Hawks are one of the most popular birds of prey dominating the skies of Georgia. The six types of hawks in Georgia include the red-tailed hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, red-shouldered hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, broad-winged hawks, and northern harriers.
Birdwatchers marvel at the speed, precision, and keen eyesight of hawks. Hawks can spot rats, rabbits, and even snakes from thousands of feet in the sky. In Georgia, the best time to watch hawks is during their migration.
With dozens of nature reserves and wildlife-rich Appalachian Mountains, Georgia is certainly one of the best places to go birdwatching. Unlike other places in the country, Georgia has outstanding trails you can use to watch and take spectacular photographs.
Hotspots for Watching Hawks in Georgia
Georgia is a paradise for all to enjoy as it’s home to hundreds of bird species and countless other critters. With beautiful habitats and a serene environment, Georgia has fantastic places to watch hawks. Some of these spots include:
Brasstown Bald is a national park that extends between northwest Georgia and northeast Alabama. The geologic feature is 5,784 feet above sea level, the highest in Georgia and the second-highest point in the south.
Just a few miles from Blairsville, Hiawassee, and Helen, Brasstown Bald is an amazing area to go birdwatching. It’s located at the heart of Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests, hawks are often spotted in this peak. You’re likely to find the broad-winged hawk in Brasstown Bald.
Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge
The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge is dubbed “Hawk Nest” for a reason. The marsh, grasses, and wetlands of this refuge provide the best environment for hawks to thrive. It’s also a sanctuary to the world’s only free-flying, migratory wild parrots.
This refuge is one of the most popular places for birdwatching in the state and features a rich diversity of habitats as well as access to hiking trails and trails for primitive camping. From the ever-changing blooms of wildflowers and trees along the waterways to hawks flying high over the forests, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge surely has something for every bird watcher.
Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge
Being home to some of the rarest species of hawks in the country, Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge is an ideal place for bird watchers to take a drive out to see these amazing raptors in all their majesty. It is located on an island 12 miles off the coast of Georgia, and offers nesting and roosting opportunities for a variety of species including the Northern Harrier and Cooper’s Hawks.
Harris Neck is a complex consisting of a variety of ecosystems including marshes, woodlands, maritime forests, and wetlands. This combination makes this place a great destination for migratory hawks escaping the cold winters of the north.
Jekyll Island is a perfect setting for birding enthusiasts. As the largest Island in Georgia, Jekyll Island is the best place to find hawks, especially in spring or fall. Jekyll Island is the perfect location for seeing these magnificent birds in their natural habitat.
Located on the Cusseta Sound in South Georgia, this Jekyll Island is a great place for hawks to nest. When you visit this island, you also get a chance to view many historical buildings, including Starke House, an 1820s plantation home that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
Nestled in Cobb County, Georgia, about 30 miles northwest of Atlanta, the Kennesaw Mountain is not only the Civil War historical site but also a shelter for various species of hawks in Georgia. The park contains a network of hiking trails that lead to the various sites and landmarks within the park, including the site of the battle itself, the Kennesaw Mountain Summit, and the Cheatham Hill Memorial
Besides the scenic hiking trails, the park also offers various spots for birdwatching and taking photographs. This park is a popular destination for history enthusiasts, avid birders, and outdoor fanatics. It offers a unique opportunity to learn about and experience the beauty of nature.
Tybee Island & Little Tybee Island
Just a short drive from Savanah, Tybee Island, and Little Tybee Island are nature reserves and home to a variety of plant and animal species, including birds, reptiles, and small mammals. It is a popular destination for birdwatching hawks in Georgia, as it is home to a variety of migratory and resident bird species.
If you are interested in seeing hawks on Tybee Island or Little Tybee Island, your best bet is to visit during the fall or winter months, when these birds are more likely to be present. It’s home to various species of hawks including red-tailed hawks, Cooper’s hawks, and broad-winged hawks. Look for these birds of prey in wetlands, as well as, open and wooded areas.
Popular Species of Hawks in Georgia
Georgia is well-endowed with forests, marshlands, islands, and woodlands, which makes this state one of the best destinations for watching hawks. Let’s see some of the most popular species of hawks in Georgia.
1. The Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
The Red-tailed Hawk is one of the most widespread and familiar hawk species in Georgia, and it can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, grasslands, and urban areas. It’s known for its distinctive red tail, which is often visible when the bird is in flight.
The wings are long and broad, and the wingspan of an adult red-tailed Hawk can reach up to almost four feet. These birds are monogamous and often mate for life. They build large nests in trees or on cliffs, and the female lays a clutch of one to five eggs each year.
2. Broad-Winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus)
The broad-winged hawk is known for its distinctive broad wings, which are relatively short and rounded compared to those of other Buteo species. With a chestnut-brown back and tail, a white breast and belly, the broad-winged hawk has a distinctive black band across its chest and a white throat.
Its wings are predominantly dark with pale bars and a white patch on the underside. You can find them in various habitats in Georgia and always spot them gliding during summer while migrating to the north.
3. Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)
You can find the red-shouldered hawks in forested areas and woodlands in Georgia throughout the year. They are generally non-migratory and are often seen in pairs during the breeding season as the male performs elaborate aerial displays to attract a mate.
Having a wingspan of around 3 to 4 feet, the red-shouldered hawk has a brown back with black and white speckles, while the underside of its wings and breast are reddish-brown. They are highly territorial and can fight even crows and owls to defend their nesting areas. The red-shouldered hawks are permanent residents of Georgia and can be seen in many places.
4. Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus)
Sharp-shinned hawks are small and slender, with a length of about 9-13 inches and a wingspan of about 18-22 inches. They have short, rounded wings and a long tail, which is typically reddish-brown in color. The upper parts of their bodies are typically blue-gray, while their underparts are white with thin, dark streaks. Juvenile sharp-shinned hawks may have more brown or reddish coloring on their backs.
Sharp-shinned hawks are found in a variety of habitats in Georgia, including woodlands, forests, and suburban areas. They are often found near bodies of water and in areas with dense vegetation, as these areas provide cover for hunting and nesting.
5. Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius)
Being the only Harrier native to North America, the Northern Harrier is a medium-sized hawk with a wingspan of around 48-54 inches and weighs between 10-16 ounces. It’s sometimes called the “gray ghost,” all because of its pale, gray-brown coloration, with a white underside and a distinctive white rump.
Northern Harriers can be found in a variety of habitats in Georgia, including marshes, grasslands, and forests. They are highly adapted to hunting small mammals, often perch on a high point and scan the ground for prey. The best time to watch for these hawks in Georgia is during their mating season when males perform aerial acrobatics including dives, rolls, and spirals while calling to the female.
6. The Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Cooper’s Hawks are medium-sized raptors, which live in Georgia in a variety of habitats, including wooded areas, marshlands, and forests. They are generally brown on the back and white on the underside, with a distinctive dark band across the chest. They have long, narrow wings and relatively short tails.
The wingspan of a Cooper’s Hawk can vary, but males typically have a wingspan of about 25-35 inches, while females have a wingspan of about 35-45 inches. They build nests in trees or on cliffs, and females lay a clutch of 3-4 eggs per year. In Georgia, Cooper’s Hawks can be seen throughout the year, although they are most common in the spring and fall during migration.
If you want to get the best sightings of hawks in Georgia, it’s better you head to the parks and nature reserves mentioned earlier. Remember that all species of hawks in this state have federal protection.