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Types Of Hawks In Ohio: 10 Species You Have To Know

Hawks in Ohio are the birds that are typically associated with urban areas, but these birds can be found almost everywhere. So what is the role of hawks in Ohio?

More than just birds of prey, hawks serve as a vital part of the natural ecosystem. They provide food for other animals and they hunt small rodents that may be harmful to local crops.

Ohio is home to the largest population of wild hawks in the U.S. The state is also home to many different types of birds, including bald eagles and Canadian geese. Hawks are members of the Accipitridae family which includes other raptors like ospreys, falcons, and vultures.

They eat mainly rabbits, skunks, rats, or mice for food whereas birds like vultures will consume carrion. Ohio has an estimated population of about 10 million hawks with an annual migration count of around 1-2 million hawks entering the state during the fall and winter months seeking food sources.

During times when there are low food resources available in Ohio because of harsh winters or summer droughts, high numbers of migrant hawks may be seen. There are several species of hawks in the state of Ohio. We will be looking at 10 different species.

What Are The 10 Species Of Hawk In Ohio?

  1. Cooper’s Hawk
  2. Sharp-Shinned Hawk
  3. Broad-Winged Hawk
  4. Red-Tailed Hawk
  5. Swainson’s Hawk
  6. Red-Shouldered Hawk
  7. Northern Goshawk
  8. Northern Harrier
  9. Rough-Legged Hawk
  10. Harris’s Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper’s hawks are one of the most common hawks in Ohio. There are some other types of hawks that you might come across while visiting the state, but these three species, Cooper’s, Sharp-shinned, and Red-tailed make up about 98% of Ohio’s hawk population.
Cooper’s Hawks make up a little more than 1/7th of all birds in Ohio.

Cooper’s Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper’s hawks have a small wingspan and a long tail, with a white head. These characteristics help them stay hidden from predators while hunting for food. The color of their feathers also allows them to blend into their surroundings making it even harder for predators to see them.

It is a bird that primarily inhabits the forests of central and southern Ohio. It primarily feeds on rodents, which are abundant in the forests.

Expert Tip: Like other hawks, Cooper’s hawk is a raptor with a broad diet. Cooper’s hawks primarily eat mice and rats in Ohio.



Sharp-Shinned Hawk

The sharp-shinned hawk is a medium-sized hawk that is mainly found in North America. It is a bird of prey. The Sharp-Shinned Hawk is classified as a medium-sized hawk. It is predominantly dark gray with brownish tints on its wings, tail, and head. There are white patches on its chest and belly.

Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Sharp-Shinned Hawk

The plumage includes two long, pointed feathers on the back of the head which are known as “lights” or “sparks”. The Sharp-Shinned Hawk is one of the most common hawks that can be found in Ohio, so it is very easy to find them if you know what you are looking for.

Their diet consists mostly of rodents, rabbits, and insects. They can be found in open areas with trees and shrubs and often near bodies of water.


Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad-Winged Hawks are birds in Ohio. They are classified as a bird of prey with a body length of about 2 feet and 30 inches. The bird is an opportunistic hunter that feeds on small mammals, insects, snakes, amphibians, fish, lizards, crustaceans, and even small birds.

Broad-Winged Hawk
Broad-Winged Hawk

In Ohio, Broad-Winged Hawks are one of the most common birds and they can be seen in every part of the state. They aren’t easy to spot though because they blend in with their environment and keep a low profile.

Broad-Winged Hawks are a species of hawk that typically lives in Ohio. They have a brownish-gray body with a dark brown breast band and a long tail.


Red-Tailed Hawk

The red-tailed hawk is a bird of prey living primarily in the forests and open country of North America and Eurasia. These hunters and scavengers feed primarily on rodents, rabbits, earthworms, lizards, snakes, fish, amphibians, birds eggs, and chicks.

Red-Tailed Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk

The red-tailed hawk has been around for a long time. It is known to be the most common hawk found in North America. Sometimes they can be found as far south as Mexico or as high as Canada.

Red-Tailed Hawks have been around for a long time and have adapted well to their environment. They have been able to thrive in Ohio because they are able to find food easily throughout their range due to the variety of different natural habitats that they inhabit.

Expert Tip: The red-tailed hawk is one of the most common hawks in Ohio, the state where it was first documented. The red-tailed hawk is found throughout the state, but it can be found in around 20-30% of Ohio’s counties.


The red-tailed hawk’s diet consists mostly of small mammals and other birds. They typically hunt by flying low over grasslands or open fields to spot their prey.

When they are hunting they have a slow wing beat which helps them cover a lot of ground quickly while being able to see their prey. The red-tailed hawk is a bird of prey that can reach an impressive 20 inches long and weigh up to 3 pounds. They have large talons on their feet that help them cling to trees.

The bird’s wings are mainly black with patches of white feathers on their shoulders and neck, while their tail is mostly white with some black feathers near the tip. They also have a black head with brownish-white facial feathers.


Red-Shouldered Hawk

The Red-Shouldered Hawk is a species of the Buteo genus of which there are over 40 species. They tend to live in woodlands and forests and due to their large size, they tend to eat small mammals and even other birds. The red-shouldered hawk is a bird that can be seen in Ohio.

Red-Shouldered Hawk
Red-Shouldered Hawk

This hawk likes to feed on rodents and insects while living in swamps or marshes that contain rotting logs. The Red-shouldered hawk is one of the most common hawks in North America but is currently listed as an endangered species. This animal has a wide range but is mostly found in Ohio, where it nests in trees and on cliffs.

