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10 Types of Hawks in Iowa (Species & Where to Find Them)

The 10 hawks that live in Iowa are northern goshawks, rough-legged hawks, Swainson’s hawks, red-shouldered hawks, broad-winged hawks, Cooper’s hawks, northern harriers, red-tailed hawks, ferruginous hawks, and sharp-shinned hawks.

Iowa is home to many forest animals, including bobcats, coyotes, foxes, and hawks. But what types of hawks live there? And where can you find them?

In this blog post, we’ll provide you with facts about these birds of prey and tell you where you can see them in action. 

Are There Hawks in Iowa?

Yes, there are hawks in Iowa. While the state is not home to as many different species of hawks as some others, there are still ten different species found here. The most common type of hawk in Iowa is the Cooper’s Hawk, which is a medium-sized bird of prey. 

Hawks are commonly found in wooded areas across Iowa. They live here as many hawks hunt small mammals like rodents.

Hawks are predators that play an important role in the ecosystem. Bird enthusiasts also enjoy watching them, especially during migration.

10 Types of Hawks in Iowa

Some of the more common hawks in Iowa include the red-tailed hawk, Cooper’s hawk, and the sharp-shinned hawk. But, there are many more.

Here are the hawks found in Iowa:

  • Northern Goshawk
  • Rough-legged Hawk
  • Swainson’s Hawk
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Broad-winged Hawk
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Northern Harrier
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Ferruginous Hawk
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk

1. Northern Goshawk

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

The Northern Goshawk is a large hawk with a long tail and broad wings. Adults have blue-gray upper parts and rusty-colored underparts[1]

The head is gray with a white “eyebrow” stripe over the eye, and the cere (area around the base of the bill) is yellow. Juveniles are brown above with streaked rusty-brown underparts. 

The Northern Goshawk is found in wooded areas across much of North America, from Alaska and Canada south to Mexico. 

In Iowa, it is found primarily in the northern part of the state.

2. Rough-legged Hawk

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

The Rough-legged Hawk is a hawk found in the northern United States and Canada. It is also known as the Rough-legg’d Buzzard in Europe, where it is an occasional visitor. 

The Rough-legged Hawk breeds on tundra and taiga habitats in the Arctic regions of North America and Eurasia. It is a migrant, spending the winter in southern Canada, the northern United States, and Europe.

This species is a large hawk, with a body length of 22 to 24 inches (56 to 61 cm) and a wingspan of 52 to 60 inches (132 to 152 cm). 

It is dark brown above and white below, with a streaked breast and barred flanks. The legs are feathered to the toes, and the tail is long and rounded. 

The name “Rough-legged” refers to these feathers, which give the appearance of being scaly.

3. 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 large hawk found throughout North and South America. In Iowa, it is a rare but regular summer breeder, with most nesting in the northwest and northeast corners of the state. 

This species was named after British naturalist William Swainson.

The Swainson’s hawk is a large bird, with a body length of 18 to 21 inches and a wingspan of 48 to 60 inches[2]. The plumage is variable, but most birds are dark brown above and light-colored below, with stripes on the breast. 

The tail is long and rounded, with a black band at the tip.

This species hunts from the air, using its keen eyesight to spot prey from a distance. They typically nest in trees, often near water. The female lays 3 to 5 eggs, which hatch after about a month.

4. Red-shouldered Hawk

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

(Buteo lineatus) is a medium-sized hawk that breeds throughout much of eastern North America, from Colorado and Texas east to Nova Scotia and south to Florida. 

There are fourteen recognized subspecies, which vary somewhat in appearance and range. It generally prefers wooded habitats near water, often catching prey from a perch on a tree branch.

Adults have reddish-brown upperparts with gray on the shoulders and white underparts with barring; they have a wingspan of around 85 cm (33 in). The face is pale with black streaks, and the hooked bill is dark. 

The immature hawk is brown above with light streaking and buff underparts.

5. Broad-winged Hawk

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

The Broad-winged Hawk is a small hawk of the genus Buteo. Adults have short, broad wings and relatively long tails. 

The upper parts are grayish brown with rusty streaks on the back and sides. Their breast is heavily streaked, while the belly and under tail coverts are light with dark bars. The head is brown with a white throat and eyebrow. The legs are yellow with black talons.

The Broad-winged Hawk is one of the most common hawks in Iowa. It is found in wooded areas throughout the state. 

