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NJ Hawks: 8 Hawks Of New Jersey You Need To See

Did you know that there are hawks in New Jersey? If you live near the Atlantic Ocean, the chances are good that you have seen a hawk or two. These coastal raptors can be found searching for prey on open fields and beaches all year round.

If you’re a fan of these fantastic birds, then keep on reading because we’ve got something special for you. Here’s a list of the eight hawks that can be seen in New Jersey:


Sharp-shinned Hawk

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a species of hawk found in North America. Its range spans from Alaska south to the southern parts of the United States and Mexico. It has been known to migrate as far south as Central America.

Historically, this hawk has been called the “American Sparrow Hawk” but this name has been dropped because it is not a true sparrow hawk, a genus of birds that resemble the Sharp-shinned Hawk. This species of hawk is tiny and slender.

Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Sharp-Shinned Hawk

They are named for their habit of catching prey on the ground “sharp-shinned” refers to them grabbing their prey with their talons (a kind of bird’s foot). A sharp-shinned hawk measures about 14 to 20 inches in length and only weighs about a pound. Their wingspan is between 21 and 22 inches long.

The color of the Sharp-shinned Hawk’s feathers varies with location, on birds that live near the Arctic, their body may be primarily white, for those living further south, it will typically be dark brown or grey. The tail of a Sharp-shinned Hawk generally is banded in brown and white. They have a small head with a short, hooked beak.

Their eyes are dark red or black. Sharp-shinned Hawks have been known to eat just about any bird they can catch from Robins. Red-winged Blackbirds, and Blue Jays to small songbirds like the American Goldfinch. They tend to hunt in forest areas with a thick brush where their prey is more likely to hide.

The nest of a Sharp-shinned Hawk can typically hold two or three eggs at once, however, only one chick will survive the others will be pushed out of the nest by their older sibling. The parents feed these chicks until they are strong enough to hunt on their own.

Expert Tip: Sharp-shinned Hawks are only aggressive when hunting for prey but can become very protective during nesting season. They have been known to attack humans if they feel that there is a threat to their young.



Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper’s hawk is a medium-sized raptor that is found in North America. It is one of the most common hawks found in the region, and it has an extensive distribution, including Central America, parts of South America, and the Caribbean. Naturalist William Bartram first described Cooper’s Hawk in 1791.

The Cooper’s Hawk is a member of the genus Accipiter, consisting of tiny birds with long tails and short wings who hunt in woodland habitats. The most common prey includes sparrows, blue jays, voles, quail, and crows.

Cooper’s Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk

The Cooper’s Hawk is known for its high speed and maneuverability when hunting game in woodland areas, but these traits also make it vulnerable to predators such as crows and raccoons. They live in open country, including farmland, prairies, deserts, and grasslands.

Female Cooper’s hawks lay between 2-4 eggs per year, these eggs are incubated for about thirty days before hatching. Once hatched, their parents feed the young for about four to five weeks.


Red-shouldered Hawk

If you are birding in New Jersey, there’s a good chance that the Red-shouldered Hawk will be one of the species that you see. Formally known as “Buteo lineatus” the bird was first classified by Jean-Baptiste Audebert in 1799. The informal name refers to the red feathers on the ridge of the birds’ shoulders.

Red-Shouldered Hawk
Red-Shouldered Hawk

These are medium-sized hawks about 20 inches long with some notable distinctive traits, including its relatively small head, short wingspan, and brown body with black barring.
The Red-shouldered Hawk can be found all over North America, but they are most common in forests and swamps near water sources like lakes and rivers.

Expert Tip: Red-shouldered Hawk prefers to hunt during the day and is commonly seen perched in trees, scanning for prey.



Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged hawks are large hawks that have a wingspan that can range from 55 to 60 inches. They have a brown body, a white throat and breast, and bars on their tail feathers. Broad-winged hawks typically nest in the eastern half of the United States between February and November.

Broad-Winged Hawk
Broad-Winged Hawk

They can be found prey such as small mammals, ground-dwelling birds, reptiles, frogs, fish, and larger birds. They will also take insects and wild fruits. The broad-winged hawk will glide before diving toward its prey with immense force to capture it. Broad-winged hawks are part of the Accipiter genus, which means their legs are short and weak.

This bird will use brush or trees to hide when preying on their prey since they have no stealth in flight. They can be recognized by other birds because of their slow wingbeats while flying low over forests. These birds also have a sharp, piercing scream that they will use to communicate with other hawks and the young.

The broad-winged hawks have been known to live up to 20 years in the wild. A famous broad-winged hawk named Pale Male was filmed by PBS’s “Nature” program in New York City, and he has become one of the most well-known hawks to date.



Red-tailed Hawk

The Red-tailed Hawk is the most common in New Jersey. It can often be seen searching for food in trees or grasslands, especially during the winter months. At other times, they may be found soaring high over the earth. Red-tailed Hawks are not migratory birds, they remain in the same area year-round.

They can even be seen on occasion hunting during morning and evening hours. The Red-Tailed Hawk is native to North America but has been expanding its territory across Asia as far away as Japan over the past century due to climate change affecting its food supplies.

Red-Tailed Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk

The Red-Tailed Hawk is typically found in the grasslands and open areas of North America. Its most common habitats include farmland, deserts, and wetlands. However, they can also be seen near mountains and forests. The red feathers on a hawk are not part of its skin but are instead part of its feathers.

The red color on a hawk comes from the beta-keratin in their feathers that oxidize as they age, gradually darkening over time and eventually turning black by the bird’s first year of life. The Red-Tailed Hawk is known for its massive three to four-foot wingspan, which allows it to soar effortlessly through the air.

