8 Species Of Hawks In Massachusetts [Images + Ids]

hawks of Massachusetts
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From the rugged hills of the Berkshire Mountains to the tranquil coastline of Cape Cod, Massachusetts is a state of remarkable natural beauty and diversity. And when it comes to the birdlife of the state, few species are as captivating and impressive as the majestic hawks. These birds of prey are known for their sharp talons, keen eyesight, and impressive hunting skills, making them a favorite among birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at the different types of hawks that can be found in Massachusetts, their unique characteristics, and the best birding locations in the state to observe them in action. So whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or simply curious about the natural world, read on to discover the fascinating world of hawks in Massachusetts.

List of Hawks In Massachusetts

Red-Tailed Hawk:

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

This hawk is a common year-round resident in Massachusetts. They can be found in all parts of the state and prefer habitats such as forests, farmlands, and open areas. Red-tailed hawks are seen most frequently from September to March, during their breeding season.
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:

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

This hawk is a year-round resident in Massachusetts, although they are uncommon in the western part of the state.
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:

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

This hawk is a rare winter visitor in Massachusetts, found mostly on the coast and in open marshes.
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

This hawk is a common migrant through Massachusetts, passing through in the spring and fall.
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

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

This hawk is a common summer resident in Massachusetts, found in forests and woodlands throughout the state
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

This hawk is a rare and sporadic winter visitor in Massachusetts. They prefer forest habitats and can be seen from November to March, although sightings are uncommon.
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

This hawk is a year-round resident in Massachusetts, although they are uncommon in the eastern part of the state.
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

Image: Source

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

This hawk is a rare winter visitor in Massachusetts, found mostly in open habitats such as fields, marshes, and shorelines.
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.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

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

Some popular places to go birdwatching for hawks in Massachusetts include the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, the Blue Hills Reservation in Milton, and the Quabbin Reservoir in Belchertown.

What are some common characteristics of hawks found in Massachusetts?

Hawks found in Massachusetts are generally medium-sized birds with sharp talons and beaks, and broad wings for soaring and gliding. They have keen eyesight and are skilled hunters.

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

Yes, there are several conservation efforts in place to protect hawks in Massachusetts. The state’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife works to preserve habitat for hawks and other wildlife, and there are several organizations such as the Massachusetts Audubon Society and the Tufts Wildlife Clinic that work to educate the public about hawks and provide medical care to injured birds. Additionally, there are laws in place to regulate hunting and protect hawks from harm.

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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