8 Powerful Hawks in Florida to look out for

Last Updated on
Hawks in Florida

The species of Hawks in Florida have always held a special place in the heart of the state’s avid birdwatchers. With their sharp talons and mighty wings, hawks are a sight to behold as they soar through the sky.

For those who love birdwatching, identifying the many different types of hawks that can be found in Florida is a thrilling challenge.

Common Hawks In Florida

The most common hawks in Florida include the Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, and Broad-winged Hawk.

Residents can spot eight species of hawks in Florida throughout the year. The first two species are more commonly observed than the last six, and Florida is home to the largest Hawk in North America.

Whether hiking through the woods, strolling along the beach, or just sitting in your backyard, you’ll spot at least one species of a hawk soaring overhead.

We have organized our list from most likely seen to the least likely to be seen for your convenience.

Florida Hawks

According to the latest data from ebird, there are eight observed species of Hawks in Florida. This data has been collected from over 67,000 dedicated bird watchers throughout the state.

Here are some quick facts:

  • Osprey are the most common observed hawk in Florida
  • Broad-winged Hawks are the least widely observed species in Florida
  • Osprey are the largest in Florida
  • Sharp-shinned Hawks are the smallest in Florida

8 Types Of Hawks In Florida

1. Osprey

Ospreys are giant hawks that can be seen on almost every continent and are year-round residents of Florida. They are also called fish or sea hawks and feed exclusively on fish.

  • Length: 54-58cm (21-23 inches)
  • Weight: 1400-2000g (49.4-70oz)
  • Wingspan: 150-180cm (59-71 inches)
  • Osprey Scientific Name: Pandion haliaetus

Appearance

Ospreys are large birds with a wingspan of up to 6 feet. They have dark brown feathers on their back and wings, with a white chest and belly.

Their heads are white with a distinctive dark eye stripe. They also have long legs with sharp, curved talons for catching fish.

Habitat

You can find Ospreys near bodies of water, such as rivers, lakes, and coastlines. They are located on every continent except Antarctica, but you can more easily see them in North America and Europe.

They are an incredible sight in Florida, as you can see them almost every day flying from the rooftops of hotels out into the ocean to fish.

Diet

Ospreys are predatory birds that feed almost exclusively on fish. They hunt during the day, using their keen eyesight to spot fish in the water from high in the sky. 

You can see them hovering high above the water to spot their catch. Once they spot a fish, they dive into the water feet first to catch it.

They are also known for their ability to shake off excess water before flying away with their catch.

Nesting

Ospreys build large nests of sticks and twigs, usually in tall trees or artificial structures such as poles or platforms. They may use the same nest year after year, adding to it each time. 

They typically lay 2-4 eggs, which hatch after about a month. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs and feeding the chicks.

Interesting facts

  • Ospreys are the only raptors that exclusively eat fish.
  • These birds have a reversible outer toe that helps them grip their slippery prey more effectively.
  • Once they have caught a fish, they maneuver the fish’s head forward to reduce wind resistance.
  • Ospreys are known for their spectacular fishing dives, reaching up to 80 miles per hour.
  • These birds can migrate up to 160,000 miles in their lifetime, traveling between their breeding and wintering grounds.

2. Red-shouldered Hawk

The Red-shouldered Hawk is a medium-sized bird of prey that is native to North America and are year-round residents of Florida. They are named for the distinctive reddish-brown feathers on their shoulders.

  • Length: 43-61cm (16.9-24 inches)
  • Weight: 486-774g (17.1-27oz)
  • Wingspan: 94-110cm (37-44 inches)
  • Red-shouldered Hawk Scientific Name: Buteo lineatus

Appearance

Red-shouldered Hawks have a dark and white checkered back and wings, with a reddish-brown chest and belly. As their name suggests, they also have reddish-brown feathers on their shoulders, which are easily noticeable in flight.

They have medium-length tails and broad rounded wings.

Habitat

You can spot a Red-shouldered Hawk in wooded areas, often near water sources such as rivers or swamps. They are less common in open areas than Red-tailed Hawks.

They are found throughout the eastern and far western parts of the United States and into Mexico.

Diet

Red-shouldered Hawks are predatory birds that feed on a variety of prey. They hunt during the day, using their sharp eyesight to spot prey from a perch high in the trees.

They eat snakes, lizards, frogs, and small mammals, such as mice, voles, and squirrels.

Nesting

Red-shouldered Hawks build their nests in notches in tall trees, usually near water sources. They use sticks and twigs to create a platform, which they line with soft materials like moss and lichen. 

They typically lay 2-4 eggs, which hatch after about a month. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs and feeding the chicks.

