Types of Hawks In Ohio – With Pictures!

Written by Megan Martin
Updated: February 19, 2023
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It is estimated that there are around 180 species of birds that spend time in Ohio each year. Several of these are made up of different types of hawks.

Ready to meet the different types of hawks in Ohio? Keep reading!

1. Red-Tailed Hawk

Animals That Molt - Red Tailed Hawk

The red-tailed hawk’s distinct tail feathers are a result of the molting process.

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©Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

Scientific NameButeo jamaicensis
Weight1.5-3.5 pounds
Height18 – 26 inches
Wingspan40.8 – 57.6 inches

Many consider red-tailed hawks to be one of the most common hawks. From North to South America, they’re fairly abundant. In fact, they can be found in more places other than the southern regions of Alaska to Panama.

Other than migrating when the weather gets cold, you could actually consider red-tailed hawks to be quite the homebodies. Although they’re expert hunters and fliers, they like to pick a single area to make their territory and live. Red-tailed hawks will only hunt in a small area, usually less than two square miles. It’s a good thing, too! Male red-tailed hawks are territorial and won’t be kind to visitors of the same species. By maintaining their own spaces, they’re able to work to prevent confrontation. 

Red-tailed hawks have a fairly diverse diet. From mammals to reptiles and other birds, most things smaller than these birds of prey may end up on the menu. And, considering they’re the second-largest hawk in the Buteo genus, many things are smaller than these hawks. 

You can find fourteen different subspecies of red-tailed hawk in the Western Hemisphere. Because Ohio is further north than other common red-tailed hawk hot spots, you may not be able to spot all these subspecies without traveling.

2. Sharp-Shinned Hawk

cooper's hawk vs sharp shinned hawk

The sharp-shinned hawk is a common sight around bird feeding areas.

©Wyatt W/Shutterstock.com

Scientific NameAccipiter striatus
Weight2.9 – 7.7 ounces
Height9 to 15 inches
Wingspan17 to 26 inches

Weighing in at an adult size of as little as 2.9 ounces, the sharp-shinned hawk is the smallest hawk in the United States. Not sure just how small that is? That’s the same as around three pencils!

However, even being the smallest type of hawks, not all sharp-shinned hawks are created equal. In fact, there are about 10 subspecies of sharp-shinned hawks, and they come in all different shapes and sizes. While those in the United States have been able to stake their claim as the smallest type of hawks, some subspecies in South America can grow larger. 

Because of their small size, hunting can be difficult for sharp-shinned hawks. Red-tailed hawks can rely on their size and speed to attack prey midair, but sharp-shinned hawks have to get creative to ensure their next meal. Thankfully, Ohio is home to the rich wilderness that provides the perfect opportunities for these intelligent birds to utilize the element of surprise. Rather than going for brute force like many other types of hawks in Ohio, the sharp-shinned hawk will ambush its prey. 

The sharp-shinned hawk is also a common sight around bird feeding areas – including your backyard! If you happen to have popular bird feeders set up in your yard, then you may occasionally see a sharp-shinned hawk in the bushes waiting for its next meal. However, rather than the seed mix you put out, it has its eye on the other birds coming to visit!

3. Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk

The rough-legged hawk is one of the only hawks in Ohio with feathered legs.

©Eivor Kuchta/Shutterstock.com

Scientific NameButeo lagopus
Weight1.32 to 3.66 pounds
Height18 – 23 inches
WingspanAround 52 inches

Rough-legged hawks are probably one of the unique types of hawks in Ohio. The reason is that they’re such a rare sight! Many hawks live in Ohio year-round, and for those who move south, there are often hawks from even further north coming to settle in Ohio for the winter. One of those hawks would be the rough-legged hawk.

During the majority of the year, including breeding season, you won’t find rough-legged hawks in Ohio. In fact, you won’t even find them in the United States for the most part! Instead, the rough-legged hawk spends a majority of its time in some of the coldest areas in the world. This includes the Arctic and subarctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere, from North America, Europe, and all the way to Russia.

