The hawks are magnificent predators. Their acute hearing and vision, as well as their keen beak and talons, combine to make them expert birds of prey. Humans have benefited from hawk hunting ability throughout history, thanks to training and falconry. In the United States, there are approximately 16 different types of hawks. However, we’re going to look at the eight different types of hawks found in Maryland in this article.
HAWKS IN MARYLAND
The 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 types of hawks that may be found in Maryland.
Let’s take a closer look at them all.
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
During the spring-summer breeding season, broad-winged hawks migrate north into Maryland and only travel there. The head and chest of these smaller hawks are brown, with barred underparts and black and white stripes on their tail. Their small tail and broad wings with sharp tips are visible in flight.
During the breeding season, these hawks prefer to be alone. Far from humans, they will nest in forests and near water bodies. Little creatures, insects, and amphibians like frogs and toads make up their diet.
Your finest opportunity to view the broad-winged hawk is during their return migration from South America in the fall. Flocks of birds called “kettles” circle the sky in large numbers. You can see them in the woods if you aren’t in their migration path. Listen for their piercing 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 all year in Maryland, where they live in most of North America. Adults have a blue-gray back, orange breast, red eye, and a black head with a squared-off appearance. Immature birds have white underparts with heavy brown streaks, a yellow eye, and a brown back and head.
They seem to be quite comfortable in the suburbs as well, especially in 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 yards, where it has been known to hunt birds on a bird feeder, especially starlings, doves, and pigeons.
Cooper’s hawk skeletons show that many of them had previously broken bones in their chest after crashing through trees and foliage on a high-speed pursuit after birds.
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 a goshawk is gray, and the chest stripe runs the length of the belly. Each eye has a thick stripe that runs across it. The sharp-shinned and cooper’s hawk are seen as bigger, fiercer cousins. Goshawks, on the other hand, are quiet and prefer to stay in the forest rather than fly into human-populated areas, unlike common backyard hawks.
During the winter, Maryland is home to northern goshawks. However, since they prefer to nest in old-growth forest with deep canopy, you may have a hard time tracking one down.
They’ve been known to attack people who approach their nests. So, when looking for these raptors throughout the breeding season, keep an eye out.
Little birds, mammals, reptiles, and even insects and carrion are eaten by the northern goshawk. They’re said to be uncommon, and their secrecy makes it difficult to calculate their numbers.
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 northern harrier has an almost owl-like face. The sound is directed into the creatures’ ears by this disc-shaped face, which looks like an owl. Two important identifying traits are their long tail and white patch above the tail. These birds are known as “majestic” by many individuals because of their distinct flying style, which involves holding their wings upright like a “V.”
This hawk can be found year-round in Maryland, however it may be more common in the winter. They’re most likely to be seen in marshes, fields, and open areas across the country.
This hawk creates a platform in dense vegetation, such as reeds, willows, sedges, and cattails, unlike many hawks that nest in trees. Males may have two (and occasionally more) partners at once, and both female and offspring will be fed by them.
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 on the continent of North America, red-tailed hawks can be found in almost every state, including Maryland. While birds that spent their summer in Canada return to the United States during the winter, their population grows even faster.
Red-tailed hawks are most active during the day, and when they’re not hunting for food, they’re perched on telephone poles along the roadside, using their superb vision to hunt for prey. Mice, rats, rabbits, and squirrels are the main sources of food for them. Birds and snakes are another options for them to eat.
The tail of an adult is brick-red, which is readily noticed, but the tail of a juvenile is brown and white striped. These hawks are generally light below and dark brown above. Their breast is streaked with brown, and their belly is streaked with darker brown streaks that may be another distinguishing characteristic. There are numerous color variations across the country due to the widespread distribution of these hawks.
The red-tailed hawk’s cry has become a symbol for all raptors, and it is a long scream. Their scream is typically utilized 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
During the fall and winter months, rough-legged hawks may be seen in Maryland, however they are extremely uncommon when compared to many of the other species. They travel all the way to the northern Arctic to prepare for their breeding season! They’ll build nests on sheer rock faces and cliffs.
You may see them perching on poles and fence posts in the winter in open areas throughout the country. They look for mice, voles, and shrews here. Rough-legged hawks may use a hovering-in-place position they can observe the ground below them to scan for their prey, flapping their wings and turning into the wind.
The feathers on the legs of rough-legged hawks earned them their name. Feathers cover only a small percentage of the legs of most American raptors. The majority have a thick black belly patch and are heavily mottled dark brown and white. As the wrist moves against a light backdrop, you’ll notice a black patch. A dark-morph emerges looking nearly black and exhibits a two-toned appearance from below.
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
Sharp-shinned hawks, which stay in Maryland all year, are the tiniest hawk in the United States. Little birds and rodents are prey for these hawks, which pursue them through the woods.
They stick to woodlands with thick canopy while nesting and are difficult to detect. They may also hunt birds at feeders in the backyards. During the fall migration, however, is when you’ll see them best. They head south towards the United States. They are frequently seen at hawk watch sites from their summer range in Canada.
The back of sharp-shinned hawks is blue-gray, with reddish-orange stripes on their cream-colored chests and black stripes on their tails. With a more rounded head and squared-off tail, they resemble the cooper’s hawk quite closely.
Scientific name: Buteo lineatus
Length: 16.9-24.0 in
Weight: 17.1-27.3 oz
The range of red-shouldered hawks extends across the eastern United States. In California and the western shore. They’re present all year in Maryland.
The heavy red coloring on the breast, which flows down their belly and has red barring, is a distinguishing characteristic. Down their backs and wings, they have black feathers that are nearly black. This will be blended with reddish feathers at the summit of their backs and “shoulders.” There will be a lot of white barring mixed in with the black feathers, with a strongly banded tail from the mid-back down.
Before you see it, you may hear this hawk. They emit a powerful “kee-aah” call that is usually repeated several times in succession. Others believe it resembles a seagull. When startled, they will scream out to establish their territory.
These birds prefer flooded areas and wetlands, where they dwell and hunt in the forest. Suburban areas, with woods mixed in with buildings, are also good places to look. They’re sometimes mistaken for red-tailed hawks, but if you know the differences to look for, it’s easier to tell them apart.
HAWK WATCHING IN MARYLAND
Many people gather to watch and count hawks as they fly together in big numbers during the spring and autumn hawk migration. Hawk lookout places are often hills or high locations with excellent views of the environment, or open fields, which allow you to see the hawks flying in the sky. In Maryland, there are a number of well-known hawk watching spots: