The carnivorous family of hunting birds, known as birds-of-prey, includes hawks. Their keen hearing and eye sight, as well as their razor-sharp beak and talons, combine to make them exceptional predators. Throughout the United States, there are roughly 16 different types of hawks. The 10 types of hawks found in Nebraska, as well as a bonus hawk-like bird, will be discussed in this article.
10 HAWKS IN NEBRASKA
Broad-winged hawk, Cooper’s hawk, ferruginous hawk, northern goshawk, northern harrier, red-tailed hawk, red-shouldered hawk, rough-legged hawk, and Swainson’s hawks are the ten species of hawks that may be found in Nebraska.
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 breeding season do broad-winged hawks migrate north into Nebraska, and they are migratory birds. They only have a limited range, however during migration you may see them in other areas of the state’s eastern boundary. Brown on the head and chest, barred underparts, and black and white bands on the tail distinguish these smaller hawks. Their short tail and broad wings with pointed tips are visible in flight.
During breeding season, these hawks prefer to remain alone. Far from humans, they will nest in forests and near water bodies. Little mammals, insects, and amphibians like frogs and toads make up their diet.
During fall migration on their way back South America, you should have the greatest chance of seeing the broad-winged hawk. The sky is swarming with flocks known as “kettles,” which may hold thousands of birds. You may spot them in the woods if you aren’t on their migration path. Listen for their high-pitched 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 Nebraska, as well as across most of North America. The back of adults is blue-gray, with orange chest bands and a crimson eye. Adults have a squared-off skull with a black hat. The eyes of juvenile birds are yellow, the back is brown, and the underparts are white with thick brown streaking.
They prefer woodlands and forests, although they appear to be quite acclimated in the suburbs. Little birds are their primary source of food, which they catch in the tree canopy with ease. The Cooper’s hawk has been seen going after birds on a bird feeder, especially starlings, doves, and pigeons, in the backyards of many people.
Cooper’s hawk skeletons show that many of them had previously broken bones in their chest, thanks to the impact of crashing through trees and foliage while pursuing birds at high speed.
3. FERRUGINOUS HAWK
Length: 22.1-27.2 in
Weight: 34.5-73.2 oz
Wingspan: 52.4-55.9 in
During the spring and summer, Ferruginous Hawks visit Nebraska to breed. The state’s western region is home to the majority of them. They fly above small animals or hunt on the ground, preferring to dwell in open areas such as fields and plains.
The largest of all North American hawks are these hawks. Their backs, shoulders, underwings, and legs are rusty red in color and earned them the name “ferruginous,” which means “rust-colored.”
The ambush of prairie dogs by Ferruginous Hawks is a common occurrence. Before striking, they perch and wait for prey to emerge from their burrows. As the hawks start hopping and flapping their wings, attracting other hawks and birds of prey, this creates quite a spectacle.
4. 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 goshawks is gray, with a thick stripe over each eye and a chest that extends all the way down the belly. The sharp-shinned and cooper’s hawk are regarded as larger and fiercer cousins. Goshawks, on the other hand, are quite secluded and prefer to stay in the woods, avoiding human populated areas.
During the non-breeding, fall, and winter seasons, Northern Goshawks may be seen in Nebraska on rare occasions. However, since they prefer to breed in ancient growth forest with deep canopy, it’ll be tough to locate one. When humans get too close to their nests, they’ve been known to attack them. So, during the breeding season, be cautious when looking for these raptors.
Little hawks, birds, mammals, reptiles, and even insects and carrion are among the foods of the northern goshawk. They’re regarded as unusual, and their secretive nature makes it difficult to estimate their population.
5. 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. To assist them hunt by sound as well as sight, this disc-shaped face acts akin to an owls and directs sound into their ears. Their long tail and white patch above the tail are two helpful identifying features. Their wings are held in the shape of a “V” and they have a particular flying style. These birds are described as majestic by the experts.
This hawk can be seen all year in Nebraska. Over marshes, fields, and other wide-open regions, you’re likely to see them.
