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The 17 Kinds of Hawks Present in the US! (2023)

What kinds of hawks can you discover in the US?

common hawks in the united states


After performing some analysis, I used to be amazed in any respect the completely different hawk species in the US! These birds of prey are available in all sizes and styles, reside in all kinds of habitats, and even eat broadly completely different meals, from bugs to reptiles to mammals.


Under are the 17 kinds of hawks that reside in the US!

#1. Purple-tailed Hawk

types of hawks in the united states


This species is probably the most prevalent hawk in the US and the one which persons are most conversant in.


These giant raptors are sometimes seen on lengthy drives within the countryside, hovering within the sky or perched on a fence put up. The plumage shade of Purple-tailed Hawks may be something from practically white to nearly black, so coloration shouldn’t be a dependable indicator. The easiest way to establish them is by on the lookout for their attribute pink tail. ???? 


Purple-tailed Hawk Vary Map

Red-tailed Hawk Range Map


In most locations in the US, you’ll observe extra Purple-tailed Hawks within the winter than the summer time. It’s because the birds that spend their summers up north come down within the winter, becoming a member of the year-round residents.


These hawks are extremely adaptable, and there’s no actual description of their most popular habitats as a result of they appear to be snug in every single place.  I’ve seen Purple-tailed Hawks virtually in every single place, from the deep backcountry in Yellowstone Nationwide Park to city cities to my very own suburban yard! Choose a habitat, akin to pastures, parks, deserts, roadsides, rainforests, woodlands, fields, or scrublands, and also you’ll discover them thriving.


Purple-tailed Hawks have spectacular calls which can be simply recognized.


Actually, persons are so enamored with their screams, it’s frequent for administrators to make use of the sounds of a Purple-tailed Hawk to exchange Bald Eagles that seem in motion pictures. In case you have got by no means heard one, Bald Eagles don’t make sounds that reside as much as their look (placing it properly!)


These giant hawks rely totally on mammals to eat, so that they shouldn’t hassle any birds that come to your feeders. Their commonest victims embrace mice, voles, rats, floor squirrels, and rabbits. However you might also see them consuming snakes, carrion, or bigger birds (starlings, pheasants, blackbirds).


Mating for all times, Purple-tailed Hawks desire nesting within the tallest timber that provide the most effective view of the encircling territory. In additional city environments, these raptors will use window ledges or choose the best spot on a billboard.  They are going to typically reuse nests from earlier years, but when a brand new one is required, they’ll assemble it in lower than every week.


Size: 18-26 inches / 45-65 cm

Weight: 1.5-3.5 lbs. / 700-1600 gm

Wingspan: 43-55 inches/ 110-140 cm

Scientific Identify: Buteo jamaicensis


#2. Sharp-shinned Hawk

species of hawks in the united states


Sharp-shinned Hawks are the smallest hawks in the US, and they’re extremely athletic and acrobatic. It’s frequent to see these raptors zipping via the woods or by your hen feeders in a blur of movement!


To establish these birds, search for bars of orange on their higher chest that fades in direction of the stomach and blue-gray again and wings. When they’re flying, their wings are comparatively quick and rounded, however with an extended tail. Females are significantly larger than males.

Sharp-shinned Hawk Vary Map

Sharp-shinned Hawk Range Map


Sharped-shinned Hawks are frequent in forested areas in the US. They’re most frequently seen round hen feeders, searching and preying on the songbirds that come to go to. These raptors are ambush predators, sitting patiently after which dashing out from cowl at excessive pace to chase birds, which make up 90% of their eating regimen.


In my yard, I see them catching Mourning Doves probably the most.


These hawks are extremely much like the Cooper’s Hawk, and these two species have confused birders for years (together with me!). Among the best methods to inform them aside is by dimension. Sharp-shinned’s are considerably smaller than Cooper’s, with the previous being about 6 inches (15 cm) shorter and half the load than the latter (on common).

Cooper’s vs Sharp-shinned: How you can establish!


Sadly, these two birds are not often perched subsequent to one another in a tree, so it’s virtually unattainable to evaluate their precise sizes. I’ve misidentified these hawks extra instances than I can depend. My finest recommendation is to look at the above video, research subject guides, and discover a extra skilled hen watcher who may help you discover ways to inform them aside!

