The hawks in Georgia are a gorgeous sight, to say the least. It’s a breathtaking sight to watch a hawk spread its wings and fly over the forest as it calls out marking its territory. There’s never a bad time to see them either, as most of them call the state home for most of the year.
Whether if you’re a tourist or if you call Georgia home as well, looking out for these birds can be a captivating experience. It can be an important one too if you’re a local, as some of these hawks like to hunt smaller birds and might want to make a target out of your bird feeder.
1. Northern Harrier
Length: 18.1-19.7 in
Weight: 10.6-26.5 oz
Wingspan: 40.2-46.5 in
The northern harrier is unique on this list as it’s the only harrier-breed of hawk that makes its home in North America.
They’re easy to spot with their owl-like faces and stiff facial features, and those looks just aren’t just for show. Much like the owl, the northern harrier uses sound to aid in hunting. The shape of their face directs sound to the ears so they can more easily focus on prey. The males are colored gray and have dark-colored wingtips.
The females and young are colored browns with black marks on their tales. Females also have white-ish undersides. Every single one can also be spotted by a white rump that breaks up the color of their feathers.
Their breeding grounds are farther up in the north in Canada, but it spends the colder winter months in the south. Whether up past New England or down in the south, they look to make their homes around fields and marshes where they like to search for prey. They hunt and fly low to the ground, which is also where they keep their nests.
Expert Tip: The harrier’s prey mostly consists of small mammals and other birds, but they’ve also been known to take down larger prey by drowning them.
2. Cooper’s Hawk
Length: 14.6-15.3 in
Weight: 7.8-14.5 oz
Wingspan: 24.4-35.4 in
Length: 16.5-17.7 in
Weight: 11.6-24.0 oz
Wingspan: 29.5-35.4 in
Cooper hawks are known for being one of the most agile and skilled fliers of all birds. These hawks dash through and above tree canopies hunting for other birds.
They’re relatively small for a hawk but you can’t miss the males with their blood-red eyes and upright posture. Their heads look rather long but their shoulders are also big in comparison to their narrow profile and thin tail. Their back and wings are a blueish-grey color while their bellies are white with orange streaks.
The males are also smaller than the females. It’s not without risk, but cooper hawks fly low to the ground, and then up-and-over to catch their prey by surprise. They often fly for long periods of time without flapping their wings before engaging in aerial maneuvers when on the hung.
Older hawks often can be found with multiple healed wounds on their bodies from how dangerous this kind of flight can be. They range all over North America and can be found in Georgia for the entire year.
For a time they stuck mainly to the woodlands, however, today there are more cooper hawks in urban towns and cities than in their natural habitat. This can be a problem as they mostly hunt for small birds. If you spot one of them flying near where you live, it’s a good idea to put your birdfeeder away for a few days until they leave.
3. Sharp-shinned Hawk
Length: 9.4-13.4 in
Weight: 3.1-7.7 oz
Wingspan: 16.9-22.1 in
The sharp-shinned hawk is the little cousin of the cooper hawk. They too are known for being ace fliers, capable of darting in and out of the flight. They have small, round wings and a small head as well. Unlike the intimidating, red eyes of the male cooper hawks, all sharp-shinned hawks have orange-brown eyes.
Their chests are also white with bright orange streaks and a grey back. The children are a lighter brown color and both the adults and the children have dark streaks of black running down their tails. Sharp-shinned hawks live across North America but vacation in Georgia for the winter.
Expert Tip: They hunt and live deep in the forest but like the cooper hawk, many have found their way into the cities, where they search for songbirds, their ideal pray.
Much like many hawks, if they spot songbirds congregating around your birdfeeder they’ll stick around for a long time. You can tell when one is around by the sharp calls that the other birds will start to yell out.
4. Broad-Winged Hawk
Length: 13.4-17.3 in
Weight: 9.3-19.8 oz
Broad-winged hawks are known for their massive, swirling flocks called “kettles”. Thousands of the birds gather as they migrate to South America and the spectacle can be seen all the way from Canada to Panama. These hawks have brown feathered heads and an underbelly of white with brown streaks.
Some of these hawks live out in the west where their brown feathers are much darker. These two different kinds of color types are called light morphs and dark morphs. Broad-winged hawks make Georgia their home through the mating season. You’re most likely to catch them from April until early October specifically.
They hunt small mammals, reptiles, and sometimes other birds. They live mostly below the canopy in forests but will take off above the treeline sometimes to hunt for prey. When they take off on their massive migrations, they like to stick to the coastline and along mountain ridges as well.
The females are in charge of building nests when laying nests and they are fiercely protective of them, making sure to stay far and away from other birds of prey.
5. Red-shouldered Hawk
Length: 16.9-24.0 in
Weight: 17.1-27.3 oz
Wingspan: 37.0-43.7 in
The red-shouldered hawk is known to have something of a blood feud with the American crow. The crows have the upper hand most of the time, but the birds have been known to go toe-to-toe with each other, fighting and stealing food.
Occasionally they sign a truce to face down their common enemy, the great horned owl. These owls will try to take young hawks but their parents often fight back and even seek revenge.
Red-shouldered hawks, as the name would suggest are known for the reddish-brown color that runs down their shoulders and underside. Their wings are checkered with white and black.
A small population of hawks lives out west in California, where their chest and shoulders are even redder than they are on the east coast. The bulk of red-shouldered hawks are centered in the eastern United States.
However, the birds do migrate down to Mexico sometimes in the winter and there’s a smaller group that lives on the west coast in California, including Baja California. No matter where they are, they tend to stick to swamps and rivers, building their nests in the crotch of bigger trees.
6. Red-tailed Hawk
Length: 17.7-22.7 in
Weight: 24.3-45.9 oz
Wingspan: 44.9-52.4 in
Length: 19.7-25.6 in
Weight: 31.8-51.5 oz
Wingspan: 44.9-52.4 in
The red-tailed hawk is the most populous in all of North America. They live across the entirety of the United States year-round and range into Canada as a breeding ground. While every hawk has its own distinct howl, it’s the screech of the red-tailed hawk that you hear every time an eagle flies overhead in a movie or video game.
Expert Tip: They’re some of the largest hawks in the world as well and are remarkable fliers. They’re known for their warm, cinnamon-red trails that lead into a brown upper body and wings with a pale underbelly.
Their colors shift slightly in different parts of the US. You won’t find many unique colors of the bird in Georgia, but you may be able to sometimes spot the dark morph that has a much more chocolate-brown body.
You can find them in Georgia any time of the year, in cities, and out in the wild. They frequently perch on telephone poles looking for prey with their excellent vision.
They mainly stick to hunting small mammals, but like every hawk on this list. They may also hunt smaller birds and will even still human food as well, so be on the lookout if you hear any screeching bird howls while you’re out for lunch near one of their hunting grounds.
Some may see it as only a vacation spot, but as long as you’ve got the free time yourself, you can find at least one of these hawks in any part of Georgia.
Some may be difficult to spot up in the canopy, but others will make their presence known through a shrieking call from the sky or by simply perching outside of your home on a telephone pole, scoping out the neighborhood.
Going out and looking for one of these majestic birds can be a fun and spectacular experience, and remember that if you see one near where you live, it might be a good idea to put your birdfeeder away for a few days.