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Texas Hawks: 15 Species Of Hawks To Look Out For (with Pictures)

Texas is by far the most significant state in the continental United States, covering 268,820 square miles. Texas, located close north of Mexico, is also in the migratory route of many different bird species. As a result, it’s not surprising that Texas has a diverse range of hawk species.

It’s always exciting to have a chance to watch a hawk. These raptors exist in diverse forms and sizes, live in various environments, and consume multiple things, including insects, reptiles, and mammals. So keep an eye out to see which hawks dwell in your area.

We’ve included pictures of each species, as well as their most frequent noises, to help you identify any birds you happen to see. Enjoy the following list of Texas’ 15 hawk species.

15 Species Of Hawks In Texas

  1. Red-shouldered Hawk
  2. Red-tailed Hawk
  3. Swainson’s Hawk
  4. Harris’s Hawk
  5. Broad-winged Hawk
  6. Ferruginous Hawk
  7. Rough-legged Hawk
  8. Cooper’s Hawk
  9. Sharp-shinned Hawk
  10. Gray Hawk
  11. White-tailed Hawk
  12. Northern Goshawk
  13. Zone-tailed Hawk
  14. Northern Harrier
  15. Common Black Hawk


Red-Shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk

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

Southern and eastern Texas and much of the east part of the United States are home to the Red-shouldered Hawk. They are medium-sized hawks that are somewhat smaller than red-tails. The reddish-brown breast and dark/white checkered wings distinguish Red-shouldered Hawks.

They also like perching high on wires and in trees, searching for small animals, reptiles, amphibians, and other birds. The great horned owl is renowned for snatching and devouring young Red-shouldered Hawks from their nest. Yet, every year the Red-shouldered Hawks return to the exact nesting location.

Expert Tip: Both in the forest and open regions, the Red-shouldered Hawk will hunt from a perch. It will also fly low over broad fields to surprise its prey.

Blue Jays have a whistling clear call, but don’t be fooled by their near-perfect mimicry of the Red-shouldered Hawk.


Red-Tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

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

The Red-tailed Hawk, one of the most frequent hawks in Texas and North America, ranks first on the list. Aside from a mid-west region where they move for breeding exclusively, they are year-round residents of Texas and much of the United States. In addition, the red-tailed hawk is one of North America’s most enormous birds of prey.

Their enormous stature, crimson tails, and loud cries often heard in movies and TV to symbolize all raptors make them identifiable. In addition, red-tailed Hawks can often be spotted perched on telephone wires or in trees, waiting for their next meal.

They eat small to medium-sized animals and aren’t as prone to prowling bird feeders as a cooper’s or sharpie. A gorgeous raptor that, despite its widespread distribution, is still a joy to see.

The Red-Tailed Hawk prefers high perches over open fields and near highways. It will leap off its perch and use its strong talons to grab its prey. However, it can also be spotted soaring across fields in a less common hunting pattern.


Swainson’s Hawk
Swainson’s Hawk

Length: 18.9-22.1 in
Weight: 24.4-48.2 oz
Wingspan: 48 in

Swainson’s Hawks are medium-sized hawks found in parts of eastern, northern, and southern Texas. Their range extends north into Canada and Alaska, and their migration path leads them south via Mexico, Central America, and South America’s southernmost regions.

As a result, they’re abundant in Texas, and if you’re lucky, you could see a huge flock of them swooping overhead in April or September.

Swainson’s Hawks are opportunistic feeders thus, their diet varies depending on where they are at any one moment. However, when they are not reproducing, they devour dragonflies, moths, crickets, grasshoppers, and beetles, among other insects. Thus, small animals, reptiles and amphibians, and other birds make up most of a raptor’s diet.

Expert Tip: Swainson’s Hawks move in flocks and can be seen in huge numbers digging through newly turned fields while feeding insects. When hunting for bigger prey, they would soar or perch.

During the breeding season, you may see couples of birds doing steep spiral courting flights.


