13 Species of Hawks In Colorado [Images + Ids]

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Colorado, with its varied terrain, provides an ideal habitat for a wide range of wildlife, including hawks. The state is home to several species of hawks, and these birds of prey can be found in various parts of the state, including the mountains, grasslands, and even urban areas. From the iconic Red-tailed Hawk to the elusive Ferruginous Hawk, Colorado’s hawks are a fascinating and integral part of the state’s ecosystem. In this blog post, we’ll explore the different types of hawks in Colorado, where they can be found, and what makes them unique.

List of Hawks In Colorado

  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Northern Harrier
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Broad-winged Hawk
  • Northern Goshawk
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Common Black Hawk
  • Rough-legged Hawk
  • Swainson’s Hawk
  • Ferruginous Hawk
  • Gray hawk
  • Harris’s 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.

Cooper’s Hawk:

Hawks In Colorado

Image: Source

  • Scientific name: Accipiter cooperii
  • Lifespan: 7-12 years
  • Origin: Native to North America
  • Size: Length 14-20 inches, wingspan 24-35 inches

The Cooper’s Hawk is larger, roughly the size of a crow, and has a striking resemblance to the Sharp-shinned Hawk in appearance. Given that they both have the same blue-gray back, red-orange breast, and black bands on the tail, it may be challenging to tell them apart.
Unlike the Sharp-shinned Hawk, they have a bigger head that extends far beyond the wings.
The majority of the US is still home to Cooper’s Hawks, although some of them move south for the winter all the way to Mexico and Honduras in the north of their range, which includes Canada.
Watch out for them at woodland edges, however, you may also find them at feeders in search of a quick meal.
They nest in big trees, often on top of an old nest of a large bird or cluster of mistletoe, and feed on medium-sized birds and small animals and lay 2 to 6 bluish-white to light blue eggs.

Northern Harrier:

Hawks In Colorado

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

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  • 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.

Broad-winged Hawk

Hawks In Colorado

Image: Source

  • Scientific name: Buteo platypterus
  • Lifespan: 4-5 years
  • Origin: Native to North America
  • Size: Length 13-17 inches, wingspan 31-34 inches

The Broad-winged Hawk is a small, stocky bird that is between a crow and a goose in size. They have barred breasts, short, square tails, and reddish-brown heads.
Prior to migrating in huge numbers to Central and South America in a whirling flock known as a kettle, broad-winged hawks breed in the Eastern States and Canada. So, the autumn migration is often the greatest opportunity to watch them.
These hawks hunt from perches, often near water or wooded areas, and they prey on small animals, frogs, snakes, and even hatchling turtles.
The Broad-winged Hawk often lays two to three pale eggs in the nest of another species, such as a crow.

Northern Goshawk:

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.

Red-Shouldered Hawk:

Image: Source

  • Scientific name: Buteo lineatus
  • Lifespan: 4-8 years
  • Origin: Native to North America, found in parts of the United States and Mexico
  • Size: Length 17-24 inches, wingspan 37-43 inches

The black and white checkered wings and reddish banding on the breast give Red-shouldered Hawks their distinctive markings. They have a tail that is heavily banded and are medium-sized, falling in between crow and swan in size.
The eastern states are home to Red-shouldered Hawks, however, those in the Northeast may go further south for the winter. The West Coast is also home to these hawks.
They often sneak around a stream or pond close to moist woodlands and eat frogs, snakes, and animals.
Red-shouldered Hawks make their nests under a broad-leaved tree close to the water and lay 2 to 5 white or blue eggs.

Rough-legged Hawk

Hawks In Colorado

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.

Zone-tailed Hawk

Image: Source

  • Scientific name: Buteo albonotatus
  • Lifespan: 7-8 years
  • Origin: Native to North and Central America
  • Size: Length 19-22 inches, wingspan 49-55 inches

They have white bands across the tail and barring on the underside of their flight feathers. These are dark, almost black hawks.
Zone-tailed hawk is only seen in a few bordering states during the nesting season. They go even further south, into Mexico, during the winter and spend the whole year in South America.
They hunt in canyons and cliffs, often at great altitudes, and may be seen soaring above scrub and desert. Moreover, they will hunt on coastal plains.
The food of Zone-tailed Hawks consists of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. They hunt by flying slowly and hiding until it is too late for the prey

Common Black Hawk:

Image: Source

  • Scientific name: Buteogallus anthracinus
  • Lifespan: 10-15 years
  • Origin: Native to Central and South America
  • Size: Length 20-23 inches, wingspan 49-54 inches

They are typically seen in the summer at the southern border between California and Texas. They often live year-round throughout their area in Mexico and Central America.
While they are referred to as “common,” just approximately 250 pairs are believed to exist in the United States, where they are not that common.
They pursue crabs, fish, frogs, and lizards in streams close to wooded areas, but they will also prey on birds and small animals.

Gray hawk

Hawks In Colorado

Image: Source

  • Scientific name: Buteo plagiatus
  • Lifespan:10-15 years
  • Origin: Native to North America
  • Size: Length 16-20 inches, wingspan 35-39 inches

They are light grey in color, with solid grey on the upper portions and barred grey on the breast and belly. Their lengthy tails are black with three white stripes on them. These are smaller hawks in this family and have short, wide wings.
In the summer, grey hawks move to Central America, Mexico, Southern Texas, and Arizona to breed.
Try searching for Gray hawks in willow and cottonwood forests that have nearby streams or rivers. They are often seen flying over broad spaces or perched on trees patiently watching for lizards.

