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Florida Hawks: 7 Types Of Hawks In Florida To Look Out For

The hawk is one of the most sought-after and stunning birds to observe. However, as any experienced birder knows, not all hawks are the same, and they come in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Depending on the time of year you go bird-watching in Florida, you’ll see a variety of hawks.

That’s why we created this thorough guide to assist you in determining what you’re looking at. The Hawk Breakdown was born from there, and it will help you cross all hawks in Florida of your birding bucket list by telling you when and where to look.


Red-Tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

Length: 17.7-25.6 in
Weight: 24.3-51.5 oz
Wingspan: 44.9-52.4 in

In North America, this hawk is perhaps the most prevalent. On practically any long car travel, anyplace, if you have sharp eyes, you’ll spot multiple persons. Red-tailed Hawks glide above vast fields, their large, rounded wings leisurely turning circles.

Other times, you’ll see them perched on telephone poles, their eyes fixated on the ground, waiting for a vole or a rabbit to move, or simply waiting out the cold before attempting to climb a thermal updraft into the sky.

Going on a drive and keeping your eyes alert along with fence posts and in the sky is the greatest approach to spot a Red-tailed Hawk.

Expert Tip: A Red-tailed Hawk is likely to be the first hawk you encounter. Simply look for the buteo shape and field signs such as dark bars on the front edge of the wing.

Red-tails are more numerous across most of the continent in the winter, when birds from the far north arrive to join the birds who live in your area all year.


Red-Shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk

Length: 16.9-24.0 in
Weight: 17.1-27.3 oz
Wingspan: 37.0-43.7 in

A Red-shouldered Hawk is usually associated with tall forests and water. With barred reddish-peachy underparts and a highly banded tail, it’s one of our most distinguishing common hawks. Translucent crescents near the wingtips help distinguish the species from afar in flight.

Forest hawks pursue a variety of species, including mice, snakes, and frogs. Year after year, they will frequently re-use the same nest. The population of Red-shouldered hawks has expanded in their range over the last 50 years. The removal of woody areas where they nest and breed is the most serious hazard to this species.

Learning the Red-shouldered Hawk’s distinctive whistle is one of the greatest methods to spot them. These birds can be found beside a pond or stream in and around damp woodlands. In the spring, these hawks can be seen circling high above their breeding zone, with pale crescents around their wingtips where the sun shines through.

When she was recovered and rereleased during banding operations in California in 2000, the oldest known Red-shouldered hawk was a female who was at least 25 years 10 months old. In 1974, she was also banded in the same state.


Short-tailed Hawk

Length: 15.3-17.3 in
Weight: 13.7-18.3 oz
Wingspan: 32.6-40.5 in

In North America, the Short-tailed Hawk is only located in Florida, and it is rarely seen even there. Some breed in northern Florida, while others reside year-round on the southern point of the Keys.

Because this hawk is one of the least researched birds in the United States, there isn’t a lot of information about it and few photographs on the internet. Short-tails can be found in grasslands, ponds, and open fields on the outskirts of their habitat. Short-tailed hawks can be found all year in Florida’s southernmost districts.

Expert Tip: During mating seasons, they can be found throughout the peninsula, but not as far north as the panhandle.

These birds have a mix of dark and light coloration. The dark variation has fully dark plumage above and light-colored plumage below whereas the light type has completely dark plumage.

Slowly circling from a few hundred feet above their victim, these hawks hunt. These birds have a mix of dark and light coloration. The dark variation has fully dark plumage above and light-colored plumage below, whereas the light type has completely dark plumage. Slowly circling from a few hundred feet above their victim, these hawks hunt.


Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Length: 9.4-13.4 in
Weight: 3.1 -7.7 oz
Wingspan: 16.9-22.1 in

A small hawk arrives in a flutter of feathers and then vanishes. The Sharp-shinned Hawk is the tiniest in Canada and the United States, as well as a bold, acrobatic flier. Small wings, long legs, and very long tails distinguish these raptors which they utilize to rush through their deep- woods homes in search of songbirds and mice.