Also known as the Eastern Cooper’s hawk, this bird feeds primarily on small mammals and birds. It has a distinctive red chest with black wings. It hunts mainly by soaring over its prey while dropping on them from above.


Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson’s Hawks are medium-sized birds that hunt other birds and small animals. They can be found in Ohio, North America. It is the only species of hawk commonly found in Ohio. There are many places where these hawks can be spotted, including deciduous forests, mangroves, and agricultural areas.

Swainson’s Hawk
Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson’s Hawks are typically found in places where there is a lot of food to eat. Swainson’s Hawks are a species of birds that can be found in or near temperate forests. They vary in color from light brown to dark gray with yellowish-white undersides and a dark-streaked back.

The Swainson’s Hawk is a medium-sized bird of prey with a long tail and slender wings, measuring between 39 cm to 50 cm in length. They also have small round heads with brown eyes that are often covered by the feathers on the front of their head.

Swainson’s Hawks are large birds of prey that are typically found in the forests and open areas of North America. They are named after John L. Swainson who first described “Polistes major” which he considered being a “Swainson’s hawk”.

Swainson’s hawks have also been known as “large sparrow hawks”, “greater sparrow-hawks” or just simply as “spoonbills”.

Expert Tip: This species was once hunted for its meat because it was believed to be an excellent source of protein but today hunting these birds is illegal in most parts of the country.



Northern Goshawk

The Northern Goshawk is a small hawk that lives in the Appalachian Mountains. They have dark brown feathers with a white chest and face. Native American people of Ohio named this hawk the “Hawk that throws its voice” because they fly with their wings outstretched to create sound waves.

Northern Goshawk
Northern Goshawk

The Northern Goshawk is also called the “Little Hawk” because it is so small, even smaller than a Cooper’s Hawk which they usually hunt. This bird has been on Ohio’s endangered species list since 1967 due to deforestation and habitat loss in recent decades. One of the most famous birds in Ohio is the Northern Goshawk.

The northern goshawk has distinctive markings on its face and chest that make it easy for other birds to recognize this bird while hunting or nesting in trees. The eyes are dark brown while the feathers on its back are rusty-brown with white edges around them which makes their head look larger than other hawks’ heads.

The Northern Goshawk is a migratory bird that ranges from the Canadian and the United States to Mexico and Central America. They usually stay in tall trees, but can also be seen on the ground. The Northern Goshawk is listed as threatened in Ohio by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).

The population of this species is declining due to habitat loss, pesticides. hunting. and collisions with cars. The Goshawk, also known as “sparrow hawk”, has a wingspan of 26-30 inches. The length of the wings is 9-10 inches long. They have yellow eyes with dark brown around them which they use to see at night time.


Northern Harrier

The Northern Harrier is a medium-sized hawk that is found in Ohio. From the wintering grounds in southern Mexico, they migrate to the northern parts of the state from October to April. The Northern Harrier Hawk is an endangered bird native to the northern half of Ohio.

Northern Harrier
Northern Harrier

It has since become one of the most sought-after birds in North America. The Northern Harrier is a type of hawk that lives in the Midwestern United States. It can be found in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan.

Northern Harriers look like small hawks with a reddish-brown breast color and black wingtips and tail feathers. They have a dark brown back and white throat patch as well as white underparts with yellow under tail coverts.


Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough-Legged Hawks are the largest hawk species in Ohio. They are found in all but four counties of the state. Rough-Legged Hawks are large, dark brown hawks with a white band across each wing. They have a long pointed tail and a short square-tipped crest on their head.

Rough-Legged Hawk
Rough-Legged Hawk

Their beaks are usually yellow to orange in color. Females have small white spots on the underside of their wings while males have dark gray coloring with no spots on their wings or legs. This Rough-Legged Hawk has long legs that are covered with brown feathers.

These legs let the hawk run very quickly at top speed for short distances and also help it to hunt. The Rough-Legged Hawk is a bird of prey found in Ohio. It is the state bird and it can be found mostly in agricultural fields especially those near wetlands.

Expert Tip: Rough-Legged Hawks prefer open habitats such as fields and grasslands with scattered trees though they will live near woodlands if food sources are abundant.


With their large size, they can take on prey such as rabbits and squirrels on their own but they also spend time hunting larger animals such as deer and raccoons.


Harris’s Hawk

The Harris’s hawk is an endangered species in Ohio. In the 1800s, there was a hunting season for birds of prey including this species. In the end, these hawks were hunted to extinction in Ohio. In 1978, a few Harris’s hawks were taken from their nest and released into a wooded area near Columbus.

Harris's Hawk
Harris’s Hawk

These hawks have been reproducing ever since and now number about 1,000 individuals across the state of Ohio. The US Fish and Wildlife Service put a federal protection order on the Harris’s Hawk in 1980 which helps ensure their survival as a species.

Harris’s hawks have a broad diet eating anything from small mammals, birds, even insects, and frogs. They have been known to attack prey as large as rabbits and small deer. Harris’s hawks are large-bodied raptors that are found throughout North America. They have broad wings, short tails, and long sharp talons.

These hawks are mostly brown with white scalloping on the wings and body. The head, back, and rump have a rusty brown color while the other parts are white. The Harris’s Hawk looks like a standard hawk but it has two dark markings on the top of its head and one patch on its breast.

They have an oval-shaped face with bright red eyes. Their wingspan can be up to 2 feet long while their tail is quite short compared to other hawks.

There are quite a lot of species of hawks in Ohio. Each one looks different and consumes different foods. Ohio is vast enough to be home to all these species of hawks and they are able to thrive in that state.

Some of them are on the endangered list, but the Fish and Wildlife have taken precautions to make sure that these birds do not go into extinction.

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