8 Hawks In Tennessee (With Photos)

Hawks are a type of meat-eating hunting bird that belongs to the class of birds-of-prey. They are fantastic predators due to their acute hearing, vision, razor-sharp beak and talons. Throughout the United States, 16 distinct species of hawks may be found. Nonetheless, in this piece, we’ll talk about the eight types of hawks that reside in Tennessee.


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 species of hawks that may be encountered in Tennessee.

Let’s go at them one by one.


Scientific nameButeo platypterus

Length: 13.4-17.3 in

Weight: 9.3-19.8 oz

Wingspan: 31.9-39.4 in

Only during the spring-summer breeding season do broad-winged hawks migrate north into Tennessee. The head and breast of these smaller hawks are brown, with barred underparts and black and white stripes on the tail. Their small tail with large wings with pointed ends can be seen in the air.

During the breeding season, these hawks prefer to be alone. Far from humans, they will nest in woodlands and near bodies of water. Little mammals, insects, and amphibians like frogs and toads make up their diet.

Your greatest opportunity to see the broad-winged hawk is during their fall migration back to South America. Thousands of birds circle in the sky in flocks known as “kettles.” You may see them in the woods if you aren’t in their migration path. Listen for their shrill whistles and you’ll be able to locate them.


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 seen all throughout North America, with the exception of Tennessee, where they live permanently. Adults have a red eye, a squared-off head with black cap, and a bluish-gray back with heavy orange barring on the chest. The eye of immatures is yellow, the back and head are brown, and the underparts are white with extensive brown streaks.

Forests and woodlands are their natural habitats, however they seem to thrive in the suburbs as well. Little birds are the main source of food for these clever hunters in the tree canopy. The Cooper’s hawk is a common sight in backyards, where it has been seen eating birds on a bird feeder, particularly starlings, doves, and pigeons.

Studies of Cooper’s hawk skeletons show that many of them had broken bones in their chest, and Cooper’s hawks frequently crash through trees and foliage on a high-speed chase after birds.


Scientific nameAccipiter gentilis

Length: 20.9-25.2 in

Weight: 22.3-48.1 oz

Wingspan: 40.5-46.1 in

Goshawks feature a thick stripe over each eye, a gray back, and a gray chest with an all-the-way-down belly. These are sharp-shinned and cooper’s hawk’s larger and fiercer cousins. Goshawks, on the other hand, are very quiet and prefer to stay in the woodland, avoiding human-populated regions, unlike those common in backyards.

Little hawks, birds, mammals, reptiles, and even insects and carrion make up the varied diet of the northern goshawk. These are regarded as uncommon, and their numbers are difficult to establish since they are secretive.

Throughout the non-breeding winter months in Tennessee, these hawks are uncommon, although they may be seen from time to time. When hare and grouse populations are low in their northern grounds, they migrate south of normal into the United States. Hunting for food.


Scientific nameCircus 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 in its elegance. This disc-shaped face, like that of an owl, helps sound-hunting owls hear and see better by directing sound into their ears. Their long tail and white patch above it are two helpful identifying features. They hold their wings in the form of a “V” and have a unique flying style. These birds are described as majestic by many people.

During the winter months, you’ll mostly find the northern harrier in Tennessee. They can be found in marshes, fields, and other large open regions.

This hawk creates a platform in thick vegetation, such as reeds, willows, sedges, and cattails, unlike other hawks that nest in trees. Males may have two (or more) spouses at any given time, and they will feed the female and her children.


Scientific nameButeo jamaicensis

Length: 17.7 – 25.6 in

Weight 24.3oz – 51.5 oz

Wingspan 44.9-52.4 in

The most frequent hawk found on the North American continent is the red-tailed hawk, which may be seen in practically every state, including Tennessee. During the winter, when birds that have spent the summer in Canada return to join the others in the United States, their population grows even more.

Red-tailed hawks are most active in the day or early morning, and they may frequently be found soaring or perched along the roadside on telephone poles, using their exceptional vision to seek food. Little to medium-sized animals like mice, rats, rabbits, and squirrels make up the majority of their diet. Birds and snakes are also possible sources of food.

The tail of an adult is brick red, although it is brown and white striped while youngsters. These hawks are generally light below and dark above, with a brown background. Their breast is streaked, with a band of darker brown streaks crossing their belly region being another distinguishing feature. Because of the numerous color varieties across the country, these hawks are so ubiquitous.

All raptors are represented by the red-tailed hawk’s long screech. Their cry is frequently employed as the sound for any hawk or eagle shown on film in films and television.


Scientific nameButeo lineatus

Length: 16.9-24.0 in

Weight: 17.1-27.3 oz

Wingspan: 37.0-43.7

In their range, which encompasses the eastern United States, red-shouldered hawks are common. California’s western coast and the Hawaiian Islands They may be found all year in Tennessee.

The strong red coloration on the breast, which extends all the way down their belly and has crimson barring, is a excellent identifying feature. Their back and wings are covered in dark, nearly black feathers. This will be blended with reddish feathers at the summit of their backs and shoulders (hence their name). There will be a lot of white barring mixed in with the dark feathers, which will culminate in a heavily banded tail from the mid-back down.

Before you can see this hawk, you may hear it. They emit a loud “kee-aah” call that may be repeated numerous times in a row. Some people believe it sounds like a seagull. When startled, they’ll yell to proclaim their position.

These birds prefer flooded zones and wetlands to live in and hunt in. Suburban woods are also common, especially near buildings. They’re often confused with red-tailed hawks, but once you know the differences, they’re not difficult to tell apart.


Scientific nameButeo lagopus

Length: 18.5-20.5 in

Weight: 25.2-49.4 oz

Wingspan: 52.0-54.3 in

In Tennessee, rough-legged hawks are rather uncommon, but they may be seen during the fall and winter months, particularly in the state’s western extremity. They travel all the way to the northern Arctic in order to breed when it’s time! They’ll breed on cliffs and rocky outcroppings there.

They perch on poles and fence posts in the winter, and you can find them in wide-open areas in the states. Mice, voles, and shrews are all hunted here. To get a hover-in-place view they may utilize to inspect the ground below them, rough-legged hawks are said to turn into the wind and flap their wings.

The feathers on a rough-legged hawk’s legs give it its name. Feathers that extend all the way down a bird’s legs are rare in the United States. The majority are dark brown with white speckles, and they have a deep black belly patch. When the wrist is against a light backdrop, you may see a black patch in the air. A dark-morph with a two-toned appearance appears almost black and looks like a dark brown.


Scientific nameAccipiter 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, stays in Tennessee all year. Little birds and rodents are prey for these hawks, who pursue them through the woods.

They hide in woods with thick canopy while nesting, making them difficult to detect. They’ll go hunting for birds at feeders in people’s backyards on occasion. During fall migration, however, is when you’ll have the best chance of seeing them. They head south towards the United States. They may be seen in large numbers at hawk watch sites from their summer range in Canada.

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