One option to confirm you have got seen a Sharp-shinned Hawk is to pay attention for his or her sounds. People give a high-pitched shrill “kik-kik-kik” which is often repeated a number of instances. Cooper’s Hawks have a deeper name that sounds extra like “cak-cak-cak.” With somewhat observe (and endurance!) I’m positive you possibly can study the distinction.


Size: 9-13.5 inches / 23-37 cm

Weight: 3-8 oz / 82-220 gm

Wingspan: 16.5-26.5 inches / 42-68 cm

Scientific Identify: Accipiter striatus


#3. Cooper’s Hawk

common hawks in the united states


Cooper’s Hawks are generally present in the US in woods or on the sting of fields. These raptors are identified for his or her flying agility. I see them typically at my home in high-speed chases via the cover going after their prey.

Cooper’s Hawk Vary Map

Cooper's Hawk Range Map


Many individuals don’t need Cooper’s Hawks round.


Due to their unimaginable flying skills, these raptors primarily eat songbirds and are frequent to see in backyards round hen feeders. At my feeding station, I’ve noticed these hawks preying on Purple-winged Blackbirds, European Starlings, and Mourning Doves.


In case you don’t get pleasure from watching the “circle of life” in your yard, it’s comparatively straightforward to get these birds of prey to maneuver on to different feeding grounds. Strive taking your feeders down for a couple of weeks to power them to search for meals elsewhere, however don’t be stunned if they arrive again as quickly as you begin feeding birds once more!


cooper vs sharp shinned hawk - types of hawks in the united states


Visually, a Cooper’s Hawk seems to be extremely much like the Sharp-shinned Hawk, as described above. Their steely blue-gray look is sort of equivalent to the Sharp-shinned hawk, proper right down to the little black cap that each put on and the rufous coloured chest.


The BEST option to inform these hawks aside is to take a look at the scale distinction. Cooper’s are bigger than Sharp-shinneds. But when they’re airborne, good luck determining which one you might be observing!


The most typical sound a Cooper’s Hawk emits is an alarm name that appears like “kuck, kuck, kuck” or “cak-cak-cak.” Pay attention for a bassier sound than the higher-pitched Sharp-shinned Hawk. PRESS PLAY BELOW!


In distinction to many different birds, males are often liable for constructing the nest.  The feminine appears to simply sit again, chill out, and make minor changes when the male does one thing she doesn’t like. ????


Size: 13½-20 inches / 35-50 cm

Weight: 8-24 oz / 220-680 gm

Wingspan: 24½-35½ inches / 62-90 cm

Scientific Identify: Accipiter cooperii


#4. Northern Goshawk

species of hawks in the united states


Northern Goshawks are secretive birds which can be laborious to see, as these birds of prey desire dwelling in giant forests away from civilization. Many individuals mistakenly assume they’ve seen one of their yard when it was only a Cooper’s Hawk, which seems to be form of comparable.


A dark-colored head that’s often paired with deep pink eyes makes the Northern Goshawk laborious to mistake.  The underbody is usually a bluish-white to gentle grey with barring.  The higher physique is blue-gray and even brown with sure morphs.

Northern Goshawk Vary Map

Northern Goshawk Range Map


Northern Goshawks are widespread in the US however are laborious to see, particularly within the suburbs and metropolis. Some particular person birds are quick time period migrants throughout colder months, heading south till enough meals may be discovered. Different birds keep in the identical place all yr.


These raptors are shut family members to each Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks, besides they’re bigger and fiercer. Actually, for those who get too near a nest, it’s doubtless that these defensive birds will assault you!


Pay attention for a harsh “ca-ca-ca” sound. Because it calls, they flip their head back and forth slowly, which supplies the vocal impact of a ventriloquist.


Opportunistic hunters, Northern Goshawks eat all kinds of meals. The listing contains bugs, mammals, birds, and reptiles.


