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Types of Hawks in Florida: 13 Species to Look For

There are 13 hawks in Florida, including the zone-tailed, Swainson’s, ferruginous, red-shouldered, sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, and rough-legged hawk.

Hawks are predatory birds found all over North America, and there’s a good chance you’ll see one in Florida. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the Hawks commonly found in the Sunshine State. Whether you’re an avid bird watcher or curious about these remarkable raptors, read on to learn more about Hawks in Florida.

Are There Hawks in Florida?

Yes, there are hawks in Florida. There are 13 species, including the red-tailed hawk, Cooper’s hawk, and sharp-shinned hawk. These birds of prey typically make their homes in wooded areas but are also found in urban and suburban areas.

Hawks are generally beneficial to have around, as they help to control populations of small mammals and pests. They can occasionally pose a threat to small pets or livestock. 

If you have concerns about hawks in your area, contact your local wildlife authorities for more information.

13 Types of Hawks in Florida

Florida is home to several different species of hawks at all times of the year:

  • Zone-tailed Hawk
  • Swainson’s Hawk
  • Ferruginous Hawk
  • Red-Shouldered Hawk
  • Northern Harrier
  • Sharp-Shinned Hawk
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Rough-legged Hawk
  • Northern Goshawk
  • Broad-winged Hawk
  • Great Black Hawk
  • Red-Tailed Hawk
  • Short-Tailed Hawk

Related: Hawks In North America

1. Zone-Tailed Hawk

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

One of the most common hawks in the state of Florida is the Zone-Tailed Hawk. These birds are typically found in wooded areas and are known for their distinctive tail patterns. 

The Zone-Tailed Hawk is a medium-sized bird of prey. Adults typically have a wingspan of between 3 and 4 feet. 

The body of these birds is mostly dark brown in color, with lighter bands on the tail[1]. The head of these hawks is usually white or pale gray in color.

2. Swainson’s Hawk

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

Swainson’s Hawk is a medium-sized hawk found in North and South America. It is the only member of the genus Buteo in which the tail coloration is not uniformly red or orange.

The Swainson’s Hawk breeds throughout most of western North America, from Alaska to central Mexico. It is a rare but regular breeder in the eastern United States, where it is most often seen in the Mississippi Valley and along the Gulf Coast. 

This hawk is a long-distance migrant, wintering in South America.

The Swainson’s Hawk is named for William Swainson, an English naturalist who described the bird in 1821. The scientific name of the Swainson’s Hawk is Buteo swainsoni

As a fairly large hawk, it has a wingspan of up to four feet. The back and upper wings are dark brown, while the underparts are light-colored.

3. Ferruginous Hawk

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

The Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis) is a large hawk of the genus Buteo. They are one of the only raptors that are sexually dimorphic, meaning that the males and females look different. 

Females are usually much larger than males, with a wingspan that can range from 3.2-5.5 feet.[2]

The Ferruginous Hawk is a threatened species in Florida due to habitat loss and fragmentation. They need large tracts of open land to hunt effectively. 

The conversion of grasslands to cropland and the development of suburban areas have reduced the amount of suitable habitat for Ferruginous Hawks in Florida.

4. Red-Shouldered Hawk

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

The Red-Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) is a medium-sized hawk of the family Accipitridae. 

It is native to eastern North America where it occurs throughout the southeastern United States, from Missouri and Kansas to Virginia and Florida. It ranges as far north as southern Canada and south to central Mexico.

Red-shouldered hawks are found in both deciduous and mixed forests but prefer areas with dense understory and large trees for perching and nesting. 

In these forests, Hawks hunt from a perch or by flying low through the woods, searching for prey such as lizards, snakes, mice, rabbits, and birds.

5. Northern Harrier

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

The Northern Harrier is a hawk commonly found in Florida. It is a medium-sized raptor with long wings and a slim body. The upper parts are grayish brown, while the underparts are white with dark streaks. The tail is long and black with a white tip. 

This hawk hunts by flying low over the ground and using its sharp eyesight to spot prey. It typically eats small mammals such as mice and voles.

The Northern Harrier is a protected species in Florida and is listed as threatened on the state’s Endangered and Non-game Species List.[3]

It has declined in population due to habitat loss and degradation. There are efforts in place to help protect this species and its habitat.

6. 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 small hawk that is common in Florida. It has a blue-gray back and a white breast with narrow streaks. The belly and underparts are also streaked. The tail is blue-gray with barred sides. The head has a gray cap, yellow eyes, and a black bill.

These hawks are year-round residents of Florida. In winter, they may migrate south to Central America. They hunt by perching in trees and shrubs, waiting for prey to come close. They then fly out to capture the prey with their sharp talons.

The Sharp-Shinned Hawk nests in trees, often near the edge of a forest. The nest is made of twigs and leaves and is lined with hair and feathers. The female lays 3 to 5 eggs and both parents help to raise the young.

7. 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 the North American continent and found throughout much of the United States. 

As its name suggests, this species was first described by naturalist William Cooper in 1828.

The adult Cooper’s hawk has a dark gray back with thin white stripes, and a barred tail with a white tip. The underparts are light with thick brown streaks. The head is small and round with a dark cap, and the eyes are red. 

Juveniles have similar plumage but are generally paler overall.

The Cooper’s hawk is a forest bird, typically found in wooded areas near rivers or other bodies of water. This species hunts small mammals, birds, and reptiles, stalking its prey from a hidden perch before pouncing. 

The Cooper’s hawk is also known to eat fruits, nuts, and raid bird feeders.

8. Rough-Legged Hawk

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

The Rough-Legged Hawk is a medium-sized hawk with long legs and a long tail. It has a dark brown back and wings, and a white chest with brown streaks. 