Harris’s Hawk:

Hawks In Colorado

Image: Source

  • Scientific name: Parabuteo unicinctus
  • Lifespan: 10-12 years in the wild, up to 25 years in captivity
  • Origin: Native to the Americas, from the southwestern United States to Chile
  • Size: Length 18-25 inches, wingspan 3-4 feet

Harris’s Hawks are known for their distinctive appearance, with dark brown or black feathers on their backs and wings, and lighter feathers on their chest and belly. They have a white patch of feathers on their tails that makes them easy to spot while flying. Harris’s Hawks are social birds and are known for their cooperative hunting behavior, making them a popular choice for falconry.

In the wild, Harris’s Hawks can be found in a variety of habitats, from desert scrubland to grasslands and woodlands. They are also known to live in urban areas and can be seen perched on utility poles or other tall structures. They are particularly common in the southwestern United States and Mexico, but can also be found as far south as Chile.

Harris’s Hawks are skilled hunters and will hunt a variety of prey, including small mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects. They have a unique hunting strategy where several birds will work together to capture prey, with one bird flushing the prey out of hiding while the others wait to pounce.

When it comes to nesting, Harris’s Hawks are not particularly picky and will use a variety of structures as their nesting site, including trees, cacti, and man-made structures like utility poles. Their nests are made up of sticks, grasses, and other plant materials and are often lined with softer materials like feathers or fur.

Overall, Harris’s Hawks are fascinating birds that are known for their cooperative hunting behavior and adaptability to a variety of environments. Their distinctive appearance and social nature make them a popular choice for falconry and a fascinating species to observe in the wild.

Ferruginous Hawk:

Image: Source

  • Scientific name: Buteo regalis
  • Lifespan: 8-10 years
  • Origin: Native to North America
  • Size: Length 22-27 inches, wingspan 53-56 inches

Ferruginous hawks are the biggest hawks in America. They have lengthy wings and huge heads. Moreover, the underside of the wings, belly, and head of the light morph Ferruginous Hawks are all white. They have darker legs, and their backs and upper wings are a reddish-brown color. The abdomen and legs of immature light morphs have more brown spots.
They have brown bellies and underparts, with the exception of white flying feathers on the wingtips and tail, and dark variants are far more uncommon.
Ferruginous hawks can breed all the way south to Nevada and Utah and as far north as Southern Canada. They relocate to Mexico and the Southern States throughout the winter. In the midst of their range, some birds may live there all year long.
Ferruginous Hawks may be seen in low country grasslands and shrub areas. Even while migrating, they avoid crossing the Rocky Mountains. Tiny animals make up the bulk of their food, and depending on what is available, they consume ground squirrels and prairie dogs in the East and jackrabbits and cottontail rabbits in the West.
They are active throughout the day and may hunt while flying, perched, or even on the ground. Furthermore, they can lay up to 8 eggs in their enormous nests, which may be up to 3 feet high and 3 feet wide.

Swainson’s Hawk:

Image: Source

  • Scientific name: Buteo swainsoni
  • Lifespan: 5-7 years
  • Origin: Native to North America
  • Size: Length 18-22 inches, wingspan 47-56 inches

Long-winged hawks with pointed wingtips, Swainson’s Hawks have short tails. They often have paler bellies, brown or red chests, and a back that is mottled brown or grey.
While flying, you can see the contrast between the white top wing and the black flight feathers on the bottom margins and tips of the wings
Before migrating to South America for the winter in huge flocks numbering in the thousands, Swainson’s Hawks may be seen throughout the summer in open territory in the West and over the Great Plains. They reproduce throughout the West from the Pacific to the Midwest and as far away as British Columbia and Alaska.
Since they travel great distances and are known for putting on magnificent displays with tens of thousands of birds throughout the day, May and September are the ideal months to watch these hawks.
Swainson’s Hawks search for rodents by perching on any high points, such as utility poles or fences, making them easier to notice. They may be seen on the ground in grasslands and fields, searching for insects if there are no high places accessible.
In places where burrowing owls are common, they may also eat them. Nevertheless, they are not picky eaters and will consume everything, including bats, lizards, mice, and rabbits as well as crickets and dragonflies.
Swainson’s Hawks use any trees close to fields, low mesquite shrubs, and power poles since there aren’t many places for them to nest in the open countryside. The nests, which are made up of several twigs and branches, may be up to two feet wide and one foot tall. Softer materials like dung, bark, wool and grass are used to line the nest’s interior.

Final Thoughts on Hawks In Colorado

Colorado is home to a diverse range of hawk species, from the widespread Red-tailed Hawk to the elusive Northern Goshawk. These majestic birds of prey play a vital role in the state’s ecosystem, controlling rodent populations and maintaining balance in the food chain. While some hawks may pose a threat to small pets or backyard birds, it is important to remember that they are a protected species and should be respected and admired from a safe distance. As human development continues to impact natural habitats, it is crucial that we take steps to protect and preserve the habitats that hawks and other wildlife depend on. By learning more about the different hawks in Colorado and taking action to protect their habitats, we can ensure that these magnificent birds continue to thrive in our state for generations to come.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Where are the best places to go birdwatching for hawks in Colorado?

Some of the best places to go birdwatching for hawks in Colorado include Barr Lake State Park, Rocky Mountain National Park, and the Pawnee National Grassland.

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

Yes, there are several conservation efforts in place to protect hawks in Colorado, including habitat preservation, nest monitoring, and public education about the importance of these birds of prey.

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

When birdwatching for hawks in Colorado, it is important to bring a good pair of binoculars or a spotting scope, a field guide to identify different species, appropriate clothing and footwear for the terrain and weather, and plenty of water and snacks.

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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