Size: 16-27 inches / 41-69 cm

Weight: 22-50 oz / 630-1400 gm

Wingspan: 35-50 inches / 89-127 cm

Scientific Identify: Accipiter gentilis


#5. Purple-shouldered Hawk

united states hawks


Distinctly marked, Purple-shouldered Hawks have a barred rufous chest, largely white underwings, a strongly banded tail, and naturally, pink shoulders which can be seen when perched.


Purple-shouldered Hawk Vary Map

Red-shouldered Hawk Range Map


Whereas Purple-tailed Hawks personal giant open areas, Purple-shouldered Hawks are primarily forest dwellers. Their favourite locations are woods with an open higher cover since this additional area permits them to hunt extra effectively. These raptors are additionally frequent in suburban areas the place homes have been blended into woodlands. I see Purple-shouldered Hawks incessantly, particularly in winter, searching in my yard for squirrels.


Talking of meals, these hawks primarily eat small mammals however will feast on snakes, lizards, and amphibians when out there.


Purple-shouldered Hawk searching in my yard!


When searching, these raptors drop onto their prey instantly from overhead, making their searching fashion distinctive. You possibly can see this habits completely above, as a Purple-shouldered Hawk tries to catch a squirrel in my yard! (Don’t fear, the hawk is unsuccessful.)


It’s frequent to listen to a Purple-shouldered Hawk earlier than you see one. Pay attention for a loud name that appears like “kee-ahh,” which is usually repeated a number of instances.


Size: 15-19 inches / 38-48 cm

Weight: 1.1-1.9 lbs. / 500-860 gm

Wingspan: 38-42 inches / 96-107 cm

Scientific Identify: Buteo lineatus


#6. Broad-winged Hawk

broad winged hawk


The our bodies of those small hawks are quick and stocky, which makes them completely tailored to life within the forest.  Whereas Broad-winged Hawks reside in the US and are pretty frequent, they aren’t typically seen as a result of they like spending their time within the deep woods away from people.


Broad-winged Hawk Vary Map

Broad-winged Hawk Range Map


Whereas these birds spend their summers right here in the US, they fly south for the winters to Central America and South America. Broad-winged Hawks are most likely finest identified for his or her epic migrations every fall. It’s estimated that the typical hen travels over 4,000 miles complete, and that’s simply ONE WAY, and so they have to finish this journey twice per yr.



These long-distance flyers typically journey south collectively, hovering on air currents, by the hundreds! Getting the possibility to look at a “kettle” of Broad Winged Hawks is genuinely awe-inspiring, as you possibly can see within the video above!


Broad-winged Hawks are one other perch and pounce species. They sit excessive up on tree limbs to see the world surrounding them, ready patiently to swoop right down to seize a small mammal, frog, or toad. It’s uncommon for these raptors to hunt whereas flying.


These hawks give a high-pitched whistle, usually lasting round 2-4 seconds. The “pe-teeeee” sound has a brief first word and an extended second one.


Size: 13.5-17.5 inches / 34-44 cm

Weight: 16 oz / 450 gm

Wingspan: 33 inches / 84 cm

Scientific Identify: Buteo platypterus


#7. Ferruginous Hawk

ferruginous hawks


Ferruginous Hawks are stunning raptors that reside within the open deserts and prairies of the West. The biggest of the North American hawks have lengthy broad wings and a large grey, rusty, or white tail.


These hawks have two shade varieties you could observe.


  • The gentle morph birds have a rusty brown again and pale underparts.


  • The darkish morph people are darkish brown and chestnut-colored on each their again, chest, and stomach. Darkish morph birds are a lot rarer to see than gentle ones.

Ferruginous Hawk Vary Map

Ferruginous Hawk Range Map


Considerably social, Ferruginous Hawks could roost in teams throughout winter, which might comprise between 6-12 people.  Mated pairs appear to be largely monogamous and are extremely adaptable nesters. For instance, these hawks will use timber, rock outcrops, ledges, haystacks, nest platforms, energy poles, varied different human-made constructions, and the bottom for nests.


These raptors have a reasonably restricted eating regimen and rely largely upon small mammals for meals. Curiously, they’ve a number of searching methods they deploy. My favourite being their strategy of operating or hopping on the bottom after their prey!


