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Hawks in Colorado: 13 Types to Look Out For

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There are 13 types of hawks in Colorado: Zone-Tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Variable Hawk, Broad-Winged Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Common Black Hawk, Northern Harrier, Swainson’s Hawk, Red-Tailed Hawk, Red-Shouldered Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, and Sharp-Shinned Hawk.

If you love animals, you’ll enjoy getting to know the hawks of Colorado. 

This post will give you a quick look at these amazing raptors found throughout the state. From their physical features and habits to where they can be found and what they eat, we’ll cover it all.

Are There Hawks in Colorado?

Hawks are quite common in the state of Colorado. There are several species of hawk that call Colorado home, and they can be found in a variety of habitats throughout the state.

List of Hawks in Colorado

There are 13 species of hawks that can be found in Colorado, depending on the time of year and location. Some of the common hawks include the red-tailed hawk, Cooper’s hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, and ferruginous hawk.

 Let’s take a closer look at them:

  1. Zone-Tailed Hawk
  2. Rough-Legged Hawk
  3. Variable Hawk
  4. Broad-Winged Hawk
  5. Northern Goshawk
  6. Common Black Hawk
  7. Northern Harrier
  8. Swainson’s Hawk
  9. Red-Tailed Hawk
  10. Red-Shouldered Hawk
  11. Cooper’s Hawk
  12. Ferruginous Hawk
  13. Sharp-Shinned Hawk

1. Zone-Tailed Hawk

Zone-Tailed Hawk
Image Source
Scientific NameButeo albonotatus
Size45- 56 cm
Weight1.34- 2.07 lbs
Lifespan10- 12 years

The zone-tailed hawk is a large hawk native to the southwestern United States and Mexico. It is one of the most common hawks in Colorado, where it can be found in a variety of habitats including grasslands, forests, and urban areas. 

The zone-tailed hawk is a raptor, which means that it is a predator that hunts other animals for food.

They are easily distinguished from other hawks by the tail, which has wide, dark bands across it. The hawk’s back is grayish-brown, and its belly is white with dark streaks. 

With a wingspan of approximately three feet, it is neither the biggest nor the smallest species.

The zone-tailed hawk is monogamous, meaning that it mates for life. The hawk typically nests in trees, and the female will lay a clutch of two to four eggs. Both parents help incubate the eggs and care for the young hawks until they are old enough to fend for themselves.[1]

2. Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough-Legged Hawk
Scientific NameButeo lagopus
Size46- 59 cm
Weight2.16 lbs
Lifespan15 years

The Rough-Legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus) is a large hawk of the family Accipitridae. It breeds in northern parts of North America, Europe, and Asia. 

The name “rough-legged” refers to the feathering on its legs down to its toes.

The Rough-Legged Hawk has two color morphs, light and dark. The light morph is pale overall, with a light brown back and white underparts. The dark morph is much darker, with a chocolate brown back and dark gray underparts. 

Both morphs have a streaked breast, yellow eyes, and black wingtips.

3. Variable Hawk

Variable Hawk
Image Source
Scientific NameGeranoaetus polyosoma
Size45-62 cm
Weight1.80 4 lbs
Lifespan16 or more years

The Variable Hawk is another one of the most common hawks found in Colorado. As the name suggests, this hawk can be variable in appearance, with males and females often looking quite different.

Males are typically gray above and white below, with a streaked breast and barred tail. Females are usually brown above and whitish below, with heavy streaking on the breast and barred tail. 

Both sexes have a black “cap” on their head.

If you’re lucky enough to see a Variable Hawk up close, you may notice that its eyes are yellow with a black “eyeliner” around them. 

These hawks can reach up to 19 inches in length and have a wingspan of up to 4 feet.

4. Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad-Winged Hawk
Scientific NameButeo platypterus
Size34- 44 cm
Weight.99 lbs
Lifespan12 years

The Broad-Winged Hawk is a medium sized hawk that is found throughout North America. In Colorado, they are most commonly seen in the western part of the state. 

These hawks are known for their broad wings and short tails. They are also very vocal, making a loud “keee-aaaaw” sound.

Broad-Winged Hawks are mostly brown with some white on their chests[2]. Their wings are dark with white bars. 

Males and females look similar, but males are slightly larger. Juvenile birds have more streaks on their breast and belly.

5. Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawks
Scientific NameAccipiter gentilis
Size55- 61 cm
Weight1.39- 3.09 lbs
Lifespan6 years

The Northern Goshawk is a large hawk found in North America. It is the heaviest and largest member of the genus Accipiter, which also includes other medium to small hawks such as Cooper’s Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk.

The Northern Goshawk is also sexually dimorphic, with the female being larger than the male, but both sexes have similar plumage. 

As an apex predator, this hawk is one of the most skilled hunters in the avian world.

6. Common Black Hawk

Common Black Hawk
Scientific NameButeogallus anthracinus
Size53 cm
Weight1.85 lbs
Lifespan13.5 years

The Common Black Hawk is one of the largest hawks in North America, with a wingspan of up to four feet. It is a dark-colored hawk, with black plumage and a white chest. 

The Common Black Hawk prefers open habitats such as desert, grassland, and prairie. It is a highly adaptable bird, and can also be found in urban areas such as parks and golf courses. 

It is not considered to be a threatened species, but its numbers have declined in recent years due to habitat loss and human disturbance.

7. Northern Harrier

northern harrier hawk
Scientific NameCircus cyaneus
Size41-50 cm
Weight0.86 lbs
Lifespan12 years

The Northern Harrier is found in Colorado. This raptor is also known as the marsh hawk or the field hawk. It is a medium-sized hawk with long wings and a long tail. 

They are most often seen flying low over fields, meadows, and marshes in search of small rodents and other prey.

This hawk has a number of unique features that help it to survive in its habitat. For example, the Northern Harrier has excellent hearing, which allows it to locate its prey even when it is hidden under snow or grass. 

The Northern Harrier also has sharp eyesight and can see in low light conditions.

8. Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk
Scientific NameButeo swainsoni
Size43-56 cm
Weight1.8- 2.5 lbs
Lifespan16- 24 years

The Swainson’s hawk (Buteo swainsoni) is a medium-sized hawk of the family Accipitridae. 

It was first described by French naturalist François Levaillant in 1809. The eponym for the species, William Swainson, was an English ornithologist and draughtsman.

Swainson’s hawk breeds in western North America, from southern Canada to northern Mexico. It is migratory, wintering primarily in Argentina, Uruguay, and southern Brazil. 

A small number also spend the winter in the southwestern United States.

9. Red-Tailed Hawk

Red tailed hawk
Scientific NameButeo Jamaicensis
Size45-65 cm
Weight2.43 lbs
Lifespan10-15 years

The Red-tailed Hawk is a large bird of prey, common to North America. The hawk is found in a variety of habitats but prefers open areas such as fields or prairies. 

As an adaptable species, they are even found in urban areas.

The Red-tailed Hawk gets its name from its distinctive red tail feathers[3]. The hawk also has a white chest with dark streaks running down it. The rest of the body is mostly brown with some white on the underside. 

Male and female Red-tailed Hawks look very similar, although the male is usually slightly larger than the female.

10. Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-Shouldered Hawk
Scientific NameButeo lineatus
Size43- 61 cm
Weight1.34 lbs
Lifespan10-20 years

The Red-Shouldered Hawk is a medium-sized hawk that is common in Colorado. It has a reddish breast and shoulders, with barred underparts. 

It is found in wooded areas, hunting for small mammals and reptiles.

The Red-Shouldered Hawk is a member of the Buteo genus of hawks, which includes other common species such as the Red-tailed Hawk and the Rough-legged Hawk. 

Hawks in this genus are typically large-bodied birds with broad wingspans. They are skilled hunters that use their powerful talons to grip and kill their prey.

11. Cooper’s Hawk

coopers hawk screeching
Scientific NameAccipiter cooperii
Size35- 50 cm
Weight1.17 lbs
Lifespan12 years

The Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii) is a medium-sized hawk native to North America. As a member of the genus Accipiter, it is considered a true hawk. 

This hawk specializes in preying on other birds and is particularly fond of doves and pigeons. It hunts by stealth, approaching its victim from behind, striking with powerful talons.

The Cooper’s hawk is a member of the family Accipitridae, which includes all the diurnal birds of prey, such as eagles, hawks, and kites. It is also part of the genus Accipiter, which contains most of the world’s typical hawks.

12. Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk
Scientific NameButeo regalis
Size50.8 cm to 63.5 cm
Weight3.30 lbs
Lifespan20 years

The Ferruginous Hawk is the largest hawk in North America and lives in Colorado, among other states. It has a wingspan of up to four feet, and its body is covered in rusty brown feathers. 

The Ferruginous Hawk preys on small mammals and birds, and it nests in trees or on cliffs.

It is an important part of the ecosystem in Colorado, and it is protected by the state. If you see a Ferruginous Hawk, report it to the nearest wildlife office.

13. Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Scientific NameAccipiter striatus
Size23-37 cm
Weight0.18 to 0.49 lbs
Lifespan5 or more years

The Sharp-Shinned Hawk is a year-round resident of Colorado. It nests in trees, often near the edge of forests. The nest is made of twigs and lined with leaves and grass. 

The female hawk lays 3-5 eggs, which hatch in about 3 weeks. The young hawks fledge (leave the nest) at about 6 weeks old. It is a small hawk, with a body length of 9-13 inches and a wingspan of 16-24 inches. 

The back and upper wings are blue-gray, and the underparts are pale with streaks of brown. The tail is short and square, with a black band at the tip. The eyes are dark and the cere (the fleshy area around the base of the beak) is yellow.

Hawks in Colorado Depending on Season

Depending on the season, different types of hawks can be found in Colorado. 

In the spring and summer, you might see Cooper’s hawks, red-tailed hawks, and sharp-shinned hawks. 

But in the fall and winter, you’re more likely to see rough-legged hawks and golden eagles. 

Hawks in Colorado During Summer

Hawks in Colorado During Summer

For bird enthusiasts, summer means getting to watch different species of birds migrating through their area. One group of birds that can be spotted in Colorado during the summer months are hawks.

There are several different types of hawks that live in or migrate through Colorado, including the Cooper’s hawk, red-tailed hawk, and sharp-shinned hawk. 

Hawks in Colorado During Fall

There are several species of hawk that can be found in Colorado during autumn, including the red-tailed hawk, the rough-legged hawk, and the Cooper’s hawk.

While most people think of these hawks as summer residents, some species prefer to spend the fall and winter in Colorado.

There are many reasons why hawks stay in Colorado during the cold months. One is the abundance of food. Another reason is the lack of predators. 

Hawks in Colorado During Winter

It’s not unusual to see hawks in Colorado during the winter. Many species of hawks live there year-round. While you’re unlikely to see them flying around in the snow, there are still places to find them if you know where to look.

One of the best places to see hawks in Colorado during the winter is the Rocky Mountain National Park. The park is home to a variety of different hawk species, including the red-tailed hawk, Cooper’s hawk, and the sharp-shinned hawk. 

In addition to seeing these birds in their natural habitat, you can also get up close and personal with them at the park’s Hawk Watch program.

Hawks in Colorado During Spring

Spring and Autumn are a special treat for bird watchers. These large birds of prey migrate through the state in huge numbers, making for spectacular viewing opportunities.

There are several species of hawk that can be seen in Colorado during the migration season, including the red-tailed hawk, Cooper’s hawk, and sharp-shinned hawk. 

The best time to see them is typically in the early morning or late evening when they are actively hunting.

Where Do Hawks Live in Colorado?

Hawks are aerial predators that have broad shoulders and long tails. They live in various habitats including forests, grasslands, and urban areas. In Colorado, the most common hawk species are Cooper’s hawk, red-tailed hawk, and sharp-shinned hawk.

Cooper’s hawks can be found in woodlands and suburbs across Colorado. These hawks hunt small birds and mammals, so they are often seen near bird feeders. 

Red-tailed hawks are the most common hawk in North America and can be found in open fields and along roadsides throughout Colorado. These hawks typically eat rodents, but will also eat reptiles, rabbits, and even larger birds. 

Sharp-shinned hawks are the smallest hawk species in North America and are found in wooded areas across Colorado. These hawks hunt small birds, so they are often seen near bird feeders as well.

Hawks are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which makes it illegal to kill, capture, or possess them without a permit. If you see a hawk in Colorado, you can report it to the Division of Wildlife.

Hawks In Other States

About Kaitlin Mullins

Birds are plenty, and they can be hard to keep track of. Thankfully, Katilin Mullins has taken charge of these. With plenty of free time spent bird watching, she’s a true expert on these intriguing animals.

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