Different Types of Hawks in the United States

types of hawks

In North America, we are lucky to have such a varied amount of wildlife. Each climate makes different habitats for so many animals. One of the most beautiful creatures in the country is the hawk.

There are several different kinds of hawks in the United States, each with its own uniqueness. I’ve put together a list of some of the most common hawks. 

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

sharp shinned hawk sitting of tree

The sharp-shinned is the smallest of the hawks in the United States. She is anywhere from 3-8 ounces, 9-13 inches, and has a 17-22 inch wingspan. This tiny little bird has agile feet, allowing her to grasp and pierce the bodies of her prey.

Sharp-shinned hawks are so good with their claws that they can often use their toes to move prey out of traps.

The sharp-shinned hawk migrates to Canada and the Northern United States each year to breed, and she spends her winter throughout the lower states and Central Mexico. 

Northern Harrier Hawk

harrier hawk

The northern harrier is between 11-16 ounces, 18-20 inches long, and has a wingspan of between 40-46 inches. She is a great little hunter as she sweeps over open fields to find her next meal. 

The main portion of her diet is smaller mammals and birds, but the northern harrier has been known to go after much larger prey. After catching her prey, she will usually drown it. 

These birds are found throughout the country, and they breed in the northern states and into Canada. During the winter, they migrate south to the warmer states. 

Cooper’s Hawk

coopers hawk on a tree branch

The cooper’s hawk is very much like the sharp-shinned hawk; only she is bigger. They can weigh between 8-24 ounces, with a length of 14-18 inches. The wingspan is between 24-36 inches.

The majority of her diet is other birds, and they have been known to set up lookouts where there are backyard bird feeders

The cooper’s hawk does not migrate and lives throughout the country year-round. Some will spend their winters where it is warmer.

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red tail hawk sitting

The red tail is one of the most common hawks in the United States and can often be seen sitting on telephone poles. They can weigh between 15-51 ounces, measure 17-26 inches, and have a 45-53 inch wingspan. 

The red tail has a very distinctive scream that is so recognizable it is used as the standard sound for birds of prey in movies. She is one of the largest raptors in the country.

Common Black Hawk

black hawk sitting on a branch

The common black hawk weighs about 1.8 pounds, is 21 inches, and has a wingspan of 50 inches. They spend their summers in the southeastern United States and spend their winters in Central America. 

The common black hawk favors the water and enjoys meals of crab and other sea life. When hunting inland, they enjoy frogs and fish. 

Northern Goshawk

These are one of the largest species of hawks and weigh 23-48 ounces, are about 21-25 inches, and have a wingspan of about 40-46 inches. The northern goshawk spans from Tennesse to California and into Alaska. 

They build their nests in pines and aspen trees and are highly territorial. Mother birds have been known to attack anyone who threatens their nest, and an attack by one can be very harmful. 

Harris’s Hawk

The harris’s hawk is usually seen as part of a group, either as pairs or in groups of up to 7 birds. Grouping gives them a better chance of survival, and they have been known to bring food to sick or injured birds that are part of that group. 

They weigh between 18-31 ounces and are about 18-23 inches, with a wingspan of 40-47 inches. They are seen in small pockets throughout Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, as they prefer desert and mesquite brushland. 

Broad Winged Hawk

broad winged hawk flying

Found throughout the eastern part of the United States and into Canada, the broad-winged hawk migrates south each year to South America. Her migratory path often takes her across the northeastern part of the country. 

She weighs about 9-20 ounces, is about 13-17 inches long, and has a wingspan of between 32-40 inches. 

Broad-winged hawks also travel in large groups or flocks, and during migration, they can travel up to 70 miles a day together. 

Swainson’s Hawk

In the winter, the entire population of the Swainson’s hawk travels south to Argentina, but they spend their summers in North America. Their migration to Argentina is one of the longest migrations of birds of prey!

Mothers feed their babies a diet of reptiles and rodents, and outside of the breeding season, hawks primarily eat bugs. Grasshoppers and Dragonflies seem to be the favorite.

The Swainson’s hawk weighs between 24-48 ounces and measures 19-22 inches with a wingspan of 49 inches. 

Zone Tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed hawks breed throughout the southeast United States and into Mexico. They tend to stay near waterways and mesas and are often thought to be turkey vultures because of the way they fly. The zone-tailed hawk has developed this habit to mask themselves from other predators. 

They weigh between 21-33 ounces, have a wingspan of 30-45 inches, and are about 18-22 inches long. 

They started appearing north of their typical range, which suggests that they are expanding their territory. This is a good thing for the species as the population of zone-tailed hawks is threatened. Currently, the population is down to only 2,000 in the United States. 


I’m hopeful that you have enjoyed reading about these beautiful birds. Hawks should be admired for how hawks hunt as they are amazing birds of prey. 

Related Questions

How many varieties of hawks are there? There are more than 200 species that you can find across the world. However, you can just find 25 species in United States. We have listed 10 most common species found in US.

Source – Sciencing.com

Donald Bergeson

I have always been fascinated by the skill, strength, and beauty of birds.They help in maintaining a balance of ecological environment. At Best Bird Guide, I share all of my experiences and discoveries that I have got so far and inspire more devoted fans.

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