The predators of hawks are quite magnificent. These birds of prey are gifted with a keen hearing, vision, and beak and talons that work together to give them mastery. Humans have benefited from hawk hunting skills throughout history, thanks to training and falconry. Throughout the United States, there are around 16 different species of hawks. The eight species of hawks found in Vermont, however, are the subject of this essay.
HAWKS IN VERMONT
The broad-winged hawk, Coopers hawk, northern goshawk, northern harrier, red-tailed hawk, red-shouldered hawk, rough-legged hawk, and sharp-shinned hawks are the eight species of hawks that may be found in Vermont.
Let’s take a look at each one.
1. BROAD-WINGED HAWK
Scientific name: Buteo platypterus
Length: 13.4-17.3 in
Weight: 9.3-19.8 oz
Wingspan: 31.9-39.4 in
Only during the spring-summer breeding season do broad-winged hawks migrate north into Vermont. Brown on the head, chest, underparts, and tail of these smaller hawks are barred with black and white bands. Their small tail and broad wings with pointed ends are easily visible in flight.
During the breeding season, these hawks prefer to be alone. Far from humans, they will breed in woodlands and beside bodies of water. Little animals, such as frogs and toads, are among the tiny creatures.
Autumn migration is your best opportunity to spot the broad-winged hawk on their way back to South America. Thousands of birds circle in the sky in flocks known as “kettles.” You can see them in the woods if you aren’t in their migration path. Listen for their shrill whistles if you want to be sure.
2. COOPERS HAWK
Scientific name: Accipiter cooperii
Length: 14.6 – 17.7 in
Weight: 7.8 – 24.0 oz
Wingspan: 24.4-35.4 in
Cooper’s hawks may be found in Vermont and throughout most of North America. During the breeding season here, they are most common from March to August. Adults have a crimson eye, a squared-off head with a black hat, and a blue-gray back with strong orange stripes on the chest. A yellow eye, brown back and head, and white underparts with heavy brown streaks characterize immature birds.
They seem to be rather at home in the suburbs, as well as forests and woodlands. Little birds are their primary food source, and they hunt them with precision in the tree canopy. The Cooper’s hawk is a common sight in backyards, where it has been seen attacking birds at bird feeders, particularly starlings, doves, and pigeons.
During a high-speed pursuit of birds, trees and foliage are smashed through, and Cooper’s hawk skeletons show that several of them had previously fractured bones in their chest.
3. NORTHERN GOSHAWK
Scientific name: Accipiter gentilis
Length: 20.9-25.2 in
Weight: 22.3-48.1 oz
Wingspan: 40.5-46.1 in
The back of the goshawk is gray, and the chest is striped all the way down to the belly. Each eye has a thick stripe across it. The sharp-shinned and cooper’s hawks are considered their bigger and more ferocious cousins. Goshawks, on the other hand, are quiet and prefer to stay in the woods, avoiding human inhabited places. They are not like those common backyard hawks.
Year-round, Vermont is home to northern goshawks, which have been observed all across the state. However, since they prefer to breed in old-growth wood with thick canopy, you’ll have to put some effort into locating one. When humans get too close to their nests, they have been known to attack them. So be cautious when looking for these raptors throughout the breeding season.
Little hawks, birds, mammals, reptiles, and even insects and carrion are among the foods of the northern goshawk. Because of their secretive nature, they are considered uncommon, and their population is difficult to determine.
4. NORTHERN HARRIER
Scientific name: Circus hudsonius
Length: 18.1-19.7 in
Weight: 10.6-26.5 oz
Wingspan: 40.2-46.5 in
The face of the northern harrier is almost owl-like. This disc-shaped face helps owls hear better and see better, allowing them to hunt by sound and sight. The long tail and the white patch above it are two helpful identifying features. Their wings are held in the shape of a “V” and have a distinctive flying style. These birds are referred to be majestic by the name Majestic.
During the breeding season, you may see this hawk in Vermont. They’re most often spotted in marshes, fields, and other broad open regions. They have been spotted numerous times along Lake Champlain’s shore.
This hawk creates a base on the ground in thick vegetation, such as reeds, willows, sedges, and cattails, unlike many other hawks that nest in trees. Males may have two (sometimes more) partners at the same time, and they will both provide food for the female and her children.