Their alarm name appears like “kree-a” or “kaah,” and is often given when defending territory or frightened. Some folks assume it sounds much like a gull.


Size: 20-27 inches / 51-69 cm

Weight: 2-5 lbs. / 900-2270 gm

Wingspan: 47-60 inches / 1.2-1.5 meters

Scientific Identify: Buteo regalis


#8. Harris’s Hawk

harris hawk


Harris’s Hawks are stunning birds that may be discovered within the southwest United States. What’s distinctive about these hawks is they’re extremely social birds and are usually discovered collectively in teams with advanced social hierarchies.


Teams of Harris’s Hawks will typically hunt along with refined cooperative searching methods. Curiously, as soon as a kill is made, particular person birds feed so as based on their stage of dominance, much like a pack of wolves.


When they aren’t searching collectively, particular person birds will eat lizards, floor squirrels, birds, and rodents.

Harris’s Hawk Vary Map

Harris's Hawk Range Map

Harris Hawks don’t migrate.


They “personal” a territory and stick round all yr. You’ll most certainly discover them in desert lowlands with a number of excessive perches, akin to timber, energy poles, or boulders. Since they reside in dry environments, having a constant water supply close by is a should.


These hawks could make an angry-sounding name that’s given when stunned or a risk is close to.


Size: 18-24 inches / 46-59 cm

Weight: 1.5-2.5 lbs. / 680-1130 gm

Wingspan: 36-48 inches / 91-122 cm

Scientific Identify: Parabuteo unicinctus


#9. Swainson’s Hawk

swainsons hawk


Swainson’s Hawks are a raptor of the west and might typically be noticed hovering or perched on fence posts, phone poles, or timber in open areas.


These hawks arrive every April in the US and spend their summers breeding and elevating their younger right here. In the direction of the tip of August or starting of September, they start a LONG distance journey to Argentina! In case you’re preserving rating, that’s round 6,000 miles and takes as much as two months. And keep in mind, they make this journey twice per yr.


Swainson’s Hawk Vary Map

Swainson's Hawk Range Map


As they’re migrating, Swainson’s Hawks typically type giant “kettles,” the place they be part of with different species akin to Broad-winged Hawks and Turkey Vultures. In sure spots the place pure funnels happen, it’s attainable to see THOUSANDS of raptors hovering collectively directly, which resembles an precise river of birds.


It appears some birds get misplaced throughout migration!


Yearly, small populations of Swainson’s Hawks can’t get across the Gulf of Mexico and spend their winters in Florida and the Texas coast. Within the reverse hemisphere, it’s frequent for some birds to remain for an entire yr within the tropics or find yourself in random elements of South America, removed from Argentina.


The decision of the Swainson’s Hawk is a harsh alarm name that appears like “kreeeeer,” which regularly lasts 2-3 seconds.


Size: 18-22 inches / 46-56 cm

Weight: 24-48 oz / 680-1360 gm

Wingspan: 46-54 inches / 117-137 cm

Scientific Identify: Buteo swainsoni


#10. Tough Legged Hawk

rough legged hawk


Tough-legged Hawks, that are additionally referred to as Tough-legged Buzzards and Tough-legged Falcons, spend their summers dwelling and breeding on the Arctic tundra. You possibly can solely see these giant hawks within the continental United States throughout winter after they migrate south.


Tough-legged Hawk Vary Map

Rough-legged Hawk Range Map

Search for these chunky, giant raptors in open areas. They’ve a singular searching fashion the place they hover whereas going through the wind on the lookout for meals. Actually, they’re one of many few birds of prey that actually hovers in place.


In contrast to most hawks, this species has feathers all the way in which right down to their ft, which helps maintain them heat within the chilly environments they selected to reside.


These raptors are usually silent, besides they make a mewing sound close to the nest. (Pay attention above!)


When Tough-legged Hawks reside within the Arctic, they primarily eat lemmings, that are in plentiful provide.  When within the south, they eat different small rodents out there, akin to mice, voles, and shrews.


