8 Species Of Hawk In Massachusetts

If you are interested in hawks and you either live in or are planning a visit to Massachusetts, then you have come to the right place. Hawks are bold and fierce birds that are a sight to behold, and they are super fascinating to observe in the wild. 

Hawks are birds of prey that are a force to be reckoned with, and they will hunt and eat most small mammals that they can get their sharp talons into. If you are someone that wants to spot various different hawks in the wild, then Massachusetts is the place to be. 

In this article, we are going to take a look at the 8 different species of hawk that can be located in Massachusetts, so you can find out everything that you need to know about them.

These hawks will range in size, color, and behavior, but we are going to explain more about each of them in detail below. Just keep reading to find out more about them.

How Many Species Of Hawk Are In Massachusetts?

Currently, there are 8 different species of hawk in Massachusetts, which are the:

  • Sharp-Shinned Hawk
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Red-Shouldered Hawk
  • Broad-Winged Hawk
  • Red-Tailed Hawk
  • Rough-Legged Hawk
  • Northern Harrier
  • Northern Goshawk

These are all of the different types of hawk that you will be able to locate among different areas of Massachusetts. The largest of these hawks is the Rough-legged Hawk and the smallest of them all in Massachusetts is the Sharp-shinned Hawk.

The most common hawk that you can find in Massachusetts is the Red-tailed Hawk, which you shouldn’t have too much difficulty finding. 

Something that you may have already known is that hawks are birds of prey, and they will hunt and eat other birds and small mammals, in addition to things like snakes and frogs. Hawks are actually able to see in ultraviolet, which is super handy as it helps them to hunt down their prey. 

If you want to find hawks in Massachusetts, then you should definitely head on down to woodland areas for the smaller hawks like the Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper’s Hawk.

Alternatively, you can go to places like open grassland, marshes, or high ridges if you want to be able to spot the larger species.

The 8 Species Of Hawk In Massachusetts

Now that you know a little bit of background information when it comes to the 8 different species of hawk in Massachusetts, we are going to explore each of these types of hawk in more detail below.

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Although the sharp-shinned hawk loves to migrate, they can be found all year round in Massachusetts. They are not the most common of birds, and only among 2% of bird sightings in the area. They are the smallest type of hark in Massachusetts, and they are even smaller than the common crow.

Although, if you are looking for a size comparison, they are slightly larger than a jay.

The female sharp-shinned hawk is typically around a third bigger than the male, and each of them has long tails with a square end and short yet rounded wings. These birds also have quite small heads. These hawks are typically between 24 and 34 cm long, 87 and 218 g in weight, and they have a wingspan of between 43 and 56 cm.

The adult sharp-shinned hawks are blue/gray in color across their backs, and they have a red/orange breast. They also feature dark bands across their tails. Sharp-shinned hawks are known for being very secretive, but they can be seen when they are flying across open areas at the edges of forested areas.

These hawks are very agile, and they will be able to speed through dense woods in order to catch their prey in flight.

The most common bird for them to prey on is the songbird. They can sometimes be found near bird feeders where they can catch and kill smaller birds, and this is why some people in Massachusetts will be forced to remove their bird feeders for a while.

As well as all of this, sharp-shinned hawks will pluck their prey on a stump or a low branch before they eat it. Their nests are usually quite large, between 1 to 2 feet in diameter and 4 to 6 inches deep. They will usually lay between 3 and 8 white or pale blue mottled eggs in their nests.

Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper’s Hawks can also be found all year round in Massachusetts, and they are more common woodland hawks than some other varieties of hawk. They have been sighted in around 5% of checklists in Massachusetts, and you can most commonly find them around the edges of forests.

This type of hawk does look quite similar to the sharp-shinned hawk, but they are bigger than them. These hawks are around the size of a crow, but they can sometimes be hard to identify as they do have the same blue/grey colored backs and red/orange breasts. They even have the same dark bands on the tail.

One of the best ways to tell them apart is by their large overall size and bigger heads that project beyond the wings, unlike the sharp-shinned hawk.

The male cooper’s hawk is typically between 37 and 39 inches long, 220 and 410 g in weight, and has a wingspan of between 62 and 90 cm. On the other hand, the females are usually between 42 and 45cm long, and they weigh between 330 and 680 g. They have a wingspan between 75 and 90 cm.

The cooper’s hawk will feed on medium-sized birds and small mammals that they can usually find nesting in tall trees. They will lay between 2 and 6 pale blue or bluish-white eggs.

Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered hawks can be located all year round in Massachusetts, and they can usually be seen around wet forests when they are hunting along a stream or pond. They like to prey on mammals, frogs, and snakes.

They are distinctly marked with white, dark checkered wings, and they have a reddish barring on their breast. 

