The family of hunters known as birds-of-prey includes hawks. These animals are experts predators because of their keen hearing and vision, as well as their razor-sharp beak and talons. In the United States, there are around 16 different types of hawks. However, we will focus on the 11 types of hawks found in Nevada, as well as one additional hawk-like bird, in this essay.
11 HAWKS IN NEVADA
The common black hawk, Cooper’s hawk, ferruginous hawk, northern goshawk, northern harrier, red-tailed hawk, rough-legged hawk, sharp-shinned Hawk, Swainson’s hawk are the eleven species of hawks that can be found in Nevada.
Let’s take a look at each one.
1. COMMON BLACK HAWK
Scientific name: Buteogallus anthracinus
Length: 16.9 – 22.1 in
Weight: 27.9 oz
Wingspan: 46.1 in
The common black hawk is only seen in rare cases in the United States. They are a species that lives mostly in Mexico, Central America, and South America’s northern reaches. Several, however, do sneak into the United States without permission. It’s a good idea to bring a hat throughout the spring and summer. They have been seen in the extreme southern tip, around Las Vegas, on rare occasions, despite not being normally present.
They’ve been seen wading into shallow water and flapping their wings, enticing fish into shallow water on the shore where they can more easily capture them.
2. COOPER’S 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 can be found year-round in Nevada, as well as across most of North America. Adults have a blue-gray back, orange chest stripes, a crimson eye, and a squared-off head with a black hat. Immature birds have a brown back and head, with white underparts and heavy brown streaks. Their eyes are yellow.
They seem to be quite comfortable in the suburbs, as well as in forests and woodlands. Little birds are their primary food source, and they hunt them skillfully in the tree canopy. Cooper’s hawks are common in people’s backyards, where they’ve been known to hunt birds on a bird feeder, notably starlings, doves, and pigeons.
Cooper’s hawk skeletons show that many of them had broken bones in their chest, and crashing through trees and foliage on a high-speed pursuit after birds takes its toll.
3. FERRUGINOUS HAWK
Length: 22.1-27.2 in
Weight: 34.5-73.2 oz
Wingspan: 52.4-55.9 in
The majority of the year, Ferruginous Hawks may be seen in southern Nevada, however they are only present during the breeding season in most of the state. They’re drawn to open areas like fields and plains, where they soar above foraging for tiny animals or hunting on the ground.
These are the biggest of all North American hawks. The term “ferruginous” refers to their rusty red plumage on their backs, shoulders, underwings, and legs. They have gray streaked heads and white underparts.
The ferruginous Hawks are infamous for catching prairie dogs in large groups of 5-10. Before attacking, they perch and wait for prey to emerge from their holes. As the hawks begin hopping and flapping their wings, attracting other hawks and birds of prey, it 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
Goshawks have a thick stripe over each eye and a gray back with gray barring on the chest that goes all the way down their belly. These birds are regarded as sharp-shinned and cooper’s hawk’s bigger, fiercer cousins. Goshawks, on the other hand, are quite shy and prefer to stay in the forest rather than approaching human populated areas.
Most of Nevada is home to Northern Goshawks all year, however they are only present during the winter along the western border. However, since they prefer to nest in old-growth forest with thick canopy, you may have a difficult time locating one. They’ve been known to assault humans who get too close to their nests. Therefore, when looking for these birds during the breeding season, be cautious.
Little hawks, birds, mammals, reptiles, and even insects and carrion are eaten by the northern goshawk. Because of their secretive nature, they are considered uncommon, and their population is difficult to estimate.
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. This disc-shaped face, which resembles an owl in appearance, directs sound into the ears of these animals to assist them hunt by sound and sight. The long tail and white patch above the tail are two helpful identifying features. They hold their wings in the shape of a “V” and have a distinctive flying style. These birds are described as “majestic” by many people.
This hawk can be found in Nevada year-round. They’re frequently seen over marshes, fields, and other open areas.
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 (or more) sexual partners at the same time, and they will provide for the female and her offspring.
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
The most frequent hawk on the North American continent is the red-tailed hawk, which can be found in practically every state and lives throughout the year.
Red-tailed hawks are often observed flying across the countryside, searching for food with their superb vision, or perched on telephone poles along the roadway. Mice, rats, rabbits, and squirrels make up the majority of their diet. Birds and snakes are another option for them to eat.
The tail of an adult is brick-red, however their tail is brown and white striped while they are still juveniles. The hawks in general have a light below and a dark brown above. Their breast is streaked with brown, and they have a band of deeper brown streaks that runs across their belly region, which is another distinguishing feature. There are numerous color variations across the country because these hawks are so widespread.
The long scream of the red-tailed hawk has become a symbol for all raptors. The sound of any hawk or eagle seen on film is almost always their scream in films and TV.
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, rough-legged hawks may be seen in Nevada. They travel all the way to the northern Arctic when it’s time to breed! They’ll breed on cliffs and rocky outcroppings there.
