5 Species Of Hawks In Alaska [Images + Ids]

Alaska is known for its rugged, wild landscapes and diverse array of wildlife, including various bird species. Among these birds are the majestic hawks, which can be spotted in different parts of the state throughout the year. Hawks are birds of prey that belong to the Accipitridae family and are known for their exceptional hunting abilities, aided by their keen vision and hearing. In Alaska, several species of hawks can be observed, including the rough-legged hawk, red-tailed hawk, northern harrier, sharp-shinned hawk, and Cooper’s hawk, among others. The best places to spot hawks in Alaska include national parks and wildlife refuges such as the Kenai Fjords National Park, Chugach National Forest, and the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. In this blog post, we will explore the different types of hawks found in Alaska and where to see them in the wild.

List of Hawks In Alaska

  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Northern Harrier
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Northern Goshawk
  • Rough-legged Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk:

Image: Source

  • Scientific name: Buteo jamaicensis
  • Lifespan: 10-15 years
  • Origin: Native to North America
  • Size: Length 18-26 inches, wingspan 45-52 inches

Red-tailed Hawks have a recognizable short, broad red tail, as their name suggests. They have big, rounded wings and are huge. The majority of Red-tailed Hawks have a brown back and a light underside.
Since they circle slowly over vast areas in search of food including small animals, birds, and reptiles, they are also the most easily seen and are often seen from cars on the roads.
Red-tailed Hawks are still year-round residents of the US and Mexico, although they migrate south for the winter from Alaska, Canada, and the northern Great Plains.
They nest high on rock ledges, large trees, and sometimes on buildings and lay 2-3 pale, brown-spotted eggs.

Northern Harrier:

Hawks In Alaska

Image: Source

  • Scientific name: Circus hudsonius
  • Lifespan: 7 years (on average)
  • Origin: Native to North America
  • Size: Length 18-24 inches, wingspan 40-48 inches

Northern harriers are slim with long, wide wings. They often fly in a v-shape with the tips of their wings higher than their body.
Males have a white rump patch and are grey above and white below, while females are brown.
Before traveling south for the winter to southern states, Mexico, and Central America, Northern Harriers breed in Alaska, Canada, the northern Great Plains, and the Northeast.
You may spot this long-tailed, slender hawk soaring low over marshes or grasslands.
The primary prey of northern harriers is small animals and birds. In thick vegetation like reeds, willows, or brushtails, they build their nests on the ground and 4–5 white eggs.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Image: Source

  • Scientific name: Accipiter striatus
  • Lifespan: 4-5 years
  • Origin: Native to North America
  • Size: Length 9-13 inches, wingspan 16-22 inches

Sharp-shinned hawks have reddish-orange breasts and a blue-gray back. Their tails are covered with black bands.
The size of the females is one-third that of the males. They have tiny heads, short, rounded wings, and long, square-ended tails.
Sharp-shinned Hawks move south after breeding in Canada and certain northern states. These birds might spend the whole year in the Appalachians and Western Mountains.
While they are quite elusive, Sharp-shined Hawks can sometimes be observed flying through wide spaces at the margins of woodlands. They are incredibly swift and can move quickly through deep forests to capture their prey, which is mostly songbirds, as it flies.
Furthermore, Sharp-shined Hawks sometimes may be spotted grabbing small birds near feeders. They often prey on songbirds that are approximately a robin’s size.
The Sharp-shinned Hawk often builds its nests towards the tops of tall fir trees in areas with deep cover. With a circumference of 1-2 feet and a depth of 4-6 inches, the nest is large in size and they lay 3 to 8 speckled white or light blue eggs.

Northern Goshawk:

Hawks In Alaska

Image: Source

  • Scientific name: Circus hudsonius
  • Lifespan: 5-10 years
  • Origin: Native to North America, found in parts of the United States, Canada, and Mexico
  • Size: Length 18-24 inches, wingspan 40-48 inches

The Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks’ larger and more aggressive cousin is the Northern Goshawk. They have a long tail, short, wide wings, and a white stripe covering their yellow eyes. They are generally grey in color and are residents of Alaska, Canada, and the rugged west. Throughout the winter, some juvenile birds may migrate to the Central States.
They are difficult to locate since they reside in vast woodlands and are wary of anybody who approaches their nests too closely.
Large tracts of predominantly coniferous or mixed woods are the habitat of northern goshawks. They typically consume medium-sized birds and small animals, keeping watch for prey from high perches.
The Northern Goshawk constructs up to eight nests and lays two to four bluish-white eggs in each one.

Rough-legged Hawk

Image: Source

  • Scientific name: Buteo lagopus
  • Lifespan: 16-20 years
  • Origin: Native to North America
  • Size: Length 18-24 inches, wingspan 52-58 inches

The Rough-legged Hawks get their name from their feathery legs, which also keep them warm in the cold. These are huge hawks, around the size of a goose or a crow.
This mostly dark-drown species may be seen in both light and dark versions, with black spots on the belly, tails, and wing bends. Compared to other hawks, they have wide wings that are rather long and slender.
Before wintering in the US, Rough-legged Hawks migrate to Alaska and northern Canada to breed. They are often seen perched on a pole or hovering over marshes and open fields.
The majority of the prey for rough-legged hawks comes from lemmings and voles. In places like West Virginia, tiny animals like voles, mice, ground squirrels, and others serve as winter prey. They often build their nests on a steep rock ledge and deposit three to five light bluish-white eggs.

Final Thoughts

Alaska is home to a variety of hawk species that play an important role in the state’s ecosystem. From the iconic Bald Eagle to the Northern Harrier, each species has adapted to the harsh Arctic conditions in its own unique way. These birds of prey are essential to maintaining a healthy balance in Alaska’s food chain, preying on rodents and other small animals that can cause damage to crops and natural habitats. However, human activities such as habitat destruction and climate change pose a threat to these hawks and their habitats. It is crucial that we take action to protect and preserve these magnificent birds and the ecosystems they depend on. By learning more about the different hawk species in Alaska and taking steps to reduce our impact on the environment, we can ensure that they continue to thrive for generations to come.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What kinds of hawks can I see in Alaska?

Alaska is home to several species of hawks, including the rough-legged hawk, northern harrier, sharp-shinned hawk, Cooper’s hawk, and red-tailed hawk۔

Where is the best place to go birdwatching for hawks in Alaska?

Some of the best places to go birdwatching for hawks in Alaska are Denali National Park and Preserve Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and Chugach State Park.

Are there any conservation efforts in place to protect hawks in Alaska?

Yes, there are several conservation efforts in place to protect hawks in Alaska. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game conducts research on hawks to better understand their behavior and habitat needs, and also works to protect their habitats.

What should I bring with me when birdwatching for hawks in Alaska?

When birdwatching for hawks in Alaska, it is important to dress appropriately for the weather, bring binoculars or a spotting scope, and have a field guide to identify the different species of hawks you may encounter. It is also important to respect the wildlife and their habitats by staying on designated trails and observing from a distance.

I'm Nauman Afridi, the bird enthusiast behind Birdsology.com. My lifelong passion for birds has led me to create a space where fellow bird lovers can find valuable insights and tips on caring for our feathered friends.Professionally, I'm a brand strategist and digital marketing consultant, bringing a unique perspective to the world of bird care. Whether you're a novice or an experienced bird owner, Birdsology.com is designed to be a welcoming community for all.Feel free to explore, and reach out if you have any questions or just want to chat about birds.
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