13 Species Of Hawks In Oklahoma [Images + Ids]

Oklahoma is a state with diverse landscapes, from the Great Plains to the Ozark Mountains. This varied terrain provides a habitat for a wide range of bird species, including hawks. Hawks are birds of prey that belong to the Accipitridae family and are known for their exceptional hunting skills. In Oklahoma, there are several species of hawks that can be observed throughout the year. From the majestic Red-tailed Hawk to the agile Cooper’s Hawk, these birds are a common sight in the state. In this blog post, we will explore the different types of hawks that can be found in Oklahoma and where to spot them.

List of Hawks In Oklahoma

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

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
  • Frequency in Oklahoma: The Red-tailed Hawks take the lead as the most commonly sighted hawks. They make an appearance on 12% of the summer checklists and 24% of the winter checklists as recorded by the state’s bird watchers.

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.

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
  • Frequency in Oklahoma: Coming in second, the Red-shouldered Hawks take their place as the hawks with the next highest frequency of sightings in Oklahoma. They grace 8% of the summer checklists and 10% of the winter checklists submitted by bird enthusiasts. These hawks are predominantly observed 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.

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
  • Frequency in Oklahoma: Northern Harriers emerge as the hawks with the third-highest frequency of sightings in Oklahoma. They make their presence known on 9% of the checklists. These hawks are visible in the state from September to March, after which they embark on a journey northward for their breeding season.

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.

Cooper’s Hawk:

Hawks In Oklahoma

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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
  • Frequency in Oklahoma: Year-round residents of Oklahoma, the Cooper’s Hawks establish their home throughout all seasons. They make appearances on 2% of the summer checklists and 3% of the winter checklists provided by dedicated bird watchers.

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.

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
  • Frequency in Oklahoma: During the summer months, Swainson’s Hawks take on the role of the third most commonly sighted hawks in Oklahoma, gracing 2% of the checklists.From April to October, these hawks are predominantly visible in the western regions of the state before they commence their migration southward in preparation for the winter season.

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.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Hawks In Oklahoma

Image: Source

  • Scientific name: Accipiter striatus
  • Lifespan: 4-5 years
  • Origin: Native to North America
  • Size: Length 9-13 inches, wingspan 16-22 inches
  • Frequency in Oklahoma: Winter brings about the optimal opportunity to spot Sharp-shinned Hawks in Oklahoma, with their sightings most prevalent from October to April. Subsequently, they embark on a northern journey to engage in their breeding season. These hawks make their presence known on 2% of the winter checklists submitted for the state.

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
  • Frequency in Oklahoma: Broad-winged Hawks grace the skies of Oklahoma from April to June, marking their presence for the breeding season. Even as they embark on their southward migration for the winter, some of these hawks can still be observed in the state from July to October.

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
  • Frequency in Oklahoma: Northern Goshawks are classified as accidental species in Oklahoma, signifying their infrequent appearances. The last recorded sighting of these hawks occurred in 2007, specifically in Selman Ranch located in Harper.

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

Hawks In Oklahoma

Image: Source

  • Scientific name: Buteo lagopus
  • Lifespan: 16-20 years
  • Origin: Native to North America
  • Size: Length 18-24 inches, wingspan 52-58 inches
  • Frequency in Oklahoma: Rough-legged Hawks are a rarity in Oklahoma, but their presence is noted during the winter season, spanning from November to March. During this time, these hawks are primarily sighted in the northern regions of the state. As summer arrives, they take flight towards their arctic breeding grounds.

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 winter 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

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  • Scientific name: Buteo albonotatus
  • Lifespan: 7-8 years
  • Origin: Native to North and Central America
  • Size: Length 19-22 inches, wingspan 49-55 inches
  • Frequency in Oklahoma: Zone-tailed Hawks are classified as an accidental species in Oklahoma, making their presence a rare occurrence. These hawks can exclusively be observed within the confines of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

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

Hawks In Oklahoma

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  • Scientific name: Buteogallus anthracinus
  • Lifespan: 10-15 years
  • Origin: Native to Central and South America
  • Size: Length 20-23 inches, wingspan 49-54 inches
  • Frequency in Oklahoma: Common Black Hawks are categorized as accidental species within the Oklahoma region, denoting their unusual occurrence. Available records indicate that there have been only a few sightings of these hawks, with a couple noted in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge during the year 2021.

Common Black Hawks are huge in size with long legs, short tails, and wide wings. Except for a white band running across the tail, they are all black.
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.

Ferruginous Hawk:

Hawks In Oklahoma

Image: Source

  • Scientific name: Buteo regalis
  • Lifespan: 8-10 years
  • Origin: Native to North America
  • Size: Length 22-27 inches, wingspan 53-56 inches
  • Frequency in Oklahoma: Ferruginous Hawks, while considered an accidental species in Oklahoma, have been documented in the western part of the state during the winter months, specifically from October to February.

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.

Gray Hawks in Oklahoma

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.

Final Thoughts on Hawks In Oklahoma

Oklahoma is home to a variety of hawk species, each with its unique features and ecological significance. From the well-known Red-tailed Hawk to the rare and endangered Ferruginous Hawk, these birds of prey play a vital role in Oklahoma’s ecosystem by helping control rodent populations and maintaining balance in the food chain. Although some hawks may occasionally pose a threat to small pets or backyard birds, it is important to remember that they are protected species and should be respected and appreciated from a safe distance. As human activity continues to impact natural habitats, it is crucial that we take measures to protect and preserve the habitats that hawks and other wildlife rely on. By increasing awareness and understanding of the various hawks in Oklahoma and working towards preserving their habitats, we can ensure that these magnificent birds continue to thrive in our state for generations to come.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What types of hawks can be found in Oklahoma?

There are several species of hawks that can be found in Oklahoma, including red-tailed hawks, Cooper’s hawks, sharp-shinned hawks, and Swainson’s hawks.

When is the best time of year to go hawk-watching in Oklahoma?

The best time of year to go hawk-watching in Oklahoma is typical during the fall migration, which occurs from September through November.

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

It is recommended to bring binoculars or a spotting scope, comfortable clothing and footwear, sunscreen, insect repellent, and plenty of water.

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

Yes, there are various conservation efforts in place to protect hawks in Oklahoma, such as the protection of their nesting sites, habitat conservation, and monitoring populations to ensure their numbers remain stable.

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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