Harris's Hawk
Harris’s Hawk

Length: 18.1-23.2 in
Weight: 18.2-31.0 oz
Wingspan: 40.5-46.9 in

Harris’s Hawks are the most friendly raptors in North America, and they may be found in most of southern Texas and parts of central and eastern Texas. Harris’s Hawks, unlike most other hawks, hunt in groups of up to seven birds. It is thought that the larger the group in which the hawk is a member, the longer the hawk’s lifetime will be.

Their dark brown plumage, red feathers on their wings and legs, and white-tipped tails help identify them. They reside in the lowlands of the desert where there are lots of high perches for perching eating, and breeding. Another feature that distinguishes this species is that it appears to have no rigorous breeding restrictions.

They may lay up to three batches of eggs each year and have been observed reproducing throughout the year.

The Harris’s Hawk hunts by pursuing its prey and chasing it through the bush’s dry leaves. They’ve been observed to hunt in groups of up to seven people and divide their prey with their companions. It has been hypothesized that the larger the hunting group, the longer the members’ lives.


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 has a limited breeding area in eastern Texas, including the metropolis of Houston north to the border and a migratory range in the east of half of the state. Each year, thousands of Broad-winged Hawks travel in huge groups known as “kettles”.

These enormous flocks are frequently observed in southern Texas, traveling through significant towns like San Antonio and Austin, located directly on their migratory path each season.

Each year, a single brood of 1-5 eggs is produced by hawks. The female is in charge of building the nest, with the male’s assistance. They will aggressively defend their breeding location and construct their nests at least a half-mile apart from other raptors. Their diet is similar to that of the majority of other raptors.

The Broad-winged Falcon is a patient hunter. Hawks hunt on perches, waiting for their prey to come into their path. Hunting in flight has been documented, although it is not frequent.

Expert Tip: When migrating, Broad-winged Hawk will congregate in the thousands and maybe be observed resting along beaches and shorelines.


Ferruginous Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk

Length: 22.1-27.2 in
Weight: 34.5-73.2 oz
Wingspan: 52.4-55.9 in

Except for the state’s far eastern and far southern parts, the Ferruginous Hawk exclusively has a winter range in Texas. These big hawks are close in size to Red-tailed Hawks and come in two colors: light morphs and black morphs. Light morphs feature relatively light-colored underparts and rusty-colored upperparts.

Dark morphs have a pale tail and are primarily dark brown. “Rust-colored” is the literal definition of the word ferruginous. These raptors hunt or roost in 5-10 birds, similar to the Harris’s Hawk. These hawks watch for prey while soaring high with their wings held in a shallow V.

They will roost in groups of 5 to 10 being a typically social hunter. Their prey ranges from snakes to squirrels and jackrabbits. They have also been known to stand outside gopher holes and ambush their prey as it exits the hole.


Rough-Legged Hawk
Rough-Legged Hawk

Length: 18.5-20.5 in
Weight: 25.2-49.4 oz
Wingspan: 52.0-54.3 in

Only two American hawks have feathered legs down to their toes, Rough-legged Hawks like the Ferruginous Hawk comes in light and dark morphs. The Rough-legged Hawk, a prey. They will hunt from a perch or during a pass-over flight on rare occasions. Both variants have distinct male and female plumage.

Rich morphs are dark chocolate and tails, whereas light morphs are lighter colored with a somewhat mottled pattern.

Expert Tip: Rough-legged Hawks have a non-breeding range covering most of Texas. Thus, winter is the best time to view one in Texas and the United States.

However, each season, they move far north to mate in the arctic areas of Alaska and northern Canada.


Cooper’s Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk

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

Copper’s Hawks are common in the United States, and they are renowned for hanging around in cities, backyards, and hunting bird feeders. This raptor may be seen all year in Texas. Many hawks along the Texas border migrate north to nest in northern states and southern Canada.

Their bluish-gray head and topside, reddish striped patterns on their breasts, and dark bands on their tails distinguish these medium-sized birds. The primary food of the Cooper’s Hawk is other birds, which is why they are so popular in backyards with bird feeders.

It’s advisable to take down your feeders for a few days if you discover a Cooper’s Hawk sitting in your garden.

