The sharp vision and expert hunting skills of hawks have earned them a reputation as magnificent birds of prey. Accipiters and buetos are the two types of birds that are most often distinguished. Thankfully, in Oklahoma, you can find both types of hawks, and we’ll discuss each of them in this article.
9 SPECIES OF HAWKS IN OKLAHOMA
Hawks may live in a variety of habitats in Oklahoma’s open grasslands, mesas, and forests. Red-tailed Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, Swainson’s Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Broad-winged Falcons, and Ferruginous Falcons are the nine types of hawks found in Oklahoma. Although not everyone lives in Oklahoma year-round, everyone spends a considerable amount of time here at some point throughout the year.
1. RED-TAILED HAWK
In Oklahoma, you may see red-tailed hawks throughout the year. These are the most common hawks in North America. They have enormous, rounded wings and a short, fan-shaped tail. They are Buteo-sized birds with classic buteo proportions. Red-tailed hawks have a creamy underpart and a darker brown upperpart, as do many other hawks. Warm, cinnamon-red feathers give their tails a pleasant appearance, which is why they are called that.
This Red-tailed Hawk was attempting to capture a squirrel when we were on a excursion, and it was really cool!
During a long automobile trip, a Red-tailed hawk may be seen swooping over median woods or fields, or perched high on light fixtures and poles. In the winter, when birds from up north come south, they are much more visible. When one is nearby, listen for their iconic raptor scream.
2. RED-SHOULDERED HAWK
Length: 16.9-24.0 in
Weight: 17.1-27.3 oz
Wingspan: 37.0-43.7 in
In the eastern part of Oklahoma, Red-shouldered Hawks may be seen at any time of year. They have beautiful red plumage on their chests and are medium-sized buteo-shaped hawks with broad, dark-brown checked wings. Their medium-length tails expand out in the air, displaying white banding. They can be identified by the translucent crescents near their wingtips.
Deciduous woods are dominated by Red-shouldered Hawks, but they may also be found around marshes and rivers. The whistle of a call is a common technique to locate this bird.
Seek out large tree forks where they nest. Sticks are used to make them, and moss and bark are often used to line them. These nests are regularly used by Red-shouldered Hawks for many seasons, making them a excellent opportunity to view one close.
3. COOPER’S HAWK
Length: 14.6-17.7 in
Weight: 7.8-24.0 oz
Wingspan: 24.4-35.4 in
As both coopers and Sharp-shinned Hawks have grey-blue plumage and reddish-orange striped underparts, they are frequently confused. The tails of both birds are also banded in dark. Cooper’s Hawks, on the other hand, are more common in Oklahoma because they spend the year here.
Keep an eye out for their characteristic flight pattern, flap, flap, glide, and check wooded regions and woods. These accipiters hunt quietly creeping up on little birds and rodents before ambushing them in a quick burst on the outskirts of these areas.
They often visit backyard bird feeders, where they take advantage of gathering robins, jays, and other birds at this size. Their fondness for little birds leads them to do so. You may want to remove the feeders for a few days and replace them when the Cooper’s Hawks have departed your property if you witness them stalking your backyard.
4. SWAINSON’S HAWK
Length: 18.9-22.1 in
Weight: 24.4-48.2 oz
Wingspan: 46-54 in
Swainson’s Hawks overwinter in South America during the autumn, while breeding populations can be found in Oklahoma throughout the spring and summer. They’re gregarious birds that are frequently seen in groups, particularly on the ground in plains and wide-open areas with plenty of insects to feast on.
The buteo form of Swainson’s Hawks has short tails and broad wings, although they are thinner than typical buteos with longer wingspans. On their backsides and wings, they have brownish-gray plumage, while on their undersides while bellies, they have bright plumage. Hawks from the Great Plains, such as Oklahoma, look darker than those from the eastern half of their range.
5. SHARP-SHINNED HAWK
Length: 9.4-13.4 in
Weight: 3.1-7.7 oz
Wingspan: 16.9-22.1 in
The chests and tails of Sharp-shinned Hawks are cream colored, with dark banding on their tails. They have lovely blue-gray plumage with light reddish-orange stripeing. During migration, they can be seen soaring high up in broad open spaces or in thick woods. During the winter, when they’re only here during the non-breeding season, be sure to check for these hawks in Oklahoma. Sharp-shinned Hawks are more commonly seen in Canada during breeding than in the United States.
Despite their small size, accipiter hawks have a fearsome reputation. They, too, are infamous for invading backyard bird feeders in search of the song birds that congregate there, much like Cooper’s Hawks. A Sharp-shinned Hawk may be the source of high-pitched distress calls and a sudden burst of birds and feathers.
6. BROAD-WINGED HAWK
Length: 13.4-17.3 in
Weight: 9.3-19.8 oz
Wingspan: 31.9-39.4 in
During the state of Oklahoma’s autumn migration, see Spot Broad-winged Hawks. During this period, tens of thousands of hawks travel to South America in wide, turbulent flocks known as “kettles.”
Broad-winged Hawks may be found in woodlands during the breeding season in minor eastern parts of the state, but they are less readily visible when they move. For a better chance of hearing one, listen for their shrill, piercing whistle.
Little raptors with enormous heads and stocky bodies, these hawks are tiny. Their heads are reddish-brown, and their breasts and underbelly are striped with cream. The small dark grey and white stripes on their tails are also narrow.
7. FERRUGINOUS HAWK
Length: 22.1-27.2 in
Weight: 34.5-73.2 oz
Wingspan: 52.4-55.9 in
Only rare non-breeding populations of Ferruginous Hawks stay in the western section of Oklahoma throughout the winter, making them difficult to see. They fly above looking for small animals or hunting on the ground, preferring to dwell in open areas such as fields and plains. To distinguish them from other hawks, look for the v-shaped wings on their wings.
Of all American hawks, these are the biggest. Their name comes from their rusty red plumage on their backs and shoulders, which has gray heads and white underparts.
Prairie dogs are ambushed by Ferruginous Hawks in groups of five to ten. Before striking, they perch and wait for prey to emerge from their holes. As the hawks begin hopping and flapping their wings, they frequently attract other hawks and birds of prey, creating a spectacle.
8. NORTHERN GOSHAWK
Length: 20.9-25.2 in
Weight: 22.3-48.1 oz
Wingspan: 40.5-46.1 in
Only during the winter after they’ve migrated do Southern Goshawks become increasingly visible in Oklahoma. Finding them is even more difficult due to their covert nature.
The heads and backsides of adults are mostly dark grey, with extremely fine barring on their lighter undersides. The idea of having eyebrows is created by thick white stripes across their bloodshot eyes.
These hawks prefer coniferous forests and woodlands, although they have been seen in hardwood deciduous woods as well. They sit high in the treetops before taking off on hunting expeditions, maneuvering through branches and foliage after little birds and animals.
9. ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK
Length: 18.5-20.5 in
Weight: 25.2-49.4 oz
Wingspan: 52.0-54.3 in
Throughout the winter, Oklahoma hosts some non-breeding Rough-legged Hawk populations. These birds spend their summer breeding season in the Arctic, where they breed. They typically fly through the wind, scouting the ground for little mammals, and prefer to colonize open areas like grasslands and fields.
While their tails are somewhat longer than other buteos, rough-legged hawks are buteos with muscular bodies and huge wings. Their lower belly is covered in dark brown mottling, while their breasts are covered in pale creamy pumage. A excellent way to identify them is by looking at the black patches on their wrists.