Types Of Hawks In Minnesota (Complete Guide)

Nicknamed the Land of 10,000 Lakes (11,842 to be exact), Minnesota is the ideal breeding and nesting ground for hawks. With a diverse habitat comprised of forests, open landscape, and aquatic areas, hawks have plenty of space to soar and zero in on their prey on the ground floor. While most hawks move around the state, they can be observed throughout the year. If you are in search of a specific species, you must understand, what hawks can be found in Minnesota?

10 hawk species can be observed in the Land of 10,000 Lakes including the Broad-Winged hawk, the Red-Tailed hawk, the Ferruginous hawk, Cooper’s hawk, the Northern Goshawk, the Rough-Legged hawk, the Northern Harrier, the Red-Shouldered hawk, the Sharp-Shinned hawk, and Swainson’s Hawk. Generally, each hawk prefers to live in or near wide open spaces which makes hunting easier and more efficient.

Keep reading to learn more about the 10 hawk species in Minnesota!

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The list of hawks below has been compiled from historical sighting reports from various sources. Whilst some of the birds listed are uncommon and hard to spot, we've still included them as they are sometimes seen still in Minnesota.

Broad-Winged Hawk

Buteo platypterus

Broad winged hawk

Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad winged hawk in flight

Broad-Winged Hawk in flight

Broad winged hawk juveniles

Broad-Winged Hawk Juveniles

Broad winged hawk 1

Broad-Winged Hawk perched on branch

Length:

34cm to 44cm

Wingspan:

81cm to 100cm

Weight:

265g to 560g

Seen :

April to mid-October

Broad-Winged Hawk

The Broad-Winged hawk is a medium-sized species that are sturdy and short so they can easily adapt to forests. Their plumage features reddish-brown feathers and black and white bars on their tails.

These birds spend most of their time sitting on forest canopies away from humans. You can hear their piercing whistle call through the summer, and they migrate to the southern part of the state in September, but they can be observed from April to mid-October. The Broad-Winged hawk sits on tree limbs waiting to dive and catch a small mammal, toad, or frog.

Cooper’s Hawk

Accipiter cooperii

Coopers hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Coopers hawk feeding in flight

Cooper’s Hawk in flight

Coopers hawk feeding on prey

Cooper’s Hawk eating prey

Juvenile coopers hawks perched

Juvenile Cooper’s Hawks perched in tree

Length:

39cm to 45cm

Wingspan:

62cm to 99cm

Weight:

215g to 701g

Seen :

All year

Cooper’s Hawk

Considered medium-sized hawks in Minnesota, Cooper’s Hawk is smaller than a crow and the females are significantly larger than the males. Visually, this hawk resembles the Sharp-Shinned hawk with a blue-gray appearance, steel blue feathers on their wings and back, brown striped underbellies, rufous chest, and small black cap. The difference between the two species is their size.

You can observe Cooper’s Hawk at the edge of fields and in backyards, leafy forests, and woodlands throughout the year. The best time to see them is in October when they start migrating around the state. These hawks like to munch on small mammals and other birds like flickers, jays, and robins.

Ferruginous Hawk

Buteo regalis

Ferruginous hawk

Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous hawk with spread wings

Ferruginous Hawk standing on a branch with wings spread

Ferruginous hawk close up

Close up of a Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous hawk in flight

Ferruginous Hawk in flight

Length:

56cm to 69cm

Wingspan:

122cm to 152cm

Weight:

977g to 2.074kg

Seen :

Rare, but between May and October

Ferruginous Hawk

Featuring broad pointed-tip wings and a large head appearance while flying, the Ferruginous or Light Morph hawk has rusty feathered legs, a whitetail, and a white belly. Rarer Dark Morph hawks are deep rufous chocolate with white bases to their feathers that form white outer wing panels. Their size falls between a crow and a goose.

You can find this hawk species along woodland edges, in scrubland, brush, grasslands, and generally open spaces. While it is rare to see them in Minnesota, you could catch a glimpse between May and October. Their diet includes mostly small to mid-sized mammals like young jackrabbits, squirrels, gophers, rats, and mice, as well as large insects, snakes, and birds.

Northern Goshawk

Accipiter gentilis

Northern goshawk

Northern Goshawk

Juvenile northern goshawk

Juvenile Northern Goshawk

Northern goshawk in flight

Northern Goshawk in flight

Female northern goshawk

Female Northern Goshawk

Length:

55cm to 61cm

Wingspan:

98cm to 115cm

Weight:

631g to 1.364kg

Seen :

All year, but most common in Winter

Northern Goshawk

As a large hawk species, the Northern Goshawk is close to a goose size and like the Red-Tailed hawk. Like many other hawk species, the female tends to be larger than the male. Featuring deep red eyes and a dark-colored head, the Northern Goshawk cannot be mistaken for other species. The typical adult boasts a white-bluish or light grey underbelly with slate-grey wings. These raptors are well-versed in protecting their nests and juveniles from trespassers and have been known to attack people who get too close. That means it is best to observe these magnificent birds from afar.

While these birds can be observed year-round, the best time to see them is in late fall throughout the winter where they migrate from their breeding site. Like most other hawks, their diet consists of small mammals, rodents, snakes, insects, and medium-sized birds.