This hawk is most active during the day, but it may also hunt at dawn and dusk. The best time to look for this hawk is during the breeding season, from April to July.

6. Cooper’s Hawk

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

The Cooper’s Hawk is one of the most common hawks in Iowa. It is a medium-sized hawk with a round head and long tail. The back is brown with black streaks and the belly is white with dark streaks. 

This hawk hunts by perching in a tree and watching for prey below. It then swoops down and grabs the prey with its talons. Cooper’s Hawks eat mostly small birds, but they will also eat rodents, reptiles, and insects.

The Cooper’s Hawk is a year-round resident of Iowa. It nests in trees and lays 3-5 eggs per clutch. The female does most of the incubation, but the male brings her food while she is on the nest. 

Young hawks fledge (leave the nest) after about 6 weeks.

7. Northern Harrier

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

The Northern Harrier, also known as the Marsh Hawk in North America, is a medium-sized raptor with long wings and a long tail. This hawk breeds throughout much of the northern hemisphere in marshes, meadows, and tundra. 

The female is larger than the male and can reach up to 19 inches in length with a wingspan of up to 42 inches.[3] The male is smaller, averaging 16 inches in length with a wingspan of up to 35 inches. 

Both sexes have a white underside with rust-colored feathers on the back and wings. 

The Northern Harrier is one of the most widespread hawks in North America and is found in all Canadian provinces and territories except Nunavut. In the United States, it is found in all states except Hawaii.

8. Red-tailed Hawk

Red tailed hawk solo
Scientific NameButeo jamaicensis
Size45-65 cm
Weight2.4 lbs
Lifespan10-20 years

Red-tailed Hawks are the most common hawk in Iowa. They can be found in nearly every county and are a year-round resident. 

These birds of prey nest in trees, often near the edge of a forest. The nest is made of sticks and twigs, and is usually lined with leaves.

The Red-tailed Hawk is a large bird, with a body length of 18 to 26 inches and a wingspan of 3.5 to 4.5 feet. 

The tail is reddish-brown, hence the name, and the wings and back are grayish-brown. The underside of the tail is white with dark bars. The head is large and round with a yellow beak, yellow eyes, and a black “cap” on top. 

Females are slightly larger than males.

Red-tailed Hawks are generally found in open areas, such as fields and prairies. They nest in trees, often near the edge of a forest. The nest is made of sticks and twigs and is usually lined with leaves.

9. Ferruginous Hawk

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

The Ferruginous Hawk is a large hawk that is native to North America. It is one of the most widespread hawks in the western United States, and is found in Iowa. 

The Ferruginous Hawk is a very powerful predator, and feeds on small mammals and birds.

This hawk has very keen eyesight, able to spot its prey from great distances. It is an important part of the ecosystem, as it helps keep populations of small mammals and birds in check.

10. 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 found in North America. This bird of prey is one of the most common hawks in Iowa, where it can be seen hunting in open areas and forest edges. 

The Sharp-shinned Hawk preys on small birds, making it a threat to backyard bird feeders.

This hawk is easily distinguished from other small hawks by its long tail and short, rounded wings. 

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a migratory species, spending the winter in the southern United States and Central America.

Hawks in Iowa Depending on Season


Hawks begin to migrate back to the state in late winter or early spring. They often breed in the state, which is also around this time of year.

Some of the most common species that are seen during the spring months include the red-tailed hawk, Cooper’s hawk, and sharp-shinned hawk.


Most hawks that reside in the state will be there during the summer. Hawks don’t do well in extreme cold or extreme heat, so many spend the summer in Iowa.


During the fall months, hawks can be seen migrating southward as the weather starts to cool off. Some hawks travel long distances to reach their wintering grounds, while others only move a short distance.


When the weather turns cold and snowy in Iowa, hawks have a few different strategies for coping. Some hawks will fluff up their feathers to stay warm. Others seek out a warm spot to perch, like the sun-drenched side of a building. 

Some hawks migrate to south America or southern states for the winter months.

Where Do Hawks Live in Iowa?

In Iowa, hawks can be found in wooded areas such as forests and parks. They also live near open spaces like fields or wetlands. These habitats provide a good place to hunt for prey.

Where Do Hawks Nest in Iowa?

Hawks typically nest in trees, but can also nest on cliffs or in human-made structures such as buildings or bridges.

This does vary depending on the species.

The Cooper’s hawk nests in wooded areas, while the sharp-shinned hawk nests in dense forests. Broad-winged hawks are found nesting near wetlands.

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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