Interesting facts

  • Red-shouldered Hawks have a distinctive call that sounds like “kee-yer” or “kee-aah.”
  • These birds have a unique hunting style where they swoop down from a perch to catch prey.
  • Red-shouldered Hawks are sometimes confused with Cooper’s Hawks or Sharp-shinned Hawks, which have similar coloration and hunting styles.
  • These birds are monogamous and may mate for life.

3. Northern Harrier

Northern Harriers are medium-sized birds of prey that people can see throughout north and central America. You can spot them in Florida during the colder non-breeding season.

They are also commonly known as Marsh Hawks for their specific hunting behavior.

  • Length: 46-50cm (18.1-19.8 inches)
  • Weight: 300-750g (10.5-26.5oz)
  • Wingspan: 102-118cm (40-46.5 inches)
  • Northern Harrier Scientific Name: Circus cyaneus

Appearance

Northern Harriers are medium-sized birds with a wingspan of up to 4 feet. They have long, broad wings and a long, rounded tail. They have tiny, hooked beaks, and their face is “owl-like.”

Males have a gray back, gray wings with black wingtips, black horizontal bands on their tales, and white underparts.

Females are brown on their back and wings, with a white underside streaked with brown. Juveniles appear similar to adult females.

Males and females also have a distinctive white rump patch visible when flying.

Habitat

You can spot Northern Harriers in various open habitats, such as marshes, grasslands, and agricultural fields. 

Diet

Northern Harriers are predatory birds that feed on various marsh-living prey, including small mammals, birds, and reptiles. They may even feed on ducks and rabbits if given a chance. 

They hunt by flying low over the ground, using their keen eyesight and hearing to locate prey. 

They are also known for their ability to hover in place while scanning for prey.

Nesting

Northern Harriers build their nests on the ground, typically in dense marsh vegetation such as reeds and tall grass. They may use sticks, grasses, and other plant materials to create a platform. 

They typically lay 4-5 eggs, which hatch after about a month. The female takes primary responsibility for incubating the eggs and caring for the young.

Interesting facts

  • Northern Harriers are among the few bird species exhibiting sexual dimorphism in which Males are smaller than females.
  • They can also be polygynous, with a single male mating with two or more females in a breeding season.
  • These birds are known for their distinctive hunting behavior, which involves flying low over the ground and using their hearing to locate prey.
  • These birds have been known to mob potential predators, such as eagles or owls, to protect their nests and young.

4. Red-tailed Hawk

The Red-tailed Hawk is a large bird of prey native to North America and a year-round Florida resident.

They are one of the most iconic and identifiable hawks in North America.

  • Length: 45-65cm (17.7-25.6inches)
  • Weight: 690-1460g (24.3-51.5oz)
  • Wingspan: 114-133cm (44.9-52.4inches)
  • Red-tailed Hawk Scientific Name: Buteo jamaicensis

Appearance

Red-tailed Hawks are large birds with a wingspan of up to four feet. They have brown above and pale below with a streaked belly.

As their name suggests, their most distinctive feature is their red tail, which you can often see as they soar through the skies.

Habitat

Red-tailed Hawks are common throughout North America, from as far north as Alaska to as far south as Panama.

They prefer to live in open areas like fields, prairies, and deserts, but you will also see them in wooded areas. 

They are highly adaptable and can also live and hunt in urban and suburban areas. Look for them perched on high trees and telephone poles at the edge of fields.

Diet

Red-tailed Hawks are predatory birds that feed on a variety of prey. They hunt during the day, using their keen eyesight to spot their food from high in the sky.

They eat small mammals like mice, rabbits, squirrels, birds, snakes, and other reptiles.

Nesting

Red-tailed Hawks build their nests high above the ground, usually near open areas where they can hunt. These can be tall trees, billboards, towers, and buildings. 

They use sticks and twigs to build a large platform, which they line with soft materials like grass and leaves.

They typically lay 2-3 eggs, which hatch after about a month. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs and feeding the chicks.

Interesting facts

  • Red-tailed Hawks are known for their distinctive call, often heard in movies and TV shows.
  • These birds can fly at speeds of up to 120 miles per hour!
  • Red-tailed Hawks are famous in falconry, a sport that involves training birds of prey to hunt.
  • In some Native American cultures, the Red-tailed Hawk is considered a symbol of strength and courage.

5. Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper’s Hawks are medium-sized birds of prey that people can see throughout North America.

They can be seen in southern Florida during the colder non-breeding season and in the rest of Florida all year round. 

They are named after William Cooper, an American naturalist who helped describe the species in the 19th century.

  • Length: 37-45cm (14.5-17.8 inches)
  • Weight: 220-680g (7.8-24oz)
  • Wingspan: 62-90cm (24.5-35.5 inches)
  • Cooper’s Hawk Scientific Name: Accipiter cooperii

Appearance

Cooper’s Hawks are medium-sized birds with a wingspan of up to 3 feet. They are blue-gray above, with a rusty-colored chest and belly.