5. RED-TAILED HAWK
Scientific name: Buteo jamaicensis
Length: 17.7 – 25.6 in
Weight: 24.3oz – 51.5 oz
Wingspan: 44.9-52.4 in
The most widespread hawk in the United States, red-tailed hawks may be found in practically every state, including Vermont, and live throughout the year. In the northern United States, these hawks breed. Internationally and across Canada. They may be found all year in Vermont. Nevertheless, despite the fact that they prefer to breed in the northern part of the state, those hawks may migrate south after breeding season.
Red-tailed hawks are often observed soaring in search of prey, or perched on telephone poles along the roadway, during the day or early in the morning. Small to medium-sized mammals like mice, rats, rabbits, and squirrels make up the majority of their diet. Birds and snakes are also on the menu for these animals.
The tail of an adult is brick-red, whereas that of a juvenile is brown and white striped. Adults have a brick-red tail that is easily recognized. These hawks are generally dark brown above and pale below. Their breast is streaked with brown, and their belly is streaked with darker brown streaks, which may be another distinguishing trait. Because of the numerous color variations across the country, these hawks are so common.
The red-tailed hawk’s long scream has become a symbol for all raptors, and it is a long screech. Their scream is almost always heard as the sound for any hawk or eagle depicted on film in movies and television.
Scientific name: Buteo lineatus
Length: 16.9-24.0 in
Weight: 17.1-27.3 oz
The eastern United States is home to red-shouldered hawks, which are plentiful. California’s western shore is also included. Throughout the spring and summer, they come to Vermont to breed, before migrating south for the winter.
The thick red coloring on the breast, which goes all the way down their belly and is bordered by red, is a great distinguishing characteristic. Their back and wings have blackish feathers that are virtually dark. This will be combined with reddish feathers (thus their name) at the summit of their back and shoulders. A lot of white barring will be present throughout the dark feathers, culminating in a vividly banded tail, from the mid-back down.
Before you see this hawk, you may hear it. They emit a loud “kee-aah” cry that is typically repeated many times in succession. Others believe it resembles a seagull’s cry. When startled, they’ll scream to stake their claim.
These hawks prefer flooded areas and wetlands to live and hunt in the forest. These may also be discovered in woods amid buildings in suburban regions. They’re occasionally mistaken with red-tailed hawks, but once you know the differences they’re easy to tell apart.
7. ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK
Scientific name: Buteo lagopus
Length: 18.5-20.5 in
Weight: 25.2-49.4 oz
Wingspan: 52.0-54.3 in
Throughout the autumn and winter months, Vermont is home to rough-legged hawks. They go all the way to the northern Arctic to prepare for their breeding grounds! They’ll build nests on craggy outcroppings and cliffs.
They’ll be seen perching on poles and fence posts throughout the winter in broad-open areas throughout the country. Mice, voles, and shrews are hunted here. Rough-legged hawks are said to flap their wings in order to establish a hovering-in-place position from which they may survey the ground beneath them for prey.
The feathers on the legs of rough-legged hawks give them their name. Feathers cover the legs of very few American raptors. The majority are dark brown with white splotches on their bellies, which can be quite black. A black patch against a light backdrop will appear in the air as the “wrist.” A dark morph that seems to be two-toned from below and appears practically black.
8. SHARP-SHINNED HAWK
Scientific name: Accipiter striatus
Length: 9.4-13.4 in
Weight: 3.1-7.7 oz
Wingspan: 16.9-22.1 in
In Vermont year-round, sharp-shinned hawks are the tiniest hawk found in the United States. Little birds and rodents are prey for these hawks, who pursue them through the woods.
They’re difficult to detect while nesting since they prefer wooded areas with thick canopy. Their breeding range stretches from northern Vermont to Canada, although they prefer the north. They’ll go to birdfeeders in the backyards on occasion. During fall migration, however, is the best time to see them. They head south into the United States. They are fairly common at hawk watch sites during their summer range in Canada.
The backs of sharp-shinned hawks are blue-gray, with reddish-orange lines on their cream colored chests and black rings on their tails. With a more rounded skull and squared-off tail, they resemble cooper’s hawks.