8 Species Of Hawks In North Carolina [Images + Ids]

Spread the love

From the rugged Blue Ridge Mountains to the tranquil coastal plains, North Carolina is a state of remarkable natural beauty and biodiversity. And when it comes to the birdlife of the state, few species are as impressive and captivating as the majestic hawks. These birds of prey are known for their sharp talons, keen eyesight, and remarkable 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 North Carolina, their habitats, 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 North Carolina.

List of hawks in North Carolina

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

The Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is a common resident in North Carolina and can be found throughout the state all year long.
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 North Carolina

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 (Accipiter cooperii) is a year-round resident in North Carolina, found in forests and wooded areas.
These Hawks are 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:

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

The Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius) is a winter visitor and breeding resident in North Carolina, found in open habitats, including fields and 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

hawks in North Carolina

Image: Source

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

The Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) is a year-round resident in North Carolina, found in wooded areas and forests.
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

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 (Buteo platypterus) is a common summer resident in North Carolina, found in wooded areas and forests.
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 Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) is a rare visitor to North Carolina, with occasional sightings during migration.
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:

hawks in North Carolina

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 Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) is a year-round resident in North Carolina, found in wooded areas and forests near rivers and streams.
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 North Carolina

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 Hawk (Buteo lagopus) is a winter visitor to North Carolina, primarily found in the coastal plain and occasionally seen in the piedmont.
They 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:

hawks are an integral part of North Carolina’s diverse ecosystem. With their keen eyesight, powerful talons, and remarkable hunting abilities, they help to control populations of rodents and other prey species while also serving as indicators of the overall health of the environment. While some hawks may occasionally pose a threat to small pets or backyard birds, it is important to remember that they are a protected species and play an important role in maintaining the delicate balance of North Carolina’s ecosystem. As human development continues to impact natural habitats, it is vital that we take steps to protect and preserve the habitats that hawks and other wildlife rely on. By appreciating and protecting these magnificent birds, we can ensure that they continue to thrive in North Carolina for generations to come.

Reference: NC Wildlife Resources Commission. “North Carolina Birding Trail: Coastal Plain Trail.” https://www.ncbirdingtrail.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/trailguides/NCBT-Coastal-Plain-Trail-8-2019.pdf.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When is the best time of year to spot hawks in North Carolina?

The best time to spot hawks in North Carolina is during their migration periods, which typically occur in the spring and fall. The peak migration time is usually in mid-September to early November.

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

Some popular places to go birdwatching for hawks in North Carolina include the Blue Ridge Parkway, Grandfather Mountain, the Outer Banks, and the Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge.

What are some common characteristics of hawks found in North Carolina?

Hawks found in North Carolina 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 North Carolina?

Yes, there are several conservation efforts in place to protect hawks in North Carolina. The state’s Wildlife Resources Commission works to preserve the habitat for hawks and other wildlife, and there are several organizations such as the Carolina Raptor Center and the Audubon Society 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.
Posts created 950

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top