Northern Harrier

Circus hudsonius

Northern harrier

Northern Harrier

Adult female northern harrier

Adult female Northern Harrier in flight

Northern harrier perched

Northern Harrier perched on branch

Northern harrier flying low

Northern Harrier flying low in search of prey

Length:

41cm to 52cm

Wingspan:

97cm to 122cm

Weight:

290g to 750g

Seen :

All year, but most common from March to mid-November

Northern Harrier

With a whitetail spot, owlish face, and V-shape when flying, the Northern Harrier hawk is easily identifiable. In short, these are some of the most majestic of all bird species. You can find these beautiful birds in northern and central Minnesota during breeding periods and in the southwestern part of the state year-round.

You will likely see this species flying around marshes, fields, and over other broad open areas in search of small mammals. Other hawks use razor-sharp vision to catch prey, but the Northern Harrier utilizes their sense of hearing.

Red-Shouldered Hawk

Buteo lineatus

Red shouldered hawk

Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red shouldered hawk close up

Close up of a Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red shouldered hawk in flight

Red-Shouldered Hawk in flight

Red shouldered hawk perched on branch

Red-Shouldered Hawk perched in a tree

Length:

43cm to 61cm

Wingspan:

90cm to 127cm

Weight:

550g to 700g

Seen :

All year, but most common from March to October

Red-Shouldered Hawk

The Red-Shouldered hawk falls in the large Minnesota (and world) hawk group. With distinctive markings, these hawks have red shoulders, that can easily be identified when perched, dark brown and white patterned wings, white feathers on their bellies, a strongly banded tail, and a striped rufous chest. Red-Shouldered hawks are mostly found in forests with open canopies to make hunting more efficient. Their nests are in woodlands that sit at the edge of rivers and swamps. The greatest threat to this species is forest clearance by man.

Although this hawk is in Minnesota year-round, the best time to see them is March to October, specifically late October. This hawk species preys on small mammals but have been known to eat lizards, snakes, and amphibians.

Red-Tailed Hawk

Buteo jamaicensis

Red tailed hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk

Close up of red tailed hawk

Close up of a Red-Tailed Hawk

Red tailed hawk in flight

Red-Tailed Hawk in flight

Juvenile red tailed hawk

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk in flight

Length:

45cm to 65cm

Wingspan:

100cm to 150cm

Weight:

690g to 1.46kg

Seen :

All year

Red-Tailed Hawk

The most common hawk species in Minnesota is the Red-Tailed Hawk. With approximately 2 million nests, this is one of the most common U.S. hawks and the second large in North America. Per the name, these hawks feature red tails and have white feathered bellies with plumage colors ranging from white to almost black. You can spot them in the early morning and throughout the day soaring high in the sky searching for prey.

Red-Tailed hawks are in all habitats across Minnesota, from suburbs to cities, atop tree lines, in parks, roadsides, fields, woodlands, and forests. Their most common nesting location is in Central Minnesota and can be viewed year-round. Their diet varies and includes reptiles, birds, and small mammals.

Rough-Legged Hawk

Buteo lagopus

Rough legged hawk

Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough legged hawk flying low

Rough-Legged Hawk flying low looking for prey

Rough legged hawk close up

Close up of a Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough legged hawk in flight

Rough-Legged Hawk in flight

Length:

45cm to 63cm

Wingspan:

120cm to 153cm

Weight:

600g to 1.66kg

Seen :

September to June

Rough-Legged Hawk

The medium-sized Rough-Legged hawk features a vibrant feather pattern that is distinct and beautiful during flight. They have pale tails and heads with dark feathers on their bellies. True to its name, these birds have feather-covered feet that keep them warm in the colder habitats. They can be difficult to spot since they breed and live in the Arctic tundra during the summer so the best time to see them is from September to June.

Search open spaces like grasslands and cliffsides during these months to get the best view of their daily life. They utilize sticks and animal bones to create cliffside nests. Their diet is reliant on small rodents like mice, shrews, and voles.

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Accipiter striatus

Sharp shinned hawk

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Female sharp shinned hawk

Female Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Immature sharp shinned hawk

Immature Sharp-Shinned Hawk perched on a branch

Sharp shinned hawk close up

Close up of a Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Sharp shinned hawk in flight

Sharp-Shinned Hawk in flight

Length:

24cm to 34cm

Wingspan:

53cm to 65cm

Weight:

87g to 218g

Seen :

All year

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

The Sharp-Shinned hawk is the smallest in the United States, with the females being one-third larger than the males. Despite their small size, these raptors are acrobatic and athletic. You can identify them by their slate-colored feathers across their backs and wings and orange feathers on the upper chest that fades into the belly.

Sharp-Shinned hawks are usually found in densely forested areas where they build nests on low-exposed trees. These birds prey on other birds so you may see them patiently waiting near local bird feeders to hunt songbirds. While these birds can be observed all year round, you will see the most during the winter migration season.

Swainson’s Hawk

Buteo swainsoni

Swainsons hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

Swainsons hawk close up

Close up of a Swainson’s Hawk

Swainsons hawk perched on post

Swainson’s Hawk perched on a post

Swainsons hawk in flight

Swainson’s Hawk in flight

Length:

48cm to 56cm

Wingspan:

117cm to 137cm

Weight:

937g to 1.367kg

Seen :

April to mid-October

Swainson’s Hawk

Primarily located in southern and western Minnesota, Swainson’s Hawk can easily be spotted perching telephone posts, soaring above the tree line, or hanging out on fence posts and in open fields. They are migratory birds so the best chance to see them is from April to mid-October when they commute to and from breeding spots.

This species migrates in flocks called “kettles” and can be identified by their short tails, long wings, reddish-brown chests, brown and grey feathers, and light underbellies. They prefer to dine on small reptiles and mammals in the early summer and large insects during the other seasons.

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