This hawk breeds in open areas in the northern United States and Canada, and winters in the southern United States, Mexico, and Central America.

It is the most common hawk in Florida, found throughout the state, except for the Florida Keys. 

The Rough-Legged Hawk is a solitary bird and is usually seen perched on a tree or power line. It nests in trees where females lay 3-5 eggs. 

It is a protected species in Florida.

9. Northern Goshawk

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

The Northern Goshawk is a species of hawk that can be found in many parts of North America, including Florida. These birds of prey are known for their striking appearance, with their dark plumage and bright yellow eyes. 

Northern Goshawks are also one of the largest species of hawk in Florida, with a wingspan that can reach up to four feet.

These hawks are found in wooded areas, where they hunt for small mammals and birds. Northern Goshawks are powerful fliers, reaching speeds of up to 60 miles per hour when pursuing their prey.

10. Broad-Winged Hawk

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

The Broad-Winged Hawk is a beautiful bird of prey found in Florida. These hawks are known for their broad wings and relatively short tails. 

The adult plumage of the Broad-Winged Hawk is a dark brown on the back with lighter brown on the underside.

It is a non-migratory bird, meaning that it stays in Florida all year round. However, these hawks do sometimes move to different areas of the state depending on the availability of food. 

The Broad-Winged Hawk is not currently considered to be endangered or threatened. However, like all bird species, they are susceptible to habitat loss and degradation.

11. Great Black Hawk

Great Black Hawk
Image Source
Scientific NameButeogallus anthracinus
Size56- 64 cm
Weight1.15 lbs
Lifespan12 years

The Great Black Hawk is a large bird, with a wingspan of up to four feet. They are black all over, with a white chest and belly.

Great Black Hawks eat mostly rodents and small reptiles, but they will also eat other birds, including chickens. These hawks are not shy around humans, and will often perch on people’s shoulders or heads. 

12. Red-Tailed Hawk

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

The red-tailed hawk is one of the most common hawks in North America. It is a large hawk, with adults measuring about 18 to 26 inches in length and weighing 24 to 48 ounces. 

The wingspan of an adult can range from 3.3 to 4.5 feet. The tail is usually red-brown with a dark band near the end, hence the name.

The head and upper parts are usually light brown with darker streaks, while the underparts are pale with dark streaking. 

Red-tailed hawks are found in a variety of habitats, including forest, woodland, prairie, and urban areas. In Florida, they are most commonly found in open woodlands and prairies.

13. Short-Tailed Hawk

Short-Tailed Hawk
Image Source
Scientific NameButeo brachyurus
Size39- 44 cm
Weight0.86- 1.15 lbs
Lifespan20 years

The Short-Tailed Hawk is a common hawk in Florida. With its short tail and broad wings, it is built for speed and agility, making it an excellent hunter. The Short-Tailed Hawk preys on small mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects.

This is a medium-sized hawk, with a body length of 16-22 inches and a wingspan of 36-44 inches. The adult hawk has a dark brown back and upper wings, with a white belly and breast. 

Their tail is short and squared off at the end, with a black band near the tip. Their head is small and round, with black caps and white facial markings. 

Juvenile birds are similar in appearance to adults but have lighter brown upper parts and streaked breasts.

Seasonality of Hawks in Florida

Hawks in Florida During Spring

There are several species of hawks that live in Florida during spring, including the red-tailed hawk, broad-winged hawk, and Cooper’s hawk. 

Hawks are attracted to Florida during this time of year because of the abundance of food.

They are found in many different habitats throughout Florida, but they are most commonly seen in open areas such as fields or along the edges of forests. These areas provide good visibility for hunting and also offer plenty of perches for the hawks to rest on.

Hawks in Florida During Summer

Hawks in Florida During Summer

As the weather heats up so does the hawk activity in Florida. These large birds of prey are commonly seen hunting for food or soaring high in the sky.

Hawks are found throughout the state of Florida during summertime. They are more likely to be seen in certain areas than others. 

For example, the Everglades is home to the largest concentration of hawks in Florida. This is likely due to the abundance of food available in this region.

Hawks in Florida During Fall

As fall approaches in Florida, so do the hawks. Many hawks migrate to the Sunshine State by the time fall comes around, making it one of the best places in the country to see them.

There are several species of hawks in Florida during fall, including the red-tailed hawk, broad-winged hawk, and Cooper’s hawk.

Hawks in Florida During Winter

Hawks are a common sight in Florida during the winter months, as Florida doesn’t get very cold at this time of year. Many leave when winter ends, returning to more northern parts of the continent.

Where Do Hawks Live?

Most hawks in the United States live east of the Rocky Mountains. In Florida, there are several species of hawks found in different habitats throughout the state. 

The most common hawk in Florida is the red-shouldered hawk, which is found in wooded areas near rivers and wetlands. 

Another common hawk is the Cooper’s hawk, which lives in urban and suburban areas.

Hawks typically mate for life and build nests in trees or on cliffs. They often use the same nest year after year.

Hawks In Other States

Hawks In Other States

Are Hawks Protected in Florida?

Yes, hawks are protected in Florida. The state has a variety of laws and regulations in place to help ensure the safety of these birds. In addition, many private organizations work to protect hawks and their habitats.

One of the most important ways that hawks are protected in Florida is through the state’s wildlife conservation laws. These laws prohibit the taking, possession, sale, or transport of hawks without a permit. 

Additionally, these laws help to protect the habitat of hawks by regulating land use and development.

Another important way that hawks are protected in Florida is through private organizations. These organizations work to conserve and protect hawks and their habitats. 

One of the most well-known of these organizations is the Audubon Society. The Audubon Society is a national organization that works to protect birds and their habitats.

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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