Size: 18.5-23.5 inches / 46-59 cm

Weight: 25-49 oz / 715-1400 gm

Wingspan: 52-54 inches / 132-138 cm

Scientific Identify: Buteo lagopus


#11. Grey Hawk

gray hawk


The Grey Hawk is tough to see in the US, because it’s a small tropical hawk that largely lives in Mexico and Central America.

Grey Hawk Vary Map

Gray Hawk Range Map


Grey Hawks love consuming lizards, and it doesn’t matter a lot which species, as they eat virtually all of them. Southern Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas have many lizards for them to dine upon, which is why they enterprise north into the US within the first place.


Even when they’re round, Grey Hawks are laborious to identify, as they sit patiently within the cover on the lookout for meals. The easiest way to search out them is by listening for his or her calls. Essentially the most distinctive noise is a 3-note whistle (“kah-lee-oh”) used to search for mates and outline territories.


Size: 16-24 inches / 40-61 cm

Weight: 14-17 oz / 395-480 gm

Wingspan: 34-37 inches / 87-93 cm

Scientific Identify: Buteo plagiatus


#12. Brief-tailed Hawk

short-tailed hawk


Brief-tailed Hawks are largely tropical birds that reside all through elements of Central and South America. In the US, they’re primarily present in Florida, however they’re more and more exhibiting up within the southwest close to the Mexico-Arizona border.

Brief-tailed Hawk Vary Map

Short-tailed Hawk Range Map

However the inhabitants of Brief-tailed Hawks in Florida is comparatively small and thought solely to be round 500 people scattered round this massive state. As well as, these small hawks keep out of the eyesight of most individuals by not often perching out within the open.


Distinctive for Buteo hawks, these raptors primarily eat birds, akin to warblers, red-winged blackbirds, grackles, and meadowlarks. They soar very excessive and plummet to both take birds on the wing, these perched in tall timber, or sitting in shrubs. Surprisingly they solely have a few 10% success charge whereas searching.


Size: 15.5-17.5 inches / 39-44 cm

Weight: 14-18 oz / 390-520 gm

Wingspan: 33-41 inches / 83-103 cm

Scientific Identify: Buteo brachyurus


#13. Zone-tailed Hawk

zone-tailed hawk


These stunning, modern, black hawks are discovered within the southwestern United States, the place they breed and lift their younger. Through the winter months, they migrate to southern Mexico and Central America.


Zone-tailed Hawks look extremely much like Turkey Vultures.


Even their flying kinds are the identical, as each species soar with their wings barely raised and rock forwards and backwards. Evidently this mimicry helps these hawks hunt since they’ll mix into a gaggle of Turkey Vultures and sneak up on their prey. The animal they’re pursuing doesn’t understand the deception till it’s too late!


Zone-tailed Hawk Vary Map

Zone-tailed Hawk Range Map


These hawks can solely be present in a couple of states. However for the reason that Nineteen Nineties, they’ve slowly been growing their vary northwards.


Size: 18-22 inches / 45-56 cm

Weight: 21.5-33 oz / 610-940 gm

Wingspan: 30-34 inches / 75-86½ cm

Scientific Identify: Buteo albonotatus


#14. Frequent Black Hawk

common black hawk


All the physique of this hawk is coal coloured apart from a small white patch behind the invoice and white bands on the tail. Their vibrant orange-yellow invoice and legs additionally stand out in opposition to their black our bodies.

Frequent Black Hawk Vary Map

Common Black Hawk Range Map


Frequent Black Hawks have a restricted vary in the US and might solely be present in elements of Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, New Mexico, and Texas. Most of those raptors reside farther south into Mexico and Central America.


In case you like crab legs, then you have got one thing in frequent with this raptor. Frequent Black Hawks love consuming crabs when out there! In addition they feed on frogs, snakes, fish, younger birds, crayfish, eggs, and bugs. It’s possible you’ll even spot them wading into shallow water to catch their meals.


Size: 17-21 inches / 43-53 cm

Weight: 22-46 oz / 630-1300 gm

Wingspan: 50 inches / 127 cm

Scientific Identify: Buteogallus anthracinus


#15. White-tailed Hawk

white-tailed hawk


For my part, these giant hawks are fairly stunning. They’re predominantly a slate gray shade with rusty shoulders, and about the identical dimension as a Purple-tailed Hawk. Because the identify suggests, White-tailed Hawks have a superb white tail that’s simply noticed whereas flying. Additionally, search for a black band on the very finish.