On their southward trip in the fall, or at winter feeders, they’re the easiest to spot. They have a reputation for snooping around backyard feeders. If you encounter one, remove your feeders for a week or two to give the hawk time to move on.

Sharp-shinned Hawks are most common during migration, especially in the fall, when they are the most numerous raptors spotted at hawk watch locations. Look for these elusive hawks as they fly across wide spaces in their signature flap-and-glide technique. They are extremely evasive during nesting.


Cooper’s Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk

Length: 14.6-17.7 in
Weight: 7.8-24.0 oz
Wingspan: 24.4-35.4 in

Cooper’s Hawks are frequent woodland hawks that tear through dense tree canopies in pursuit of other birds. They are among the avian world’s most skilled fliers. One is most likely to be seen prowling above a forest border or field, utilizing only a few hard wingbeats before gliding.

Cooper’s Hawks are notorious for being difficult to identify due to their tiny Sharp-shinned Hawk resemblance. Both species are frequent visitors to bird feeders in search of a quick meal (but not one of the sunflower seeds).

It’s usually a case of keeping your eyes peeled for a Cooper’s Hawk, they’re common but sneaky, and smaller than other common hawks like the red-tailed, so your eye may pass them by in flight.

Expert Tip: To quickly identify these birds, look for their flap-flap-glide flight pattern and unusually long tail.

Hawk watches on ridgetops in both the East and the West are excellent spots to witness a large number of Cooper’s Hawks during migration.


Broad-Winged Hawk
Broad-Winged Hawk

Length: 13.4-17.3 in
Weight: 9.3-19 8 oz
Wingspan: 31.9-39.4 in

The Broad-winged Hawk is a bird with broad wings. Hawk has a breeding range in the Florida panhandle, a migrating range in the state’s central regions, and a winter range in the state’s southern point.

Thousands of Broad-winged Hawks migrate each year, and these enormous flocks are known as “kettles/ Broad-winged Hawks” only have one brood every year, with one to five eggs. The female, with the cooperation of the male, is in charge of building the nest

They will fiercely defend their breeding place and build their nests at least a half-mile apart from other raptors. Their diet is similar to that of most other raptors. This hawk is known for its loud whistle and will aggressively defend its nest. They will build their nests and reproduce up to a half-mile away from other birds of prey.

Perching and dropping down to attack, they will hunt small animals from beneath the forest canopy and along roadways. The migratory path is everything in between. These birds are well-known for their migration routes and if you’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse of them in the middle of one, you can witness thousands of them fly by.


Northern Harrier
Northern Harrier

Length: 18.1-19.7 in (46-50 cm)
Weight: 10.6-26.5 oz (300-750 g)
Wingspan: 40.2-46.5 in (102-118 cm)

This type, which may be found in Florida, is very distinguishable from a distance. They are thin, long-tailed, and have an owl-like face with a white patch on the upper half of their tail. Females are pale with brown streaks and speckled plumage, while adult males are grayish with dark-tipped wings.

The Northern Harrier is the only harrier species that may be found in North America. Its nesting grounds extend as far north as Canada, but it spends the winter in warmer areas, such as Florida, Marshes and Fields are their favorite places to live and hunt.

Expert Tip: Northern Harriers, like owls, hunt by using both their hearing and vision and they sometimes drown their larger prey to immobilize them.

Males can have up to five female companions at the same time, while it’s more normal for them to just have one or two.

In Florida and North America, Northern Harriers are the most owl-like hawks. To hunt for prey, they rely significantly on their acute hearing and good vision


Tracking down hawks is a wonderful place to start if you’re looking for a challenge or a little entertainment while birding. If you’re already in Florida there’s good news, if you know where to look you’ll always find a hawk. Hawks are excellent predators with different types of hawks having different flying, hunting, and behavioral characteristics.

Except for a few arctic places, hawks can be found almost everywhere on the planet. The seven hawk species described in this guide can also be found elsewhere in North America. Even though each species’ distribution is different, many of them have populations that overlap. It is critical to reducing habitat loss to protect populations.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments:

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