The family of hunting birds known as birds-of-prey includes hawks. Everything from their acute hearing and vision to their razor-sharp beak and talons contributes to their abilities as predators. Throughout the United States, there are around 16 different kinds of hawks. However, we’ll look at the eight kinds of hawks found in Washington in this article, as well as one more hawk-like bird.
8 HAWKS IN WASHINGTON
Cooper’s hawk, ferruginous hawk, northern goshawk, northern harrier, red-tailed hawk, rough-legged hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, and Swainson’s hawks are the eight species ofhawks that may be found in Washington.
Let’s take a look at each one.
1. 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 found from California to Washington and are common across most of North America. They may be found in the southern half of the state all year, but during the breeding season in April and May, they are only seen in the northern part of Washington. Adults feature a blue-gray back, orange chest stripes, a crimson eye, and a squared-off head with a black hat. The eye of immature birds is yellow, the back is brown, and the head and underparts are white with heavy brown streaks.
They prefer woodlands and forests, although they seem to be adaptable to suburbia as well. Little birds are their primary source of nutrition, and they catch them with ease in the tree canopy. The Cooper’s hawk is a bird that many people see in their yard, and they have been known to attack birds on a feeder, especially starlings, doves, and pigeons.
During a high-speed pursuit of birds, crashing through woods and foliage takes its toll, and Cooper’s hawk skeletons reveal that many of them had fractured bones in their chest.
2. FERRUGINOUS HAWK
Length: 22.1-27.2 in
Weight: 34.5-73.2 oz
Wingspan: 52.4-55.9 in
In the spring and summer, Ferruginous Hawks visit Washington to breed, although only in the state’s southeastern region, east of Mt. A view of Mount Rainier from the NPS. The western and northern sections of the state are mostly devoid of them. They fly high above, hunting on the ground, and prefer to dwell in open areas such as fields and plains.
The biggest of all North American hawks is this one. They were given their name because of their rusty red feathers on the back, shoulders, underwings, and legs. They have gray streaked heads with 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 are frequently joined by other hawks and birds of prey, creating a spectacle.
3. 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 across each eye and a gray back with gray barring on the chest that extends all the way down the belly. The sharp-shinned and cooper’s hawk are thought to be their larger and fiercer cousins. Goshawks, on the other hand, are quiet and prefer to stay in the woods rather than human populated places; unlike those common in backyards.
Throughout coastal Washington, Southern Goshawks may be found year-round, although the majority of the state’s population is only visible during winter. Therefore, unless you are lucky enough to spot one, they will prefer to stay in big sections of mature woodland and avoid populated areas. Humans who get too close to their nests have been known to be attacked by them. 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. Because of their secretive nature, they are considered uncommon and their population is difficult to estimate.
4. 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 nearly owl-like. Like owls, this disc-shaped face directs sound into the ears of these creatures, assisting them to hunt by both sight and hearing. Their long tail and white patch above the tail are two helpful identifying features. Their flying style is distinctive, with their wings forming a “V” shape. These birds are described as majestic by many.
Throughout the year, this hawk can be found in eastern Washington, and during the winter on the coast. Marshes, farmland, and other wide-open spaces are where you’ll most likely see them.
This hawk creates a platform in thick vegetation, such as reeds, willows, sedges, and cattails, unlike many hawks that nest in trees. Males may have two (or more) partners at the same time, and both will provide food for the female and her offspring.
5. 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 common hawk on the North American continent, red-tailed hawks live in practically every state and even Washington throughout the year.
Red-tailed hawks, with their exceptional vision and perched along the roadway on telephone poles, are most active in the day or early morning. Mice, rats, rabbits, and squirrels make up the majority of their diet. Birds and snakes are also possible prey for them.
The tail of an adult is brick-red, and it is simple to distinguish from the tail of a juvenile, which is brown and white striped. The underside is generally pale, while the upper body is dark brown. Their breast is streaked with brown, and their belly is streaked with darker brown streaks, which is another distinguishing feature. Because of the color variations across the country, these hawks are so widespread.
6. 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 around everywhere throughout Washington, particularly in the east. They go all the way to the northern Arctic when it’s time for them to migrate to their breeding grounds! They’ll build nests on cliffs and rocky outcroppings there.
They can be found in the wide-open spaces of the nation throughout the winter, perched on poles and fence posts. Mice, voles, and shrews are all found here. To get a hover-in-place view point to survey the ground below them for their prey, rough-legged hawks are known to turn into the wind and flap their wings.
7. 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 United States’ smallest hawk is the sharp-shinned hawk. They are most often seen throughout the winter along the shore and in sections of central Washington, but they live throughout the year elsewhere. These birds chase small birds and rodents around the woodland, killing them.
They glued to woodlands with thick canopy during nesting, making them difficult to locate. They’ll go out to hunt birds at feeders in people’s backyards on occasion. During the fall migration, however, is the best time to see them. They head south towards the US in search of work. They are frequently found at hawk watch sites, where they may be found in their summer range in Canada.
Sharp-shinned Hawks have crimson-orange streaking on their breasts and black bands on their tails, which has a blue-gray back. They have a more rounded head and squared-off tail than the cooper’s hawk, which makes them look similar.
8. SWAINSONS HAWK
Although they are less common along the coast, Swainson’s Hawks may be found across Washington during breeding season. During the summer, they’re common across huge swaths of open countryside. Telephone poles, wires, and quiet trees are where they’ll settle.
Kettles, which can be as big as tens of thousands of birds, are named for migrating hawks. You should check out these raptors during their migration if you’ve ever wanted to see Broad-winged hawks.
They have a white chin, a brown bib, and a white belly that is speckled with rust. They have a gray head. The brown chest and wings with black borders may be seen when the bird is seen from below.
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 a hawk, and they are genetically distinct enough to be classified as such. They are, nonetheless, closely linked. Because osprey eat nearly entirely fish, you may only see this raptor if you are near water. They have a forward/backward-grip toe on their outer toes. They have a much better grip on the slippery fish they catch as a result of this adaptation.
During the summer months, Ospreys can be found in western and northern Washington. During their spring and autumn migration, they may be seen in other parts of the state. Find them around lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and marshes if there are any nearby shallow fish-loaded waters.
Hawk colors are easily distinguished due to their vibrant hues. They have a long, hooked beak and a white head with a large dark brown stripe across each eye. They have a pure white underpart and their back and wings are a dark brown color from above. Their wings appear speckled when they’re flying, with a black brown patch at the “wrist.”