White-tailed Hawk Vary Map

White-tailed Hawk Range Map


White-tailed Hawks are frequent in southern Texas, dwelling in open areas akin to prairies, grasslands, and pastures.


These hawks have an uncommon behavior of putting a single lengthy stick on their nest. Nobody is aware of why they do that or what goal it serves!


These raptors primarily eat mammals, and curiously, some songbird species have figured this out and use White-tailed Hawks as safety. Small birds appear to know that they gained’t be eaten for lunch, and rely on the White-tailed Hawk to scare away different predators that do hunt them.


For instance, Northern Mockingbirds are so assured on this technique they generally nest within the SAME bush as these giant birds of prey.


Whereas out within the subject, pay attention for a high-pitched whine that lasts a couple of notes, following by a sequence of repeated “ke” noises.


Size: 17-24 inches / 44-60 cm

Weight: 31-43 oz / 880-1235 gm

Wingspan: 46½-56 inches / 118-143 cm

Scientific Identify: Geranoaetus albicaudatus


#16. Osprey



The very first thing you should find out about Ospreys is they’re NOT hawks! They don’t seem to be eagles both and, scientifically talking, have been given their very own Household (Pandionidae) and Genus (Pandion), separate from all different birds of prey.


So, why embrace them on an inventory of frequent hawks in the US?


Regardless that Ospreys will not be hawks, they actually look much like one. Many individuals assume they’re taking a look at some species of hawk after they first observe an Osprey. These raptors have additionally been given nicknames, akin to Sea Hawk, River Hawk, and Fish Hawk, which trace on the affiliation between an Osprey and hawk.


Osprey Vary Map

Osprey Range Map


Once you consider an Osprey, you must consider fish, as a result of that’s what these birds eat 99% of the time. Even an Osprey’s talons are completely tailored for catching fish. In case you take a detailed look, you will note they’re extraordinarily curved and even intersect when totally closed, which makes them completely designed for holding onto slippery fish!


Much more fascinating, their outer toe is reversible, which permits them to rotate the toe to allow them to have two in entrance, and two in again. Solely Ospreys and owls have this distinctive capability, which permits them to be extra environment friendly hunters.



And these guys don’t simply skim the floor and seize their prey close to the highest like an eagle.  Ospreys hit the water HARD and plunge proper in to guarantee themselves of a catch. Amazingly, they’ll then take off whereas submerged and with a fish of their talons!


Due to their specialised eating regimen, you’ll virtually all the time discover Ospreys dwelling, breeding, and elevating their younger round our bodies of water. Mating for all times, it’s frequent for them to make use of human-made nesting platforms. In case you reside close to a big physique of water, I like to recommend putting in one to see for those who can appeal to a nesting pair!


Pay attention for Ospreys subsequent time you might be round a big physique of water. Their alarm name is a sequence of quick high-pitched whistles that descend in pitch. The noise has been in comparison with a teapot taken off a range.


Size: 20-25.5 inches / 50-65 cm

Weight: 3-4.4 lb. / 1.4-2 kg

Wingspan: 59-71 inches / 150-180 cm

Scientific Identify: Pandion haliaetus


#17. Northern Harrier

northern harrier

Northern Harriers are some of the distinctive hawks one can find within the USA!


First, most hawks depend on their unimaginable eyesight to search out and seize prey. However Northern Harriers additionally use their listening to to search out meals, which is similar to owls. Even their disc-shaped face resembles an owl. ????


The most effective locations to discover a Northern Harrier are open grasslands, fields, or marshes. Search for a slim, long-tailed raptor that flies low and has a white rump. Watch an instance under!

Which hawks have you ever seen earlier than in the US?


Go away a remark under!


*For every hawk listed under, it is possible for you to to view vary maps, which present the place every species lives. The art work was generously shared with permission from The Birds of The World, printed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. I exploit their web site OFTEN to study new details about birds!*

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