They may be seen perching on poles and fence posts in the winter in open areas throughout the country. Mice, voles, and shrews are all hunted here. Rough-legged hawks have been observed hovering in place and eyeing the ground below them, flapping their wings to turn into the wind.
The feathers on the legs of rough-legged hawks give them their name. Feathers that extend all the way down the legs of very few American raptors. The majority are dark brown with white mottling, with a thick black belly patch on some. A black patch against a light backdrop will emerge in the air as the “wrist.” A dark-morph emerges looking nearly black and has a two-toned appearance from below.
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
Sharp-shinned hawks can be found across Nevada throughout the year and are the smallest hawk in the United States. Little birds and rodents are prey for these hawks, which pursue them through the woods.
They prefer to nest in forests with thick canopies, making them difficult to locate. They may occasionally hunt birds at feeders in the backyards. During autumn migration, though, is the best time to see them. They head south across the United States. They’re frequently seen at hawk watch stations, where they spend the summer in Canada.
The backs of Sharp-shinned Hawks are blue-grey, with a reddish-orange pattern on their chest and dark stripes on their tails. With a more rounded head and squared-off tail, they resemble cooper’s hawks very closely.
9. SWAINSONS HAWK
Scientific name: Buteo swainsoni
Length: 18.9-22.1 in
Weight: 24.4-48.2 oz
Wingspan: 45-55 in
During the breeding season, Swainson’s Hawks may be found all over Nevada. During the summer, you can expect to find them in large swaths of open land. Telephone poles, wires, and quiet trees will be their habitats.
Kettles, which are as large as tens of thousands, are used to migrate hawks. During their migration, you should see these raptors if you thought Broad-winged hawks were something to see.
As the habitat of Swainson’s Hawks has evolved throughout time, they have adapted well to agricultural communities. They may be spotted foraging in fields and crops for prey.
They have a brown bib and a white belly speckled with rust, as well as a gray head with white on the chin. The brown chest and wings, which seem to be unusually extended with black margins, may be seen from below.
10. ZONE-TAILED HAWK
Scientific name: Buteo albonotatus
Length: 17.7 – 22.1 in
Weight: 21.4 – 23.5 oz
Wingspan: 46.9 – 55.1 in
Only a few of these zone-tailed hawks visit the United States. Throughout the spring and summer, the weather is warmest in the southwest. They spend the majority of their time in Arizona and New Mexico, but occasionally venture into Nevada’s southern tip.
They enjoy hunting in desert scrub and along rivers, as well as rocky canyons and cliffs. They’ve been known to devour a variety of birds, including quail, woodpeckers, jays, nightjars, and thrush relatives like bluebirds and robins. In addition to small animals and reptiles, they’ve been known to eat them.
Their arching and tilting of their wings, as well as their color, frequently make them appear to be a turkey vulture from afar when they are soaring. The enormous white band on the tail and barred white wing feathers with a black trailing edge may be seen when you look closer.
11. HARRIS’S HAWK
Scientific name: Parabueto unicinctus
Length: 18.1 – 23.2 in
Weight: 18.2 – 31.0 oz
Wingspan: 40.5 – 46.9 in
Nevertheless, Harris’ hawk is occasionally seen near the state’s southernmost point. Because the year-round population in Arizona and southern California is so high, they may occasionally cross into Nevada on their way to Florida.
The bodies of these huge hawks are dark, and their shoulders are rusty red. Their tail is bright white at the base, with a black band in the middle. It is likewise brilliant white at the tips. Ground squirrels, rats, rabbits, reptiles, and birds are all eaten by these hawks from the desert lowlands. They may hunt in cooperative groups or even build social units of up to seven adults, depending on the species.
BONUS BIRD – THE OSPREY
Scientific name: Pandion haliaetus
Length: 21.3-22.8 in
Weight: 49.4-70.5 oz
Wingspan: 59.1-70.9 in
Ospreys are genetically distinct enough that they are classified separately, and these birds seem to be a hawk and are indeed closely related. As osprey’s food is nearly entirely fish, you’ll only notice this raptor if you are near water. They can grip forward or backward with their outer toe. This modification enables them to have a far better hold on the slippery fish they capture.
You can see them throughout the state during spring and fall migration, but they aren’t as common in Nevada as other states. They can also be found around Lake Tahoe and the Carson City region, where they breed. Look for them near lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and marshes, where there are shallow fish-filled waters.
They’re readily identifiable from hawks due to their coloring. Their beak is very hooked and they have a white head with a large dark brown stripe over each eye. They have a pure white underparts with a dark brown back and wings. The underside of their wings has a dark brown patch at the “wrist,” which appears speckled while flying.
Ospreys use human-built platforms as well as treetops and cliffs to build their nests. To help conserve the osprey, several states have erected osprey platforms along rivers and lakes.