While soaring, the hawk’s wings are spread out in a V-shape with tips of their wing feathers pointing up and down, this allows them to move forward without losing any altitude while gliding through the sky.

Expert Tip: Hawks can reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour when diving after prey but typically fly at about 25 miles an hour.


The Red-Tailed Hawk is a carnivore and will eat almost anything it can find. They typically feed on small rodents such as mice, rats, ground squirrels, however, they have also been known to prey on larger animals like rabbits and snakes.

When hunting for food, the hawk will use its powerful talons to catch their prey and then pick up the food in its sharp, powerful beaks. After a mating season in late winter or early spring. Red-Tailed Hawks build nests out of twigs high above the ground where they will lay one to five eggs which hatch after about three weeks.

The female hawk is responsible for sitting on top of her young chicks while the male provides food for both of them. Once the chicks are old enough, they will practice flying and leave the nest around five weeks after hatching.


Rough-legged Hawk

The rough-legged hawk, which is also known as the rough-legged buzzard, is an American bird. It ranges across North America to northern parts of South America. The rough-legged hawk’s diet consists of small mammals, birds, and amphibians.

This bird has a circumpolar boreal distribution, with three global subspecies found in the Northern Hemisphere. The rough-legged hawk is a migratory bird to its southern parts.

Rough-Legged Hawk
Rough-Legged Hawk

The breeding season for these birds begins in March, and during this time, the males gather materials to build nests usually situated on cliff sides or sometimes even rooftops of buildings. These hawks can be found throughout New Jersey year-round, but they’re most common in the winter months.

The rough-legged hawk likes to eat lemmings, voles, and small birds. It can be seen hunting from a perch or flight with rapid wing beats interspersed with glides.

The rough-legged hawk can be identified by its large size, broad wings, and short tail. It is similar in appearance to the red-tailed hawk but lacks a rufous band on its tail.

The plumage of this bird varies between different subspecies, with some having white underbodies and others brownish or buffy ones, the rough-legged Hawk measures around 24 to 29 inches long, with 54 to 60 inches wingspan. On average, the female is larger than the male by about half an inch in length and one ounce in mass.

The breeding season for these birds begins between March through May. Both sexes build nests and can be found on cliff ledges, in nooks of mines or caves, or sometimes even rooftops. These birds normally lay two to five eggs that usually hatch between May through July.


Northern Harrier

Northern Harriers are members of the family Accipitridae. They are found in open terrestrial habitats, including grassland, prairie, scrubland, farmland, and marshes. This raptor is sometimes known as the “barred owl”. It is a medium-sized hawk with long wings and a tail. It has a slender gray body with barred underparts.

The head features an obvious white eyebrow stripe that divides its yellowish face into distinct upper and lower parts. The birds have a gray upper body, brown wings, and tails with white bars. They are similar to Cooper’s Hawk but larger. Northern Harriers have longer wings and a shorter tail than Cooper’s Hawks.

Northern Harrier
Northern Harrier

They also lack spotted wing patches, which is characteristic of Coopers Hawk. Northern Harrier Hawks can be found in Northern New Jersey during the spring and summer months. It also migrates through New Jersey on its way to wintering grounds as far south as Argentina.

This raptor is known for its speed, reaching up to 100 miles per hour in flight. Northern Harriers are raptors that eat rodents and other small mammals, but they will also hunt birds. They often feed on prey while hovering or even flying low over the ground. Northern harrier hawks have been observed hunting at night with artificial light.

Northern Harriers are most active during the day, except in the winter months. They will often hunt at night using artificial light such as streetlights to attract prey.

Expert Tip: They have a unique way of hunting where they fly low over meadows and marshes with their wings raised above their bodies while looking for prey on the ground or water below them.



Northern Goshawk

Hawks are a type of bird that is found in North America. The Northern Goshawk is a species of bird that resides in the northeastern region of the United States. Their habitat is typically found in mixed forests, and they have been known to prey on small mammals, birds, lemmings, rabbits, and other animals.

The Northern Goshawk was first discovered by John J. Audubon in 1826 when he found a pair in a Montreal market. He believed they were newly discovered because he had not seen any specimens until then. The Northern Goshawk has a length of 34 to 45 centimeters and weighs around 400 grams.

Northern Goshawk
Northern Goshawk

It has very long legs, large yellow eyes, and black claws, which make it an expert hunter among birds of prey. Northern Goshawks are typically solitary animals that mate between January and March however, they can also be found in pairs throughout the spring and summer months.

The female will make a nesting area within their territories, which they defend fiercely against other goshawks or even owls that invade during this time. The Northern Goshawk is one of only three birds in New Jersey protected under state law, making it illegal to take possession, transport, import, or sell them.

It is also illegal to damage the nests or eggs of these birds, and it is encouraged that they are left alone during nesting season. The population for this species has been declining in New Jersey over the years due to habitat loss, resulting in fewer food sources available.

The state’s forests are no longer as dense as they once were, making hunting these birds more difficult. Northern Goshawks are listed as a species of special concern in New Jersey due to this decline, and it is expected that populations will continue to fall if no action is taken.

They could become endangered or even extinct within the state’s borders without human intervention in their population numbers.


Eight hawks can be seen in New Jersey, namely: Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Red­tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Harrier, and Northern Goshawk.

Do you want to know more? Comment below. It is always a thrill to see hawks in the wild. They are an essential part of our ecosystem.

About Ava Wellington

Hi, my name is Ava and I am a editor for GuideYourPet. I love pets, and am the owner of 2 horses and 2 dogs! I have loved pets all my life, and have owned everything from bearded dragons to snakes! I am excited to help you take the best care of your pet!