However, once the weather gets cold, Ohio becomes a hot spot for spotting some of these amazing hawks. They’re some of the largest hawks around, meaning that you won’t have any problem telling the difference between one of these hawks and sharp-shinned hawks. They also have one unique feature found only on three species of birds: feathered legs. The only other birds with feathered legs are the ferruginous hawk and the golden eagle. Lastly, rough-legged hawks also have the rare ability to hover.

Normally, when birds fly, they can soar in the air, dive, or go to land. If you see them not moving at all, it’s usually because they’re drifting on thermals – warm gusts of air that push them upwards. However, the rough-legged hawk can quickly beat its wings and hover in one place.

4. Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk with fresh kill

Cooper’s hawks are expert hunters.


Scientific NameAccipiter cooperii
Weight1.2 pounds
Height14 – 20 inches
Wingspan29 – 37 inches

Cooper’s hawks are often mistaken for sharp-shinned hawks, thanks to their similar appearances. However, these two types of hawks in Ohio can easily be identified based on their appearances, helping you to tell who’s who. First, the sharp-shinned hawk is much smaller than Cooper’s hawk. Cooper’s hawk also has a leaner body and head, with a rounded tail.

Thankfully, there are few differences or variations across Cooper’s hawk species, making it easy to always know exactly which bird you’re looking at. The only main variation to keep an eye on is size. Although most adults only vary between 14 and 20 inches, studies have shown that Cooper’s hawks found east of the Mississippi River are actually larger than those to the west. 

No matter where they are, however, Cooper’s hawks back a big appetite. In fact, scientists have found around 300 different species on the menu for these hawks in Ohio. At a glance, you’ll find rabbits, snakes, squirrels, and even insects here. 

Cooper’s hawks are known by many names. In fact, they’re almost like the mountain lions of the bird world when it comes to names. If you’re not familiar with the name “Cooper’s hawk,” then you may also know it as the

  • Big blue darter
  • Chickenhawk
  • Flying cross
  • Hen hawk
  • Quail hawk
  • Striker
  • Swift hawk.

5. Red-Shouldered Hawk

red shouldered hawk vs cooper's hawk

The red-shouldered hawk is one of the most common types of hawks in Ohio.

©MTKhaled mahmud/Shutterstock.com

Scientific NameButeo lineatus
Weight1.21-1.5 pounds
Height15 –19 inches
Wingspan37– 42 inches

Red-shouldered hawks are probably among the most common hawks in the United States, along with red-tailed hawks. They can be found across North America, and they tend to be a permanent resident no matter where they live. For the rare few that do migrate, they can usually find them in Mexico during the colder months. 

The red-shouldered hawk has an easily identified screech that sets it apart from similar types of hawks in Ohio. However, just because you hear a red-shoulder hawk’s call doesn’t mean one is there. Blue jays are notorious for mocking hawks in order to stay safe, and the red-shouldered hawk is one of their favorites to imitate. 

Because they have a habitat of nesting in suburban areas, red-shouldered hawks are a common sight among birdwatchers. They’re quite vocal, especially during the warmer months of the year.

6. Northern Goshawk


The northern goshawk is known for eating other birds.

©Milan Zygmunt/Shutterstock.com

Scientific NameAccipiter gentilis
Weight1.5 – 3.25 pounds
Height18 – 27 inches
Wingspan40 – 47 inches

As their name suggests, northern goshawks are a common sight in many of the northern regions of North America, Europe, and Russia. This means they’re also one of the many types of hawks in Ohio.

One of the unique facts about the northern goshawk is its diet. Although nearly all hawks will eat other birds, that is not the case for northern goshawks. Other birds also prefer to go for smaller songbirds. Northern goshawks are not the same, however. While they will eat everything from mammals to insects, their diet mainly consists of other birds. Not only do they mainly eat birds, but they aren’t afraid of going for the high-risk, high-reward meals, either. Northern goshawks have been seen successfully hunting many medium-sized birds, like crows.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Henk Bogaard/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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