Hawks are very effective predators. The skillful birds of prey are made up of everything from their acute hearing and vision to their razor-sharp beak and talons. 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. However, we’ll be talking about Delaware’s eight types of hawks in this article.
HAWKS IN DELAWARE
Broad-winged hawk, Coopers hawk, northern goshawk, northern harrier, red-tailed hawk, red-shouldered hawk, rough-legged hawk, and sharp-shinned hawk are the eight species of hawks that may be found in Delaware.
Let’s explore each one in detail.
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
Just before the spring-summer breeding season, broad-winged hawks migrate north through Delaware. The head and upper body of these smaller hawks are brown, with barred underparts and black and white stripes on their tail. Their short tail and broad wings with pointed tips are visible in flight.
During the breeding season, these hawks prefer to be alone. They’ll breed in the wilds, far from human habitation, along rivers and around lakes. Little mammals, insects, and amphibians like frogs and toads make up their diet.
Your best chance of seeing the broad-winged hawk is in the fall, when they return to South America after migration. Flocks of thousands of birds circle in the sky, known as “kettles.” You may see them in the woods if you aren’t in their migration path. Listen for their shrill whistles.
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 year-round in Delaware, as well as throughout most of North America. Adults have a crimson eye, a squared-off head with black hat, and a blue-gray back with heavy orange bordering on the chest. Young birds have a yellow eye, a brown back and head, and white underparts with prominent brown streaks.
They prefer woodlands and forests, although they seem to be equally comfortable in the suburbs. Little birds are their primary food source, which they pursue accurately in the tree canopy. Cooper’s hawks are frequently seen around people’s homes, where they’ve been known to attack birds at bird feeders, particularly starlings, doves, and pigeons.
In a high-speed pursuit of birds, crashing through trees and foliage takes a toll, as evidenced by Cooper’s hawk skeletons. Many of them had previously shattered bones in their chest, according to studies.
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
A thick stripe runs across each eye, and the back of goshawks is gray, with gray barring on the chest that extends all the way down the belly. The sharp-shinned and cooper’s hawk are their larger and fiercer cousins. Goshawks, on the other hand, are quite cautious and prefer to stay in the woods, avoiding human inhabited places.
During the winter, Delaware is home to northern goshawks. However, since they prefer to nest in old-growth forest with a heavy canopy, you may have a difficult time locating one. The Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge is where the most sightings have been recorded on ebird.org in Delaware.
These birds have been known to attack people who approach their nests. During the breeding season, be cautious when looking for these raptors.
Little hawks, birds, animals, reptiles, and even insects and carrion are part of the northern goshawk’s varied diet. Because of their secretive nature, they are considered uncommon and difficult to assess.
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, which looks like an owl and directs sound into its ears so that it can monitor both sight and sound, works similarly. Their lengthy tail and white patch over the tail are two distinguishing characteristics. They have a particular flying technique, with their wings forming a “V”. These birds are described as majestic by many people.
This hawk can be found throughout Delaware during the year, but it is more common along the shore during the winter. They’re most often seen in marshes, fields, and other open areas.
This hawk creates a platform on the ground in thick vegetation, such as reeds, willows, sedges, and cattails, unlike many other hawks that nest in trees. At the same time as two (sometimes more) males, a female and her offspring will be fed.
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
Throughout the year, red-tailed hawks may be found in almost every state, including Delaware. They are the most prevalent hawk on the continent of North America. Birds that have spent the summer in Canada descend to join the others in the United States during the winter, increasing their population even more.
Red-tailed hawks are most frequently seen flying around looking for food with their exceptional vision or perched on telephone poles along the roadside throughout the day or early morning. Little to medium-sized mammals, such as mice, rats, rabbits, and squirrels make up the majority of their diet. Birds and snakes are also common prey for them.
While still juveniles, the tail of adults is brown and white striped, and it is easy to identify. These hawks are generally light below and dark brown above. Their breast is streaked with brown, and another distinguishing feature is a belt of deeper brown streaks that runs across their belly. There are numerous color variations across the country due to the prevalence of these hawks.
The red-tailed hawk produces a long scream that is now synonymous with all raptors. Their scream is almost always used as the sound for any hawk or eagle seen on film in films and television.
6. 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 in Delaware, rough-legged hawks may be seen. They go all the way to the northern Arctic to find their breeding grounds when it is time for them to move! They’ll build nests on cliffs and rocky outcroppings there.
They can be found perching on poles and fence posts throughout the winter in open areas in the United States. Mice, voles, and shrews are all hunted here. Rough-legged hawks are said to flap their wings in order to obtain a hover-in-place standpoint from which they may survey the ground below them for prey.
The feathers on the legs of rough-legged hawks give them their name. Feathers that go all the way down the legs of few American raptors are rare. The majority have a thick black belly patch and have heavily mottled dark brown and white. When the wrist is against a light backdrop, you’ll notice a black patch in the sky. A dark-morph that seems to be two-toned from below and appears nearly black.
7. 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
The smallest hawk in the United States, sharp-shinned hawks, lives in Delaware year-round and is the smallest of all US birds. Little birds and rodents are prey for these hawks, who pursue them through the woods.
They hide in forests with thick canopy while nesting, making them difficult to spot. They’ll go hunting birds at feeders in people’s backyards on occasion. During the autumn migration, however, is when you’ll find them. They head south towards the United States. They’re frequently observed at hawk watch grounds during their summer range in Canada.
Sharp-shinned hawks have reddish-orange bands on their chests and black banding on their tails. They have a blue-gray back with a sharp beak. They have a more rounded head and squared-off tail, making them resemble cooper’s hawks.
Scientific name: Buteo lineatus
Length: 16.9-24.0 in
Weight: 17.1-27.3 oz
In their range, which spans the eastern United States, red-shouldered hawks are common. The west coast of California, as well as the state. They can be found all year in Delaware.
The heavy red coloring on the breast, which extends all the way down their belly with red barring, is a helpful identifying feature. Their back and wings are covered in black feathers that are nearly black. This will be blended with reddish feathers at the summit of their back and shoulders (thus their name). There will be a lot of white barring mixed in with the black feathers, with a heavily banded tail from the mid-back down.
Before you see this hawk, you may hear it. They emit a deep “kee-aah” cry that is usually repeated multiple times in a row. Some people believe it sounds like a seagull. When startled, they’ll yell to assert dominance.
These hawks prefer flooded areas and wetlands, where they live and hunt in the forest. They may also be located in wooded areas combined with buildings in the suburbs. They’re sometimes mistaken for red-tailed hawks, but once you know the differences, it’s easy to tell them apart.