Hawks Facts – How to identify different types of hawks

What are hawks and what do they look like

Hawks are raptors, or birds of prey, and can be identified by their long, pointed wings and characteristic hooked beaks. They can be found all over the world, and vary in size and color depending on their species. There are many different types of hawks, and each has its own unique characteristics that can help to identify it. In this article, we will explore the most common types of hawks and teach you how to identify them.

Red-Tailed Hawk

The Red-Tailed Hawk is the most common and widely distributed hawk in North America. It can be identified by its brown body, white belly, and distinct reddish-brown tail. Red-tailed Hawks often soar above open fields or roadsides looking for prey such as rabbits, rodents, and birds.

Cooper’s Hawk

The Cooper’s Hawk is a medium-sized hawk with a long tail and short, rounded wings. It has brown and white markings on its back and head, and it often holds its wings in a V-shape as it soars. Cooper’s hawks mainly eat other birds such as jays and doves, but they will occasionally take small mammals like squirrels and mice.

Red-shouldered Hawk

The Red-shouldered Hawk is a medium-sized hawk with reddish-brown streaks on its back, white bars on its wings, and bold red streaks on its shoulders. It prefers to hunt in dense forests and woodlands by diving through the trees in search of prey such as frogs, lizards, and small mammals.

Rough-Legged Hawk

The Rough-Legged Hawk is a large hawk that lives in the northern parts of North America during the winter months. It has long legs with feathers down to its toes, and it often soars high above open fields and prairies looking for small rodents such as mice and voles.  It has a dark brown back and white belly, with black and white markings on its wings.

Northern Harrier

The Northern Harrier is a slim, medium-sized hawk with long, pointed wings. It has grey or brown feathers on the upper parts of its body and white below, as well as a distinctive white “V” marking on its face. Northern Harriers hunt by flying low over fields and marshes, using their excellent hearing to detect prey such as rodents, voles, and small birds.

If you are interested in learning more about hawks, there are many resources available online that can help you identify different types of hawks and learn more about their behavior

How to identify different types of hawks

There are many different types of hawks, and each one has its own identifying features. The most common way to identify a hawk is by its size; hawks range in size from the tiny American kestrel to the massive Harpy’s eagle. Hawks also have different types of feathers depending on their habitat and preferred prey. For example, the red-tailed hawk has broad brown feathers on its wings and tail, while the Harris’ hawk has narrow feathers that allow it to fly more quickly while hunting.

In addition to size and feather type, hawks can also be identified by their beak shape, coloration, and behavior. Hawks have distinct facial markings such as eye rings or moustaches that help distinguish one species from another. The color of a hawk’s plumage varies depending on the species; some are bright colors like reds, oranges, and yellows, while others are more subtle like browns and grays.

Finally, the behavior of hawks can provide clues to their identity. For example, red-tailed hawks often soar in wide circles high in the sky looking for prey, whereas kestrels hover over fields searching for small rodents.

What hawks eat

A bald eagle standing over a sea gull on the beach in Westport, WA, United States

Hawks are carnivorous birds and typically prey on small mammals, such as rodents, rabbits, and hares. Some hawks also eat birds, reptiles, and insects. The red-tailed hawk is one of the most common hawks in North America and is known for its ability to hunt prey that is larger than itself, such as deer and wild turkeys.

The diet of hawks varies depending on the species. Some hawks, like the American kestrel, specialize in hunting small prey like insects or lizards. Other hawks, like the bald eagle, are scavengers and will eat carrion (dead animals). Hawks have powerful beaks and talons that allow them to kill their prey quickly and easily.

Hawks swallow their prey whole and then digest it in their stomachs. Hawks have a crop, which is a pouch-like structure located in their esophagus that stores food until it can be digested. Hawks can go without food for long periods of time when necessary; they may even cache food (store it temporarily for later consumption) in order to have a food supply during times when prey is scarce.

Interesting facts about hawks

Some interesting facts about hawks include:

Hawks are some of the most adaptable birds in the world and can be found in a variety of habitats, from forests to deserts to wetlands.

– Hawks have great vision and can spot prey from a long distance. They can also see in color, which allows them to distinguish between prey and predators.

– Hawks are very agile flyers and can maneuver quickly to catch their prey.

– Hawks have powerful talons that can grip their prey tightly, preventing it from escaping.

– Hawks typically eat small mammals, but some species, like the bald eagle, are capable of eating larger prey like fish or deer.

– Hawks are monogamous, meaning they pair for life with one mate. They build large nests high in trees and use the same nest year after year.


Hawks are fascinating birds that have many unique adaptations that enable them to survive in a variety of environments. By learning about their physical characteristics and behavior, you can quickly identify a hawk and appreciate the beauty of these incredible creatures.

Hawks are important to humans because they help keep rodent populations under control, which means fewer pests in our homes and gardens. They are also an integral part of our ecosystems by providing vital food sources for other animals like owls and eagles. They are also a great source of recreational activity for birders who want to witness their beauty and grace in the wild. Hawks are an essential part of our world, and we should do everything we can to protect them.

Hawks play an important role in nature, from controlling rodent populations to providing food sources for other animals. By learning about their physical characteristics, behavior, and diet, you can quickly identify a hawk and appreciate the beauty of these incredible birds. They are an essential part of our world, and we should do everything we can to protect them.

Ultimately, understanding hawks is key to appreciating their beauty and importance in the wild. By learning more about hawks, we can better appreciate the vital role they play in our ecosystems and do our part to preserve these fascinating creatures.

Hawks are important players in the natural world, and understanding them is an essential step towards protecting them and preserving these majestic birds for generations to come. By learning about hawk behavior, diet, and habitat requirements we can do our part to ensure that hawks remain a vital part of the natural world. With their impressive vision, hunting skills, and adaptability hawks are an integral part of the ecosystems they inhabit and should be appreciated and respected.

Julian Goldie - Owner of ChiperBirds.com

Julian Goldie

I'm a bird enthusiast and creator of Chipper Birds, a blog sharing my experience caring for birds. I've traveled the world bird watching and I'm committed to helping others with bird care. Contact me at [email protected] for assistance.