Types of Hawks in New York — With Pictures!

Written by Megan Martin
Updated: September 13, 2023
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Home of the Big Apple itself, you may not think of hawks when you think of New York. In fact, when you think of New York, the only bird you probably think of is pigeons! However, this state offers a widely diverse landscape outside of the city scene, with equally diverse wildlife. This includes eight different types of hawks in New York!

Ready to learn more about the birds of prey that call New York home? Keep reading here to meet them!

1. Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk
Scientific NameButeo platypterus
WeightAround 1 pound
LengthAround 16 inches
WingspanAround 34 inches

Despite being named the broad-winged hawk, this type of hawk in New York is actually small and compact. At only around a pound heavy, they’re only the same weight as a shoe or a jar of peanut butter. Out of all the Buteo hawks, which includes the red-tailed hawk and the red-shouldered hawk, the broad-winged hawk is the smallest. However, they’re not the smallest hawk in the United States or even the smallest type of hawk in New York!

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The broad-winged hawk is one of the more common birds in the United States, especially on the east coast. However, when winter comes, these sightings will get rarer and rarer. This is because the broad-winged hawk likes to migrate south to an area known as the Neotropics. This includes the southernmost peninsula of Florida, as well as Mexico to the southern region of Brazil. 

Some types of broad-winged hawks are only found in these warm areas. There are six subspecies of broad-winged hawks found in the western hemisphere. Only one is common in the United States: the northern broad-winged hawk  (B. p. platypterus). Other subspecies are more common in the Neotropics of Central and South America. 

Broad-winged Hawk

The broad-winged hawk is one of the smallest types of hawk in New York.

©pr2is/Shutterstock.com

2. Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier
Scientific NameCircus hudsonius
Weight11 to 27 oz
Length21 to 25 inches
Wingspan41 to 46 inches

If you’ve ever looked at a hawk versus an owl, the differences are usually pretty obvious. However, when it comes to the northern harrier, it can be a bit harder to tell. This is because this type of hawk in New York blurs the line between hawk and owl.

At a glance, you may think that the northern harrier is actually an owl. There are plenty of similarities, after all! Most notably, they have flat faces, similar to owls. Northern harriers use their flat faces for the same reason, too: to improve their hearing. However, the northern harrier is one of the many types of hawks in New York. 

Because this bird of prey prefers to live in the milder climates of the world, the northern harrier is one of the more notable hawks of New York. You can identify them by their flat faces and colorations. Northern harriers are one of the few hawks to display sexual dimorphism, which means males and females look different. If you’re bird-watching and want to know what northern harrier you saw, you can look for these color differences. Males are lighter, typically grey, while females are much darker. 

Don’t set out expecting to see the northern harrier in the winter, however! Because they prefer a mild climate, their selected locations can change with the seasons. Like the broad-winged hawks, they like to migrate south for the winter. However, unlike the broad-winged hawk, who vacations in South America, you can find the northern harrier in southern states like Texas and Florida during the winter. 

are owls raptors?

Northern harriers have flat faces like owls to improve their hearing.

©Harry Collins Photography/Shutterstock.com

3. Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Scientific NameAccipiter striatus
Weight2.9 – 7.7 ounces
Length9 to 15 inches
Wingspan17 to 27 inches

Remember how the broad-winged hawk is the smallest Buteo hawk? Well, the sharp-shinned hawk is the smallest hawk overall! At their largest, they weigh less than 8 ounces. That’s around the same as a cup of sugar.  

You’ll typically only find the sharp-shinned hawk if you take a retreat to the suburban and rural areas of New York. They’re actually a common sight in neighborhoods. This is because, despite being the smallest type of hawk, they actually hunt other birds! This means that they like to frequent bird feeders where they can find a buffet of prey. No matter where they’re hunting, the sharp-shinned hawk is like the mountain lion of birds of prey. They prefer to hide in the trees and brush of the forest before ambushing their prey. 

When they’re not eating other birds like doves, chickadees, bluejays, and tufted titmice, they’re usually eating what’s available to them. Some of the other prey that you may find a sharp-shinned hawk hunting include mammals, reptiles, and amphibians. They’ve even been known to eat bats!

cooper's hawk vs sharp shinned hawk

Despite being the smallest hawk, the sharp-shinned hawk is an expert hunter.

©Wyatt W/Shutterstock.com

4. Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk
Scientific NameButeo jamaicensis
Weight1.6 – 3.5 pounds
Length18 – 26 inches
Wingspan40.8 – 57.6 inches

There are few places you won’t find the red-tailed hawk in the United States. As a result, they’re also one of the most common types of hawks in New York. You can find them virtually year-round. Although they like to migrate from the colder areas of North America south, they can still be found in the northern states. This includes cold winter states like Minnesota, Michigan, and, you guessed it, New York!

These hawks are easy to spot thanks to their large size and impressive wingspan. However, they can also be mistaken for other types of birds. While you don’t need to worry about confusing their appearance with the bald eagles, you might with the red-shouldered hawk. The red-shouldered hawk is one of the most common types of hawks in New York. You can best tell the red-tailed hawk apart not by their tails (although that helps!) but by their bellies. The red-tailed hawk has a dark brown band across its chest and stomach. The red-shouldered hawk does not. 