The Cooper’s Hawk is a predatory bird that stalks its prey with stealth. It will creep into range as it moves from cover to cover, then pounce with a quick, strong flight to its target before it realizes it is in danger.


Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Sharp-Shinned Hawk

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

Sharp-shinned Hawks, often known as “sharpies” are tiny to medium-sized raptors that look similar to Cooper’s Hawks but are smaller. However, because of the differences in size between males, females, and youngsters, it might be challenging to identify the difference when you have one of each species side by side.

They have a non-breeding range that encompasses the whole state of Texas, and they travel north to breed in Canada, Alaska, and the lower 48 states’ northernmost areas. Thus, the ideal time to view one of these fellas is during their migration in the fall.

Like Cooper’s Hawks, Sharpies are occasionally spotted in backyards near bird feeders, and their primary food source is likewise other birds.

Expert Tip: Sharp-Shinned Hawk prefers to let songbirds bumble by its hiding location for a stealthy attack, but it may follow its victim if required. They are tough to identify due to their hunting technique.


Gray Hawk
Gray Hawk

Length: 15-24 in
Weight: 13.8-16.8 oz
Wingspan: 25-35 in

Gray Hawks are a tropical species halfway between a Red-tailed and a Cooper’s Hawk in size. They are most prevalent in Central America, although they may also be found in Texas and Arizona’s southern regions. As the name implies, they are gray with striped underparts and a light/dark banded tail.

They eat a variety of tiny creatures, including amphibians, small mammals, and reptiles, although lizards are their favorite. Gray Hawks have been dubbed the Mexican Goshawk because they resemble accipiters like the Northern Goshawk

Make sure you have your birding diary on ready in case you happen to encounter one of these hawks in Texas because you won’t see one every day. Gray top feathers and a pale gray underbelly with delicate barring on the breast distinguish them. Their lengthy tail is black and white banded.


White-tailed Hawk
White-tailed Hawk

Length: 17-24 in
Weight: 31.0-43.6 oz
Wingspan: 46-56 in

In Central and South America, this neotropical raptor is common, but not in North America. Indeed, Texas may be the only state in North America where the White-tailed Hawk may be found, and only in the state’s southernmost region. Random sightings have been recorded in adjacent states, although they were almost certainly vagrants.

This bird is not migratory however, it may wander about in quest of food on a regional scale. They are usually gray on top and white below but this species of a hawk has a dark and light morph, similar to a handful of the others on our list.

Pocket gophers, rats, mice, rabbits, lizards, birds, snakes, frogs, crayfish, crabs, and insects are the primary ingredients of their diet. To grab its meal, it dives deep and has been observed to snag insects in mid-flight.

Expert Tip: However, the White-tailed Hawk is far from a picky eater, it will eat everything it can get its hands on, including carrion.


Northern Goshawk
Northern Goshawk

Length: 20.9-25.2 in
Weight: 22.3-48.1 oz
Wingspan: 40.5-46.1 in

In Texas, the Northern Goshawk is considered rare, with just a non-breeding population. This restricted range in Texas is primarily found in the northern portion of the state, around Amarillo. Northern Goshawks are big raptors that resemble Red-tailed Hawks in size.

Adults have a faint stripe above their eyes and are dark slate gray on top with barred light gray underparts. Northern Goshawks dwell and breed in densely forested areas, making them difficult to spot. They consume a wide variety of food, including other animals, birds, carrion, and insects, and are primarily opportunistic eaters.

Unfortunately, the panhandle is the only place in Texas where you can view one.


Zone-tailed Hawk
Zone-tailed Hawk

Length: 17.7-22.1 in
Weight: 21.4-33 oz
Wingspan: 46.9-55.1 in

Every year, the Zone-tailed Hawk migrates north to breed from portions of southern Mexico and Central America. These medium-sized hawks are grayish-black in appearance and are frequently mistaken for Turkey Vultures, which they exploit when hunting because much of their prey considers Turkey Vultures to be mainly harmless.

Their tail has a white band, and the undersides of their wings are two-toned. Since the 1990s’ their distribution has been progressively extending northward into the US.

Expert Tip: The Tails of the Zone Hawks employ this technique to persuade their prey to ignore them while maneuvering to the ideal angle before attacking.

