7 Types of Hawks in Colorado — With Pictures!

Written by Megan Martin
Published: November 3, 2022
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Colorado is known as one of the top nature hubs in the United States. Not only is it rich in a variety of diverse landscapes, but it is also home to many unique plants and animals. There are around eight different types of hawks in Colorado, with many more being spotted occasionally during migration.

Ready to learn about the most common types of hawks in Colorado? Keep reading below!

Broad-Winged Hawk

broad-winged hawk in flight
Despite its name, broad-winged hawks are generally short and stout.


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Scientific NameButeo playpterus
WeightAround 1 pound
LengthAround 34 inches
WingspanAround 16 inches

Despite having “broad” in the name, the broad-winged hawk is actually a small and stout type of hawk in Colorado. They have some of the smallest wingspans on this list, and they can weigh half as much as other, largest species of hawks. 

Broad-winged hawks are a highly migratory species. Whereas some types of hawks in Colorado can be found their throughout the year, no matter what season it is, this isn’t the case for the broad-winged hawk. Instead, they prefer to travel from as far north as Canada down into South America as the seasons change. This allows for them to take advantage of a wide variety of prey, from mammals to amphibians to reptiles. 

While it can be rare to spot them because of their tendency to live deep in forests, broad-winged hawks are a common sight during migration. They’ve been known to form a river of raptors in which thousands of individuals can be seen heading either north or south depending on the season. As a result, for those hobbyist bird-watchers out there, these migratory periods can be the best time to observe these amazing haws!

Cooper’s Hawk

Adult cooper's hawk feeding its chicks in a stick nest in a tree
One of the most common hawks in Colorado is Cooper’s hawk.

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Scientific NameAccipiter cooperii
Weight1.2 pounds
Length14 – 20 inches
Wingspan29 – 37 inches

Cooper’s hawk is one of the most common types of hawks in Colorado. Based on appearance alone, they can be easily confused with the sharp-shinned hawk, another type of hawk in Colorado. However, they’re larger, which helps dispel some of the issues with misidentification.

Like many other hawks, Cooper’s hawks like to eat other types of small birds. Some of their most preferred prey are pigeons and mourning doves. However, while these are common meals, they aren’t always safe. Pigeons have been known to pass parasites onto Cooper’s hawk, especially young ones. 

Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous hawk flying low over grassland.
As one of only two types of hawks with feathered legs, the ferruginous hawk is a unique bird.

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Scientific NameButeo regalis
Weight3.3 punds
HeightUp to 27 inches
Wingspan53 – 56 inches

The ferruginous hawk is one of only two types of hawks, and three raptor total, with feathered legs. This means that instead of having bare, scaly legs like other types of birds may have, their feathers extended downward from their body. This can provide extra protection while also making it easier to recognize them.

While many types of hawks are considered of least concern, the same cannot be said for the ferruginous hawk. They’re one of the rarest hawks you’ll see in Colorado, and this has to do with their scarce numbers. Some studies have shown that there are as few as 8000 breeding pairs left in the wild. 

The ferruginous hawk is the largest type of hawk in the United States. 

Northern Goshawk

Northern goshawk perched in the forest
The northern goshawk is the largest of the true hawks.

©iStock.com/Henk Bogaard

Scientific NameAccipiter gentilis
Weight1.5 – 3.25 pounds
Length18 – 27 inches
Wingspan40 – 47 inches

The northern goshawk is a common bird in both the western and eastern hemispheres. They can be found in the northern parts of North America as well as the northern regions of Europe and Asia. As a member of the genus Accipiter, they’re what is considered a true hawk. 

The number one prey for the northern goshawk is other birds. This include smaller birds, like songbirds, as well as larger birds like crows. They also eat other common hawk prey, like small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. 

Red-Tailed Hawk

red-tailed hawk
As monogamous animals, mating pairs of red-tailed hawks stay together for their whole lives.

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Scientific NameButeo jamaicensis
Weight2.4 pounds
Length18 – 26 inches
Wingspan40.8 – 57.6 inches

Red-tailed hawks are one of the most notable types of hawks in Colorado. They can be easily confused with other types of hawks, such as the red-shouldered hawk. However, thankfully, out of its look-alikes, the red-tailed hawk is the only one you’ll spot in the Rocky Mountains state.

These hawks are monogamous. This means that mating pairs will stay together for many years, if not for their entire lives. They also prefer to return to the same area year after year. In some instances, they may even return to the same nest! When it comes to red-tailed hawks in captivity, they’ve been known to form bonds with their handlers and even recognize them.

The red-tailed hawk is an expert predator. Whether they’re darting through the trees at high speeds or soaring high above the forest, they have a keen eye for potential prey. Their most common targets are small mammals like rabbits, mice, rats, and squirrels. However, because they can live in a diverse range of habitats, they’re prone to try other types of prey as well.

There are fourteen different species of red-tailed hawk. Like many of the other types of hawks in Colorado, they can be spread out across the western hemisphere from Canada down south into Central and South America. While they do migrate in the fall, there are also many populations that live in their area year-round. This is mostly in the United States where the weather is mild in many areas no matter the season.

Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough-Legged Hawk
With feathered legs, the rough-legged hawk joins the ferruginous hawk in having this unique feature.

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Scientific NameButeo lagopus
Weight2.2 pounds
Length18 – 23 inches
WingspanAround 52 inches

Like the ferruginous hawk, the rough-legged hawk has the unique characteristic of feathered legs. These extra feathers serve an important purpose, too. You see, while you can spot the rough-legged hawk soaring with many of the other types of hawks in Colorado, they aren’t here year-round. Instead, they prefer to spend their summers near the Arctic Circle. These extra feathers help provide a bit more protection. 

The rough-legged hawk is one of the largest types of hawks in Colorado. Their wingspans can grow to be almost five feet across! However, they still only weigh around two pounds, just like many other types of birds of prey. While they’re still on the larger end of the hawk spectrum, the species’ shared small sizes allows for them to fly and hunt effectively.

Historically, the rough-legged hawk endured a lot of dislike from human. This is because they have a tendency of posing a threat to certain types of livestock, especially chickens. When attacks became more common, many farmers took to hunting as many of the rough-legged hawks they could find in the area in the effort of reducing their numbers. Today, however, there are protections passed to help ensure that this species, along with other raptors, thrives. Now, they’re considered a species of least concern.  

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

A sharp-shinned hawk perched on a piece of wood against a blurred background
Sharp-shinned hawks are between 11 and 15 inches long, weigh between 5.5 and 8 ounces, and have a wingspan of 23 to 27 inches.

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Scientific NameAccipiter striatus
Weight2.9 – 7.7 ounces
Length9 to 15 inches
Wingspan17 to 26 inches

When you think about birds of prey, you probably expect them to be on the larger size. After all, these are expert predators designed to hunt down other animals. However, while the latter is true for the sharp-shinned hawk, they aren’t large at all. In fact, the male sharp-shinned hawk is the smallest hawk in most of North America!

Despite their small size which can live them weighing the same as a few sheets of paper, sharp-shinned hawks are some of the most cunning hunters you’ll find in the air. Their preferred prey includes other small birds. As a result, they’ve learned that they can stake out around birdfeeders in suburban areas to find an enite buffet of their prey of choice. 

You can find the sharp-shinned hawk almost everywhere in the western hemisphere. They migrate with the seasons, going further north in the summer and south in the winter. However, you are also able to find them in some locations year-round. They’re one of the most common types of hawks in Colorado, along with the red-tailed hawk and Cooper’s hawk. 

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The Featured Image

A sharp-shinned hawk perched on a piece of wood against a blurred background
Sharp-shinned hawks are between 11 and 15 inches long, weigh between 5.5 and 8 ounces, and have a wingspan of 23 to 27 inches.
© Vizz Effect/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

I'm a writer with almost five years of experience. I recently graduated from Wingate University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a double minor in biology and professional and technical writing. I love everything animals and nature related! The American kestrel is my favorite animal, but I also like sharks and alligators. In my free time, I like to watch documentaries and explore nature.

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  1. Uncover Colorado, Available here: https://www.uncovercolorado.com/colorado-hawk-species/
  2. Olias, Philipp, et al., Available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3322016/