This hawk creates a platform on the ground in thick vegetation, such as reeds, willows, sedges, and cattails, unlike other hawks that nest in trees. Males may have two (sometimes more) partners at once, and the female and her offspring will be fed by them.
6. 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
On the North American continent, red-tailed hawks are the most ubiquitous hawk, having lived in practically every state for the entire year. As birds that have spent the summer in Canada come down to join the others in the United States, their population increases even more over the winter.
Red-tailed hawks are most active during the day and early mornings, when they may be seen soaring over the countryside in search of prey with their exceptional vision. Little to medium-sized creatures like mice, rats, rabbits, and squirrels make up the majority of their diet. Birds and snakes are also possible prey.
The tail of an adult is brick-red, making it easy to identify, but their tail is brown and white striped when they are still juveniles. These hawks are generally brown above and pale below. Their breasts have brown streaks, and their belly has a band of darker brown streaks that might be another distinguishing feature. There are numerous color variants across the country since these hawks are so widespread.
7. RED-SHOULDERED HAWK
Scientific name: Buteo lineatus
Length: 16.9-24.0 in
Weight: 17.1-27.3 oz
In Nebraska, red-shouldered hawks are only encountered on rare occasions, but they may be seen in the non-breeding months along the eastern border and in the southeastern corner.
The large red coloration on the breast, which extends down their belly in a crimson band, is a good identifying characteristic. Down their back and wings, they have dark, nearly black feathers.
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, which will finish in a highly banded tail from the mid-back down.
Before you locate this hawk, you may detect it. They make a strong “ke-aah” sound, which is frequently repeated multiple times in a row. Others believe it sounds a lot like a seagull. They’ll scream for help when they’re scared or defending their land.
These birds prefer flooded areas and wetlands, where they live and hunt in the forest. Suburban regions, with woods intermingled with buildings, are also home to them. They are frequently mistaken with red-tailed hawks, but once you know the distinguishing characteristics, they are not difficult to tell apart.
8. 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, you may observe rough-legged hawks in Nebraska. They travel all the way to the northern Arctic to breed, so when it’s time to migrate, they do! They’ll nest on cliffs and rocky outcroppings there.
They can be found perching on poles and fence posts in the winter, in open areas throughout the United States. Mice, voles, and shrews are among the animals they hunt here. To get a hovering-in-placevantage point over the ground beneath them that they may use to scout for their prey, rough-legged hawks are known to turn into the wind and flap their wings.
The feathers on the legs of rough-legged hawks earned them the name. Feathers that extend all the way down the legs of very few American raptors. The majority have a thick black belly patch and are heavily mottled dark brown and white. As the wrist against a light background, you’ll notice a black patch in the air. A dark-morph emerges that appears to be two-toned from underneath, and it looks almost black.
9. SHARP SHINNED HAWKS
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 is a sharp-shinned hawk. The state’s official range only includes the eastern border. Nonetheless, they may be found all over Nebraska and have been seen in most of the surrounding states. Little birds and rodents are hunted by these hawks, who fly through the woodlands.
Sharp-shinned Hawks have crimson-orange streaking on their cream colored chests and black tail bands, and they have a blue-gray back with reddish-orange streaking. With a more rounded head and squared-off tail, they resemble cooper’s hawks in appearance.
10. SWAINSONS HAWK
Scientific name: Buteo swainsoni
Length: 18.9-22.1 in
Weight: 24.4-48.2 oz
Wingspan: 45-55 in
During breeding season, Swainson’s Hawks may be found across Nebraska. They’re most likely to be seen in open fields during the summer. Telephone poles, wires, and hidden trees are where they’ll stay.
Kettles, which are as big as tens of thousands of hawks, are used to migrate hawks. During their migration, you should see these raptors if you thought Broad-winged hawks were something to see.
As their environment evolved throughout time, Swainson’s Hawks have adapted to agricultural settings. During the day, you can find them raiding fields and crops for prey.
Their chin is white, and their belly is streaked with rust. They have a gray head with a brown bib. The brown chest and wings, which seem to be unusually long and have black edges, can be seen when looking from below.