Breeding pairs will circle and cry to one another high in the sky, with some males swooping down to barely clear the ground before pulling up.


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)

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 Texas. Fields and marshes are their favorite places to live and hunt.

Northern Harriers, like owls, hunt by using both their hearing and eyesight and sometimes drown their larger prey to immobilize them. Males can have up to five female companions at the same time. However, it’s more typical for them to have one or two.

While looking for prey, this hawk flies at a low altitude. When hunting, the Northern Harrier uses its acute hearing to listen for the sound of prey diving for cover If required, it will drown more prominent victims.


 Common Black Hawk
Common Black Hawk

Length: 17-21 inches /43-53 cm
Weight: 22-46 oz/630-1300gm
Wingspan: 50 inches /127 cm

This hawk’s whole body is coal-colored except for a tiny white patch behind the bill and white bands on the tail. Against their black bodies, their brilliant orange-yellow beak and legs stand out Common Black Hawks are only found in Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, New Mexico, and Texas and have a limited range.

However, the majority of these raptors may be found in Mexico and Central America. This raptor and you have something in common if you enjoy crab legs. Crabs are a favorite food of Common Black Hawks when they are available. Their favorite foods are frogs, crayfish, fish, baby birds, snakes, eggs, and insects.

Expert Tip: You could even see them dipping their toes into the water to grab their prey.

What is the most common hawk in Texas?

Hawks are birds of prey and in the same group of families where eagles belong. There are approximately 200 species of hawks over the world, but 14 types are commonly found in Texas. One of its kind that is common in Texas is the red-tailed hawk.

This type of hawk measures 17-26 inches in length and weighs approximately 24-52 ounces. Its wingspan spreads for at least 45-52 inches. This type of hawk is a full-round resident in the entire part of Texas. Moreover, this type of hawk is also one of the largest birds of prey in the whole region of North America.

Red-tailed hawks are commonly seen resting on top of telephone lines
Red-tailed hawks are commonly seen resting on top of telephone lines

This bird can be easily identified by its large size, red tails, and battle cry which are commonly heard on some of the sound effects viewed on television and in some movies.

Red-tailed hawks are commonly seen resting on top of telephone lines or wires, in rooftops, or even in the treetops, waiting patiently for the next target to be served as their whole-day meal. Technically, they fed on smaller prey to medium-sized mammals.

The size of the Texas Hawks

Hawks are predator birds from the Accipitridae family. There are two types of hawks in Texas, native and migrated. Below is the list of all native hawks in Texas with their stats showing exactly how big they can get.

Size of the Texas Hawks
Size of the Texas Hawks

1. Cooper’s Hawk

  • Native to Eastern and Western Texas.
  • Length: up to 18 inches
  • Wingspan: up to 35 inches
  • Weight: up to 24 oz

2. Red-Tailed Hawk

  • Native throughout Texas
  • Length: up to 25 inches
  • Wingspan: up to 52 inches
  • Weight: up to 51 oz

3. Harris’s Hawk

  • Native to Southern Texas
  • Length: up to 23 inches
  • Wingspan: up to 47 inches
  • Weight: up to 31 oz

4. White-tailed Hawk

  • Native to Southeast Texas
  • Length: up to 24 inches
  • Wingspan: up to 56 inches
  • Weight: up to 43 oz

5. Red-Shouldered Hawk

  • Native to Eastern and South-Central Texas
  • Length: up to 24 inches
  • Wingspan: up to 43 inches
  • Weight: up to 27 inches

There are up to 19 types of hawk species all over Texas but most of them migrated for food or due to winter.


Texas is the most populous state in the United States. It lies immediately on the migratory path of numerous bird species, including hawks, because it is located near Mexico. With a diversity of hawk species in Texas, the state has a wide variety of hawk species.

Even non-birdwatchers may appreciate the fascinating experience of seeing a hawk in flight. Everything but the leisurely getaway of one of nature’s most magnificent predators vanishes as your head tilts back. Yet they are the embodiment of elegance and strength, and seeing them is always a blessing.

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