They also have distinctive dark caps on their head and dark horizontal bars on their tails.

Juveniles have brown wings and back with streaked underparts. They appear similar to Sharp-shinned hawks but are noticeably larger, and males are smaller than females.

They have broad rounded wings, long tails, sharp, curved talons, and a hooked beak for catching and eating their prey.

Habitat

You can spot a Cooper’s Hawk in various wooded habitats, from suburban parks to mature forests. They can be found throughout North America, from southern Canada to Mexico.

Diet

They are predatory birds that feed on various prey, including small mammals, birds, and reptiles.

They hunt during the day, using their keen eyesight and agility to pursue their prey through the trees. They are known for their fast, acrobatic flights through the forest.

They are expert ambushers and patrol areas with backyard feeders to swoop down and grab unsuspecting birds.

We have witnessed a juvenile fly fast and low across our yard and then up and over our fence to attack some pigeons perched on the other side.

Nesting

Cooper’s Hawks build nests in tall trees, using sticks and twigs to create a platform. They may also use the nests of other birds, such as crows or squirrels.

They typically lay 3-5 eggs, which hatch after about a month. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs and feeding the chicks.

Interesting facts

  • Cooper’s Hawks are one of the few bird species capable of eating other birds their own size.
  • These birds are sometimes called “chicken hawks” due to their habit of preying on domestic chickens.
  • They are skilled fliers, capable of maneuvering through dense forests at high speeds.
  • They were once hunted for their feathers, which were used in fashion accessories such as hats.

6. Sharp-shinned Hawk

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a small bird of prey that people can see throughout North America and are residents of Florida during the colder non-breeding season.

They are known for their agility and speed in flight and are skilled hunters of small birds and mammals.

  • Length: 24-34cm (9.4-13.5 inches)
  • Weight: 87-218g (3.1-7.7oz)
  • Wingspan: 87-218cm (17-22 inches)
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk Scientific Name: Accipiter striatus

Appearance

Sharp-shinned Hawks are small birds with a wingspan of up to 2 feet. They have long, squared-off narrow tails and short rounded wings. 

Females are larger than males and look similar to Cooper’s Hawks but considerably smaller, just a bit larger than a Blue Jay.

They are bluish-gray above, with a dark barred tail and a rusty-colored chest and belly. 

Habitat

You can spot a Sharp-shinned Hawk in various wooded habitats, from mature forests to suburban parks and backyards. They live in areas throughout North America, from Alaska to Central America.

Diet

Sharp-shinned Hawks are predatory birds that feed primarily on small songbirds but will also eat small rodents, lizards, and large insects. 

They are skilled hunters, using their agility and speed in flight to pursue and catch their prey.

You can see them hunting in gardens and stalking backyard feeders that attract songbirds to bird feeders.

Nesting

Adult Sharp-shinned Hawks build concealed nests in trees, using sticks and twigs to create a platform. They typically lay 4-5 eggs, which hatch after about a month. Females mostly incubate the eggs and feed the chicks.

Interesting facts

  • Sharp-shinned Hawks are known for their speed and flight agility, allowing them to catch small birds and mammals easily.
  • These birds are sometimes referred to as “sharpies” by bird enthusiasts.
  • They are one of the few bird species that exhibit sexual size dimorphism, with females being larger than males.
  • These birds are sometimes preyed upon by larger birds of prey, such as Cooper’s Hawks or American Goshawks.

7. Short-tailed Hawk

The Short-tailed Hawk is a small bird of prey found primarily in Central and South America. They are seldom observed in Florida but can be seen in southern Florida all year round.

  • Length: 39-44cm (15-17 inches)
  • Weight: 385-480g (13.5-17oz)
  • Wingspan: 83-103cm (32.7-40.5 inches)
  • Short-tailed Hawk Scientific Name: Buteo brachyurus

Appearance

Short-tailed Hawks are small to medium-sized hawks with a wingspan of around 3 feet. Like other Buteo species, they can come in a light or dark morph.

Adult light morphs are dark above and light below, with a dark band on the tail. Adult dark morphs are dark brown overall, with lighter flight feathers and a dark terminal band.

Habitat

You can spot Short-tailed Hawks in various habitats, including tropical and subtropical forests, wetlands, and grasslands in Central and South America. Still, people can also spot them in southern Florida.

Diet

Short-tailed Hawks feed primarily on small birds ranging from small songbirds to larger mourning doves. They occasionally eat other small creatures like rodents, snakes, frogs, and lizards.

Nesting

Short-tailed Hawks build their nests in trees around 25 feet above the ground, using sticks, twigs, moss, and green branches to construct a platform-like structure. 

