We’ll discuss the birds of prey of Massachusetts in this article, as well as the best times and places to see them.
With a huge population of birds of prey, Massachusetts is the most inhabited state in all of New England.
It’s no surprise that a diverse group of hawks, owls, falcons, and eagles choose to call this state home since it shares its eastern shore with the Atlantic Ocean and is surrounded by a variety of inland woodlands, swamps, and grasslands.
BIRDS OF PREY IN MASSACHUSETTS
Hawks, owls, falcons, and eagles are among the 20 distinct species of raptors discovered in Massachusetts.
HAWKS IN MASSACHUSETTS
1. SHARP-SHINNED HAWK
Length: 9.4-13.4 in
Weight: 3.1-7.7 oz
Wingspan: 16.9-22.1 in
Although they are small, sharp-shinned hawks can move quickly. They can fly at fast speeds through thick woods thanks to their broad feet, short, spherical wings, and long tails.
They can be found all year in the state’s eastern region, but watching them migrate in the fall is the best time.
These guys are well-known for snatching up unsuspecting songbirds, so keep bird feeders in the yard. Remove your bird feeder and replace it after a few weeks if you see them perched in your yard. The songbirds will eventually return as the hawks search for food elsewhere.
2. COOPER’S HAWK
Length: 14.6-17.7 in
Weight: 7.8-24.0 oz
Wingspan: 24.4-35.4 in
It is difficult to tell the difference between Cooper’s hawks and sharp-shinned hawks because they look so similar. The flap-flap-glide flying style of both birds is the same. Cooper’s hawks, on the other hand, have larger wings and are somewhat more spread out.
They may be found throughout the year in Massachusetts, with the majority of them being located near wooded areas. These hawks are becoming more frequent in towns, suburbs, and other urban regions, preying on the numerous pigeons and doves that reside there. While they used to flee populated regions, they are now more common.
3. NORTHERN GOSHAWK
Length: 20.9-25.2 in
Weight: 22.3-48.1 oz
Except for their size and aggressiveness, northern goshawks are closely related to sharp-shinned and cooper’s hawks. Gray with white stripes above their red-orange eyes, they have a generally gray coloration.
They’re more reclusive than the other hawks and are thus difficult to locate throughout the year. If you’re going to the woods, you’ll have the best chance of seeing them.
While these defensive hawks are known for attacking people that get too close, be sure to keep a safe distance from their nests.
4. RED-SHOULDERED HAWK
Length: 16.9-24.0 in
Weight: 17.1-27.3 oz
Wingspan: 37.0-43.7 in
Red-shouldered hawks have light reddish barring on their pale undersides and white banding on their tails, as the name suggests.
Massachusetts’ year-round hawks dwell in damp woods, frequently near streams and rivers. They’re often sighted circling above their breeding habitat in the spring. The easiest way to identify them is by the translucent crescents near their wingtips.
Crows and red-shouldered hawks don’t get along very well. They frequently battle and attempt to plunder one another’s food, although they may team up to eliminate a shared foe on occasion.
5. BROAD-WINGED HAWK
Length: 13.4-17.3 in
Weight: 9.3-19.8 oz
Wingspan: 31.9-39.4 in
From around April to August, broad-winged hawks can only be found in Massachusetts during the breeding season. But, if you’re lucky, you might witness their massive flock’s journey to South America during their fall migration.
With stocky bodies and enormous, crimson heads, these hawks are on the smaller side. They have brown coloration instead of red, and they resemble the red-shouldered hawk in terms of barring.
When hunting, you might be able to locate one by listening for its distinctive, single-pitched howl.
6. RED-TAILED HAWK
Length: 17.7-25.6 in
Weight: 24.3-51.5 oz
Wingspan: 44.9-52.4 in
Red-tailed Hawks are one of the most frequent hawks in North America, and you may have seen them before. Massachusetts is home to them all year, perched on high elevations or swooping overhead. During your normal drive, you’re virtually guaranteed to see them on telephone poles on the side of the road.
They have a light, reddish brown pattern and a namesake tail full of crimson feathers on their white, creamy undersides. You may see a hallmark buteo hawk shape while in the air, with their wide, rounded wings and short tail.
Listen for their signature raptor scream, which is the same as the one used by hawks and other birds of prey in most films and television programs. More fascinating facts about Red-tailed Hawks may be found in this article.
7. ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK
Length: 18.5-20.5 in
Weight: 25.2-49.4 oz
Wingspan: 52.0-54.3 in
During the winter, you’ll only be able to see the non-breeding Rough-legged hawks in Massachusetts. These hawks spend the summer in the arctic tundra, where they hunt and raise their young before heading south to escape the cold.
While hunting, hovering, and scanning the ground for prey, they often fly up and face the wind. Along with the Red-tailed hawk, they have a buteo appearance with longer, more slender wings. Although they come in light and dark varieties, rough-legged hawks have dark-brown patterns.
OWLS IN MASSACHUSETTS
8. BARN OWL
Length: 12.6-15.8 in
Weight: 14.1-24.7 oz
Wingspan: 39.4-49.2 in
During the year, you may see barn owls all around the country. They conceal during the day in obscure, quiet spots like old barns and other man-made constructions, but at night they fly across open fields and meadows in search of a meal.
They’re skilled at discovering tiny rodents with their talons in the darkest of situations, even in snow or vegetation. They’re experts at using sound to detect them. They swallow their meals whole and spitting out the indigestible leftovers as pellets when they eat.
Their bodies are light tan with gray bands on the head, neck, and upper wings, and their faces are pale white with dark eyes. You may observe them as a streak of white flying by at night, or their alarming, piercing cry may be heard.
9. EASTERN SCREECH OWL
Length: 6.3-9.8 in
Weight: 4.3-8.6 oz
Wingspan: 18.9-24.0 in
In Massachusetts, year-round, you can find eastern screech owls, but they are difficult to see. Their patterned feathers have a grey and red-brown color that makes them ideal for blending in with trees.
Most kinds of woods and forests, particularly near water sources, have them nestled in empty tree cavities. Listening for their trills at night, which sound somewhat similar to a horse’s whinny, is a good way to locate them.
Nest boxes may be utilized by these little owls, therefore put one up on your property to attract a breeding couple. It’s best to install it well in advance of breeding season, which starts in April.
10. GREAT HORNED OWL
Length: 18.1-24.8 in
Weight: 32.1-88.2 oz
Wingspan: 39.8-57.1 in
The most iconic owls of literature, story books, and other media are possibly great horned owls. They are easily recognized among other owls because of their distinctive deep hoot, feathered tufts on their heads, and huge yellow eyes.
They may be found in a wide variety of environments, including deciduous and evergreen woods, fresh woods with clearings and open places, and even bogs, throughout Massachusetts year round.
Because of their soft, fluffy feathers, they are able to fly quietly while ambushing tiny rodents and other prey in the winter and keep themselves warm.
11. SNOWY OWL
Length: 20.5-27.9 in
Weight: 56.4-104.1 oz
Wingspan: 49.6-57.1 in
Snowy owls are only visible in Massachusetts during the winter when they migrate, as they breed much farther north in the Arctic. If you come across one, you’ll know right away.
With smooth, rounded heads and heavy, heavily feathered bodies, they are huge owls that are bigger than even Great Horned Owls. They stand out among other owls due to their lovely white plumage with black markings.
In open locations, unlike other owls, they may be seen sitting on the ground or near the ground. They may be seen perched on hills and dunes near bodies of water, such as lakes and oceans.
12. BARRED OWL
Length: 16.9-19.7 in
Weight: 16.6-37.0 oz
Wingspan: 39.0-43.3 in
In large evergreen and deciduous woods, Barred Owls may be found all year. They roost during the day and hunt at night, preferring tree limbs and cavities. These owls have rough brown and white plumage, as well as dark eyes, and they’re rather huge.
Listening for their calls at night is the easiest way to locate them. Their unique cries, which sound like they’re asking “who cooks for you?” may help you differentiate them. If you hear their cry, try mimicking it back — they might come to investigate you out if you’re lucky.
The great horned owl is one of their most formidable opponents. Barred owls will relocate to different sections of their range if a great horned owl is present, and both species prefer to settle in the same regions.
13. LONG-EARED OWL
Length: 13.8-15.8 in
Weight: 7.8-15.3 oz
Massachusetts is home to the only non-breeding Long-eared owl population. They’re hard to detect because of their covertness and superb camouflage. They lay low during the day, hunting in open areas at night, before returning to dense forests at night.
Listening for their cries is the most effective way to find them, as it is with other owls. Throughout the spring and summer evenings, listen for their long, deep hoots and barking calls. During the winter, they roost in huge numbers, giving you a fantastic chance to inspect them.