There are fourteen different subspecies of red-tailed hawks in the world. The most common in the United States and in New York is the eastern red-tailed hawk (S. b. borealis). However, there are other subspecies native to the United States. 

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The red-tailed hawk is one of the most common types of hawks in New York.

©Bob Branham/Shutterstock.com

5. Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk
Scientific NameAccipiter cooperii
Weight1.2 pounds
Length14 – 20 inches
Wingspan24 – 39 inches

The red-tailed hawk and the red-shouldered hawk aren’t the only types of hawks in New York that can be difficult to tell apart. The sharp-shinned hawk and Cooper’s hawk are also easily mistaken. However, thankfully, there are a few ways to tell the difference between Cooper’s hawk and the sharp-shinned hawk. First, Cooper’s hawk is larger. Their head is wider with smaller features. They also lack the white bottoms that the sharp-shinned hawk sports. 

Cooper’s hawks also have around a dozen or more common names. These names come from their impressive hunting prowess as well as their swift flying abilities. Some of the names that you may encounter when learning more about Cooper’s hawk are chicken hawk, hen hawk, quail hawk, swift hawk, or big blue darter. 

If you’re looking for the stand-out fact about Cooper’s hawk that sets them apart from other types of hawks in New York, look no further than their diet. Cooper’s hawk is known to eat more than 300 different species of prey, including other birds. Not only that, but they’re also known to eat up to 12 percent of their body weight in food each and every day. 

Cooper's Hawk with fresh kill

Cooper’s hawk is known for hunting other birds.

©Aussiemandias/Shutterstock.com

6. Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-Shouldered Hawk
Scientific NameButeo lineatus
Weight1.3 pounds
Length15 –19 inches
Wingspan37– 42 inches

The red-shouldered hawk is more common in rural areas. As a result, if you plan an escape from the city, you may see these beautiful birds of prey in large forests near water. This is because they eat many mammals, like rodents, but they also have a love for a more diverse diet. This includes frogs and crayfish!

While the location is often a key indicator of whether or not it is a red-shouldered hawk you’re watching, you can also tell by its appearance. This can be important in distinguishing the red-shouldered hawk from the red-tailed hawk, who may visit these tall swamp forests. The red-shouldered hawk is a small hawk, though not as small as the broad-winged hawk. It also has a rush and white checkered pattern on its breast. 

Red-shouldered hawks are an important part of falconry. Falconry is a type of hunting sport in which birds of prey, such as the different types of hawks in New York, are trained to hunt and fetch small prey. This can be anything from a rat to a rabbit, depending on the size and skill of the bird.

red shouldered hawk vs cooper's hawk

Red-shouldered hawks are known for their black and white checkered wings.

©MTKhaled mahmud/Shutterstock.com

7. Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk
Scientific NameAccipiter gentilis
Weight1.5 – 4.85 pounds
Length18 – 27 inches
Wingspan38 – 45 inches

If you ever hear a unique ki-ki-ki-ki sound when you’re walking in New York, then it may just very well be the northern goshawk. These birds of prey are typically found in the northern parts of North America and Eurasia. However, during the winter months, they may fly south to settle in the warmer United States. This includes New York. 

Like Cooper’s hawk and the sharp-shinned hawk, the northern goshawk is a part of the genus Accipiter. This genus is considered to be the one that houses the true hawks, unlike the Buteo genus. As a result, they often resemble these two hawks, especially Cooper’s hawks. As juveniles, they can be virtually unidentifiable unless you know what to look for. For instance, the northern goshawk has a unique eyebrow marking that Cooper’s hawk lacks. 

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Northern goshawks make a distinct ki-ki-ki-ki sound when hunting.

©Jesus Giraldo Gutierrez/Shutterstock.com

8. Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk
Scientific NameButeo lagopus
Weight1.32 to 3.66 pounds
Length18 – 23 inches
WingspanAround 52 inches

Remember how some hawks are only found in New York during the warmer months? The rough-legged hawk, or rough-legged buzzard, is unique because this isn’t necessarily true. Because they prefer to live in the Arctic regions of North America and Eurasia, they’re most commonly seen in New York during the winter months! That’s right; these birds of prey live so far north that a winter’s trip to New York is considered flying south. 

The rough-legged hawk gets its name from its most unique feature: its feathered legs. There are only three types of hawks in the world that feature feathered legs, and the rough-legged hawk is one of them. The other two are the ferruginous hawk and the golden eagle, neither of which are common types of hawks in New York. 

Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged hawks are also known as rough-legged buzzards.

©Eivor Kuchta/Shutterstock.com

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Pierre Leclerc/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Megan is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is birds, felines, and sharks. She has been researching and writing about animals for four years, and she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with minors in biology and professional and technical writing from Wingate University, which she earned in 2022. A resident of North Carolina, Megan is an avid birdwatcher that enjoys spending time with her cats and exploring local zoological parks with her husband.

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Sources
  1. Peregrine Fund, Available here: https://www.peregrinefund.org/explore-raptors-species/hawks/coopers-hawk#:~:text=A%20Cooper's%20Hawk%20can%20eat,north%20before%20the%20females%20do.