Although not well studied, it has been observed that the male brings the materials for the nest, and the female builds it.

They typically lay 1-3 eggs, which the female incubates for about a month. It is believed that the male brings food to the nest, and the female feeds the chicks.

Interesting facts

  • These birds are primarily found in tropical and subtropical habitats in Central and South America.
  • Short-tailed Hawks are one of the smallest hawk species in the Buteo family and specialist bird hunters. They can catch prey as small as finches and as large as crows.

8. Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawks are small birds of prey that people can see throughout much of North America. They can be seen in different parts of Florida at various times of the year

They are residents of northern Florida during the warmer breeding season, southern Florida during the colder non-breeding season, and central Florida during the spring and fall migration season.

They are known for their distinctive migration behavior, forming large groups and traveling long distances together.

  • Length: 34-44cm (13.4-17.5 inches)
  • Weight: 265-560g (9.2-19.8oz)
  • Wingspan: 81-100cm (32-39.5 inches)
  • Broad-winged Hawk Scientific Name: Buteo platypterus

Appearance

Broad-winged Hawks are small-sized birds with a wingspan of up to 3 feet. They have large heads, short square tails, and broad wings.

They have a brown back and wings, with a white barred tail and a rusty-colored barred chest and belly. They also have a distinctive pale eyebrow stripe above their eye.

They sometimes are seen in a dark morph coloration. Dark morph Broad-winged hawks are dark all over with dark wing coverts and silvery flight feathers. Dark morphs also have a white band on a dark tail.

Habitat

You can spot a Broad-winged Hawk in various wooded habitats, from mature forests to suburban parks.

Broad-winged Hawks migrate between North, Central and South America throughout the year.

They are located throughout eastern North America during the breeding season and in Central America and northern parts of South America during the non-breeding season.

Diet

The Broad-winged Hawk is a perch hunter that feed on various prey, including small mammals, birds, frogs, and reptiles such as snakes and lizards.

They hunt during the day, using their keen eyesight and agility to pursue prey through the trees.

Nesting

They build nests in trees, using sticks and twigs to create a platform. They typically lay 2-3 eggs, which hatch after about a month. Females primarily incubate the eggs and feed the chicks.

Interesting facts

  • Broad-winged Hawks are known for their distinctive migration behavior, forming large groups called “kettles” and traveling long distances together. They are a common sight during their migration in the fall.
  • These birds are sometimes called “whistling hawks” due to their high-pitched call.
  • They are one of the few bird species that are monogamous and mate for life.
  • These birds are sometimes preyed upon by larger birds of prey, such as eagles or owls.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Does Florida have hawks or falcons?

Yes, Florida has eight species of hawks and four species of Falcons that can be observed throughout the year.

What types of hawks are found in Florida?

Eight kinds of hawk species live in Florida during the year. These include the Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, and Broad-winged Hawk.

Are there Black Hawks in Florida?

No, there are no Black Hawks in Florida. The closest species is the Northern Harrier, a medium-sized hawk with black and white mottled plumage.

How Big Do Florida Hawks Get?

Florida is home to the Osprey and Red-tailed Hawk, two of North America’s largest hawks. The Osprey is the second largest hawk in North America and is about the size of a Canadian Goose.

Are there Cooper’s hawks in Florida?

Yes, Cooper’s Hawks can be found throughout Florida during the year.

Are Broad-winged Hawks in Florida?

Yes, Broad-winged Hawks can be found in Florida, but they are the least spotted species of hawk in the state. Look for them in northern Florida during the summer and southern Florida during the winter months.

Keep and Eye Out For Hawks In Florida

Hawks are fascinating birds that can be found throughout Florida. Eight species of hawk call Florida home, including the Osprey, Red-shouldered Hawk, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Short-tailed Hawk, and Broad-winged Hawk.

Each species has unique characteristics and behaviors, making them an exciting subject for birders of all levels.

Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or just someone who enjoys learning about nature, taking some time to learn about the eight kinds of hawks that live in Florida will provide you with hours of entertainment and education.

We hope this article has provided all the information you need. If you have questions about identifying more species of birds in Florida or finding out which ones live near you, let us know!

We would love to help identify new bird species for our readers.

Photo of author
Author
I am an avid birdwatcher with a passion for learning all I can about these fantastic creatures. I love finding new species of birds in my backyard, neighborhood, or when I travel. I enjoy sharing everything I learn about how these creatures live their lives; feedback and experience is much appreciated!

1 thought on “8 Powerful Hawks in Florida to look out for”

  1. Your descriptions are the best that I have come across. I live on a preserve in Port Saint Lucie and espied a large hawk sitting atop a post. I went onto your site to confirm if it was a Red Tailed Hawk. Your description and photos confirmed my suspicion. Thank you.

    Reply

Leave a Comment