The family of hunting birds known as birds-of-prey includes hawks. Their keen hearing, vision, beak, and talons all come together to make them exceptional predators. Throughout the United States, there are roughly 16 kinds of hawks. However, we’ll look at the 10 different kinds of hawks in Utah, as well as one more hawk-like bird, in this article.
10 HAWKS IN UTAH
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 and zone-tailed Hawk are the 10 types of hawks that may be found in Utah.
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
In the United States, the common black hawk is uncommon. They are mostly found in Mexico, Central America, and northern South America. They do, however, cross the US-Mexico border. During the spring and summer, this is the case. Utah has been spotted in the far southwestern corner of Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Area, east of Zion National Park, despite the fact that it is not part of their normal range.
Interestingly, they have been seen wading into shallow water and flapping their wings in an attempt to herd fish into shallower water on the beach where they are easier to capture.
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 may be located anywhere in North America, with the exception of Utah, where they are permanent residents. Adults have a red eye, a squared-off head with a black cap, and a blue-gray back with heavy orange barring on the chest. The eye of immature birds is yellow, the back and head are brown, and the underparts are white with heavy brown streaks.
They prefer woodlands and forests, but seem to be quite comfortable in the suburbs as well. Little birds are their primary food source, and they pursue them with precision in the tree canopy. The Cooper’s hawk is a common sight in people’s backyards, where it has been known to pursue birds at bird feeders, particularly starlings, doves, and pigeons.
Cooper’s hawk skeletons reveal that many of them had broken bones in their chest, and crashing through trees and foliage on a high-speed chase 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
Throughout the year, in the northeast and southwest parts of Utah, and during the breeding season throughout the remainder of Utah, Ferruginous Hawks may be found. They soar above looking for tiny creatures or hunting on the ground, and they prefer to dwell in open areas such as fields and plains.
These are the biggest of all North American hawks. Their back, shoulders, underwings, and legs are covered in rusty red plumage, giving them their moniker of “ferruginous.”
The ferruginous Hawks are infamous for ambushing prairie dogs in groups of five to ten. Before striking, they perch and wait for prey to emerge from their holes. 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 chest stripe that stretches down the belly and across each eye. They are bigger and more aggressive than the sharp-shinned and cooper’s hawk, which they resemble. Goshawks, on the other hand, are fairly cautious and prefer to stay in the forest rather than fly above human-populated areas.
Little hawks, birds, animals, reptiles, and even insects and carrion are among the foods of the northern goshawk. Because of their secretive nature, they are thought to be 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 striking, almost owl-like. This disc-shaped face, which looks like an owl, directs sound into the ears of the animals so that they may both hear and see. Their long tail and white patch above the tail are two helpful identifying features. They have a distinct flying style, with their wings held in a V shape. The term “majestic” is a great description of these birds.
This hawk can be found year-round in Utah. In wide-open places such as marshes, fields, and so on, you may expect to see them.
This hawk creates a platform in dense vegetation, such as reeds, willows, sedges, and cattails, unlike many hawks that breed in trees. Males may have two (sometimes more) spouses at the same time, with both women and offspring being 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
The most frequent hawk on the North American continent is the red-tailed hawk, which can be found in practically every state throughout the year.
Red-tailed hawks are most active during the day and early morning, when they may be seen soaring or perched along the road, using their amazing sight to hunt for prey. Mice, rats, rabbits, and squirrels make up the majority of their diet. Birds and snakes are also options for them.
The tail of an adult is brick-red, and while they’re still juveniles, their tail has brown and white stripes. The below part of these hawks is light brown, while the top part is dark brown. Their breast is streaked with brown, and they may have a band of darker brown streaks across their belly region, which is another distinguishing characteristic. There are several color variations across the country because these hawks are so widespread.
The red-tailed hawk’s long call has become a symbol for all raptors, and it produces a long call. Their scream is almost always used in films and TV to represent any hawk or eagle on screen.
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 fall and winter, rough-legged hawks may be observed in Utah. They travel all the way to the northern Arctic to migrate to their breeding grounds when it’s time! They’ll build nests on cliffs and rocky prominences there.
They’ll be seen in the wide-open regions of the country during the winter, perched on poles and fence posts. Mice, voles, and shrews are all hunted here. To get a hover-in-place standpoint where they may inspect the earth beneath them for their prey, rough-legged hawks are said to turn into the wind and flap their wings.
The feathers on the legs of rough-legged hawks give them their name. Feathers that go all the way down the legs of few American raptors are present. Most are dark brown with a heavy black belly patch, and their white is heavily mottled. The dark patch on the wrist will stand out against a light backdrop while in the air. The dark-morph, which seems to be two-toned from below, is also a dark morph that appears almost black.
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
The smallest hawk in the United States, sharp-shinned hawks can be found throughout Utah all year. Little birds and rodents are prey for these hawks, which pursue them through the woods.
They hide in forests with thick canopy while nesting, making them difficult to locate. When they’re out hunting birds at feeders, they’ll occasionally visit backyards. During autumn migration, though, is the best time to see them. They go south into the United States. They are frequently seen at hawk watch sites after spending the summer in Canada’s wilds.
Sharp-shinned Hawks have a dark band on their tails and reddish-orange stripes on their backs. Their backs are blue-gray, with cream coloring. They have a more rounded skull and squared-off tail, similar to the cooper’s hawk.
9. 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 all throughout Utah. These are most likely to be seen in huge swaths of open countryside throughout the summer. Telephone poles, wires, and secluded trees will be their new perches.
The migrating hawks are known as kettles, and some of them have tens of thousands of pounds on their kettles. You should check out these raptors during their migration if you’re interested in seeing Broad-winged hawks.
As their environment has evolved throughout time, Swainson’s Hawks have adapted readily to agricultural conditions. They’re foraging in crops and fields, looking for prey.
They have a white chin, a brown bib, and a white belly with rust streaks on it. They have gray heads. The brown chest and wings, which seem to be extraordinarily long with black edges, may be seen when looked at 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
Just a few of the zone-tailed hawks make it to the United States. Throughout the spring and summer, it is located southwest. They spend the most time in Arizona and New Mexico, with some extending into southern Utah.
They enjoy hunting in desert scrub and along rivers, as well as rocky canyons and cliffs. They are known to eat a variety of birds, including quail, woodpeckers, jays, nightjars, and bluebirds and robins. In addition to small mammals and reptiles, they are known to eat them.
They resemble a turkey vulture from afar because of their wings’ arching while soaring, as well as their coloring. The huge white band on the tail, as well as a black trailing edge on their white wing feathers, can be seen more clearly when examined more closely.
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
These birds seem to be hawk-like, and they are actually closely linked, yet osprey species are genetically distinct enough to be classified as such. Ospreys are almost entirely carnivorous, so you’ll only notice this raptor if you’re near water. Their forward and backward gripping toes are located on the outside of their foot. These folks have a considerably greater hold on the slippery fish they capture as a result of this adaptation.
Throughout the summer, you may observe Ospreys in certain sections of Utah, but they are also visible throughout the state during spring and fall migration. Around lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and marshes, look for them near shallow fish-filled waters.
They’re easy to tell apart from hawks because of their coloring. Their head is white, with a wide black brown stripe across each eye and a pointed beak. They have a pure white underparts and dark brown back and wings. They have a black brown patch at the “wrist” when flying, and their undersides of their wings seem speckled.
Ospreys will construct their nests on trees or on cliffs, but may also utilize man-made platforms. To help conserve the species, several states have erected osprey platforms by rivers and lakes.