These are medium-sized birds that are somewhere between the size of a crow and a swan, and they have beautifully banded tails. They have an interestingly unique call, and they are usually between 43 and 61cm long, 486 and 774 g in weight, with a wingspan of between 94 and 111 cm.

They typically reuse their nests each year, which can be found in a broad-leaved tree that is near a source of water. They will lay 2 to 5 white or bluish eggs.

Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad-winged hawks are a type of hawk that breeds in Massachusetts, usually in the north of the state. They will later migrate in very large numbers to South America in an impressive flock that is called a kettle.

They are not commonly observed in Massachusetts, and they are actually on less than 1.5% of recorded checklists from the area.

These birds will migrate in the fall, and this is the time of year when you will be most likely to see them. The broad-winged hawk is a compact and stocky bird that is somewhere between the size of a crow and a goose. They sport reddish-brown colored heads, barred breasts, and narrowly banded short and square tails.

These birds are usually between 34 and 44 cm in length, between 265 and 560 g in weight, and they have a wingspan that is between 81 and 100 cm wide.

You will often spot them hunting from a perch, usually on the edges of woods or nearby water. They typically eat smaller mammals, like frogs, snakes, and even baby turtles.

They like to reuse the nests that have been left behind by other animals, like crows or squirrels, and they tend to lay between 2 and 3 off-white eggs.

Red-Tailed Hawks

Red-tailed Hawks can be found in Massachusetts all year round and they are actually quite common, being seen in over 16% of sightings in Massachusetts.

They are a type of bird that is quite easy to spot as they will often circle slowly over open fields when they are looking for prey. You may sometimes even see them perched on top of telephone poles.

Male red tailed hawks are usually between 45 and 56 cm in length, as well as between 690 and 1300 g in weight.

They also have an average wingspan of between 114 and 133 cm. Female red tailed hawks are usually between 50 and 65 cm in length, 900 and 1460 g in weight, and they have an average wingspan of between 114 and 133 cm.

As you may have already guessed from looking at their name, these birds have a distinctive short and wide red tail. They are quite large birds that feature broad and rounded wings, and they are often described as being between the size of a crow and a goose.

The majority of red tailed hawks will have brown backs with lighter colors underneath.

They will make a high-pitched raspy screeching sound, and interestingly, this sound is often used in movies as the sound for various raptors. These birds eat mammals, other birds, and reptiles.

They also tend to lay their nests high up in tall trees or on the ledges of cliffs. Sometimes, they will even create their nests on top of tall buildings or towers. They will lay between 2 and 3 whitish-brown, blotched eggs.

Rough-Legged Hawk

The Rough-legged Hawks will migrate all the way from the Arctic, and they can be found in Massachusetts during the winter time. They are not the most commonly seen birds, and they only make up less than 1% of total sightings.

Rough-legged hawks are typically sighted hovering over areas like marshes or open fields. They may also perch on top of high surfaces like poles.

These birds are between 47 and 52 cm in length, 715 and 1400 g in weight, and they have a wingspan of between 132 and 138 cm. They have feathered legs, which is where their name comes from, but they also help to keep the bird warm in the arctic. They are relatively large birds and they are between the size of a crow and a goose.

This is a dark brown species that can be either light or dark in color, and they usually have dark patches at the bend of the wing, the end of their tails, and across their bellies.

They also have broad wings that are quite long and narrow in comparison to other hawks. Lemmings and voles are what provides the majority of food for these birds. However, in the winter, they also eat mice, ground squirrels, and other small mammals.

The nests that these birds create are usually on a high cliff ledge, and they will lay between 3 and 5 pale bluish-white eggs.

Northern Harrier

The Northern Harrier is a type of hawk that can be located in Massachusetts all year round, but they are much more commonly seen in the Winter. They have long and slim tails, and you can often find them gliding low over grasslands and marshes. Although, they are not often spotted.

They are usually between 46 and 50 cm in length, between 300 and 750 g in weight, and have a wingspan of between 102 and 118 cm.

These birds are very slender, and they have long, broad wings that are between the size of a crow and a goose. They usually fly with the tips of their wings up higher than their bodies in a V shape. The females are brown and the males are gray and white.

The mostly eat small mammals and birds, and they will nest on the ground in dense vegetation. They will usually lay between 4 and 5 dull white eggs.

Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawks can be found in Massachusetts all year round, and they live in large forests, which makes them difficult to find. They are larger and fiercer relatives of the sharp-shinned and cooper’s hawks, and they are between the size of a crow and a goose.

They are mostly gray in color with short and broad wings, as well as a long tail.

They are between 53 and 64 cm long, and between 631 and 1364 g in weight. They also have a wingspan of between 103 and 117 cm, and they have a white stripe over their yellow eyes.

They usually live in large tracks that are made up of coniferous or mixed forests, and they watch out for prey from high perches. They can prepare up to 8 nests, and they will lay between 2 and 4 bluish-white eggs.