14. SHORT-EARED OWL
Length: 13.4-16.9 in
Weight: 7.3-16.8 oz
Wingspan: 33.5-40.5 in
Short-eared owls can be found in the best season of the year, just like Long-eared owls. Massachusetts is home to just non-breeding populations. They like open plains such as grasslands and prefer to remain on the ground or low tree limbs.
The best time to find them is early in the morning and late at night, and they may often be seen during these times. Their pale faces with yellow eyes outlined in black will stick out to you. They flap with smooth, stiff beats while flying, giving them a lovely and effortless appearance.
15. NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL
Length: 7.1-8.3 in
Weight: 2.3-5.3 oz
Wingspan: 16.5-18.9 in
In Massachusetts, year-round owls, these tiny birds with huge heads are rarely seen. Southern saw-whet owls are tiny, and being elusive, it can be difficult to spot them at night. They’re only about the size of an American Robin.
The sound of a saw being sharpened on a whetting stone is thought to be the source of their name. You may just hear their short, high-pitched toot-toot-toot call if you listen carefully on calm evenings from January through May.
FALCONS IN MASSACHUSETTS
16. AMERICAN KESTREL
Length: 8.7-12.2 in
Weight: 2.8-5.8 oz
Wingspan: 20.1-24.0 in
The little falcons of North America are American kestrels. In Massachusetts, they are year-round falcons that may frequently be seen perched on fence posts and telephones along open land. With blue-gray heads and markings, as well as rusty-red backs, wings, and tails, they are one of the more colorful falcons.
They are little, like a mourning dove in size, but they are ferocious. Before diving down and snatching up insects and small animals, they wait from above, sometimes hovering in the wind. They are occasionally eaten by bigger bird of prey and snakes, though.
Length: 9.4-11.8 in
Weight: 5.6-8.5 oz
Wingspan: 20.9-26.8 in
Merlin are a bit bigger, broader, and stockier than American kestrels in size. They’re also less colorful, with their bodies and wings being mostly dark gray or brown with white banding.
Because they’re unpredictable and only present during migration, finding one in Massachusetts is rather difficult. Perching up high and hunting for little birds is a common strategy for them.
Despite their small size, Merlin can be as aggressive as kestrels. In flocks of waxwings, they occasionally pair up. Once the waxwings have been startled, the second Merlin will strike by attacking from below.
18. PEREGRINE FALCON
Length: 14.2-19.3 in
Weight: 18.7-56.4 oz
Wingspan: 39.4-43.3 in
Peregrine falcons are only seen during migration in the majority of the state. Certain places along the coast, such as Cape Cod, where they may be found all year.
They are not only the country’s biggest falcon, but they are also the quickest. In reality, when diving after prey, they are the world’s fastest creatures, reaching speeds of more than 200 mph. They travel at a speed of roughly 25-34 mph even while flying.
Perching or nesting on top of towers, tall buildings, or other posts will give you a greater chance of finding them along the coast.
EAGLES IN MASSACHUSETTS
19. GOLDEN EAGLE
Length: 27.6-33.1 in
Weight: 105.8-216.1 oz
Wingspan: 72.8-86.6 in
During the winter migration, you can catch golden eagles anywhere in the country, but they are mostly found in the Western half. Look for open land near mountains, hills, and cliffs, as well as bodies of water in Massachusetts to find these eagles.
With broad wings and a long tail, they are one of North America’s largest birds. Adults have golden spots on the backs of their heads and necks, which gives them a dark brown color.
They wait, perched on a branch or other perch, for prey that they can swoop close to the ground. They take down small animals with their strong talons and beaks, but they are also known for attacking bigger creatures like coyotes and even bears. The majority of these assaults are aimed at defense.
20. BALD EAGLE
Length: 27.9-37.8 in
Weight: 105.8-222.2 oz
Wingspan: 80.3 in
This bird and national emblem are both well-known to you. Bald eagles are easily recognized by their dazzling white plumage on their heads, which distinguishes them from other birds of prey.
During the winter, Massachusetts has non-breeding Bald Eagle populations. Water sources are the greatest places to look for them. You’ll have a better chance of seeing them near the coast, rivers, or lakes since they primarily eat fish. Rather of catching their own fish, they often steal it from other birds.
Bald eagles may be quite mischievous at times. They’ve been seen playing with plastic bottles as makeshift toys and tossing sticks to each other in midair.