s a shot of the red-tailed hawk I photographed in the same tree in 2016.