Types of Hawks in Oklahoma (Full Guide)

With a wide range of habitats from scrublands and cypress swamps to grass prairies, rivers, forests, and rocky mountain foothills, Oklahoma has a rich landscape that is ideal for hawk nesting, roosting, soaring, and hunting. If you are a hawk spotting enthusiast, Oklahoma is an excellent destination to begin your search. However, before booking a trip, it is important to understand, what hawks can be found in Oklahoma?

Thirteen hawk species can be found in the State of Oklahoma including the Broad-winged Hawk, Common Black Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, the Ferruginous Hawk, Harris’s Hawk, the Northern Goshawk, Northern Harrier, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, and Zone-tailed Hawk. Several of these species are year-round residents while others just come from the season.

Keep reading to find out more about the thirteen hawk species in Oklahoma.

Did you know?

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 Oklahoma.

Northern Harrier

Circus hudsonius

Northern harrier

Northern Harrier

Adult female northern harrier

Female Northern Harrier in flight

Northern harrier perched

Northern Harrier perched

Northern harrier flying low

Northern Harrier in flight

Length:

41cm to 52cm

Wingspan:

97cm to 122cm

Weight:

290g to 750g

Seen :

All year, but most common from October to April

Northern Harrier

Featuring a V-shape when flying, owlish face, and whitetail spot, the Northern Harrier is recognizable. This species is one of the most majestic of all birds and can be found year-round in Oklahoma, with the most common observation times between October and April.

You can find them in fields, marshes, and over open areas searching for small mammals to hunt. While other hawks use their eyesight to identify prey, this species uses their keen sense of hearing.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Accipiter striatus

Sharp shinned hawk close up

Close up of a Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp shinned hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp shinned hawk in flight

Sharp-shinned Hawk in flight

Female sharp shinned hawk

Female Sharp-shinned Hawk

Immature sharp shinned hawk

Immature Sharp-shinned Hawk

Length:

24cm to 34cm

Wingspan:

53cm to 65cm

Weight:

87g to 218g

Seen :

Most common between September and May

Sharp-shinned Hawk

While they are the smallest hawk species in Oklahoma, the Sharp-shinned Hawk is incredibly acrobatic and athletic. Therefore, between September and May, you can find these raptors zipping by bird feeders or through the woods in a blur of motion. If you can catch a glimpse of one sitting still, look for orange bars across their upper chest that fade into their stomachs and blue-gray wings and back. While flying, their wings are rounded and short with a long tail.

Females are significantly larger than their male counterparts. They spend time together around bird feeders because they hunt songbirds that stop by for a bite. This species is considered an ambush predator, which means they patiently wait undercover then appear at high speed to catch smaller avions, which consists of 90% of their diet.

Cooper's Hawk

Accipiter cooperii

Coopers hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Coopers hawk feeding on prey

Cooper's Hawk feeding on prey

Coopers hawk feeding in flight

Cooper's Hawk in flight

Juvenile coopers hawks perched

A pair of juvenile Cooper's Hawks perched

Length:

39cm to 45cm

Wingspan:

62cm to 99cm

Weight:

215g to 701g

Seen :

All year

Cooper's Hawk

Due to their excellent flying abilities, Cooper’s Hawk hunts songbirds, Red-winged Blackbirds, Mourning Doves, and European Starlings, and are common to bird feeders or forests where these other birds spend time together.

With a steely blue-gray appearance, little black cap, and rufous colored chest, they are similar in appearance and behavior to the Sharp-shinned Hawk, so it is common to mistake the two species. The easiest way to tell them apart is Cooper’s Hawks are larger than Sharp-shinned hawks. You can spot them in these two locations year-round.

Goshawk

Accipiter gentilis

Goshawk

Length:

48cm to 62cm

Wingspan:

135cm to 165cm

Weight:

600g to 2kg

Seen :

Rare, but winter is the most likely time

Northern Goshawk

Although uncommon to see in Oklahoma, the best time to spot a Northern Goshawk is during the winter. These are secretive birds that are difficult to see due to their camouflage plumage and their preference for living in large forests out of civilization.

This raptor features a dark-colored head paired with deep red eyes, a bluish-white to light gray belly with barring. The upper body is brown or blue-gray with specific markings. They are widespread across the state but difficult to find in cities and suburbs. The Northern Goshawk eats a variety of foods including reptiles, birds, mammals, and insects. Don’t venture too close to their nests or they will attack you!

Common Black Hawk

Buteogallus anthracinus

Common black hawk

Common Black Hawk

Common black hawk in fight

Common Black Hawk in flight

Common black hawk perched

Common Black Hawk perched on a branch

Immature common black hawk

An immature Common Black Hawk

Length:

43cm to 56cm

Wingspan:

127cm

Weight:

790g to 1.2kg

Seen :

Rare, but between May and August

Common Black Hawk

The Common Black Hawk is a rarity for Oklahoma but the best time to spot them is between May and August in woodlands near the water with plenty of small mammals to hunt.

This species is true to its name with entirely black feathers, broad wings, and a short tail with a distinctive white band. Flight feathers are paler, and you can see the long yellow base of the bill and legs. Juvenile birds are streaky brown with pale eyebrows and a dark mustache.

Harris's Hawk

Parabuteo unicinctus

Harris hawk

Harris's Hawk

Harris hawk in flight

Harris's Hawk in flight

Harris hawk close up

Close up portrait of a Harris's Hawk

Harris hawk perched

Harris's Hawk perched on a branch

Length:

46cm to 59cm

Wingspan:

103cm to 119cm

Weight:

515g to 1.63kg

Seen :

Usually between October and March

Harris's Hawk

Harris’s Hawk is best spotted between October and March in Oklahoma. They can be found in brush, river woods, and open dry country. This raptor is more sociable than most other birds of prey and can be seen in groups of three or more.

They are powerful hunters that dash on their prey and pursue them in flight through dense brush. Harris’s Hawk dines on birds, lizards, and small mammals including squirrels, rats, and rabbits. They are identified by their yellow upper bill that quickly changes to grey, brown wings with orange highlights, a brown head, and black and whitetail.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Buteo lineatus

Red shouldered hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red shouldered hawk close up

Close up portrait 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 on a branch

Length:

43cm to 61cm

Wingspan:

90cm to 127cm

Weight:

550g to 700g

Seen :

All year

Red-shouldered Hawk

The Red-shouldered Hawk is distinctly marked with a barred rufous chest, strongly banded tail, white underwings, and red shoulders that make this raptor true to its name.

These predators can mostly be found in forests with large clearings and open canopies for efficient hunting. This species can also be spotted in suburban areas with homes mixed into woodlands year-round. The Red-Shouldered Hawk enjoys dining on small mammals like squirrels but also eats lizards, snakes, and amphibians if available.

Broad-winged Hawk

Buteo platypterus

Broad winged hawk

Broad-winged Hawk

Broad winged hawk in flight

Broad-winged Hawk in flight

Broad winged hawk 1

Broad-winged Hawk perched

Broad winged hawk juveniles

Juvenile Broad-winged Hawks

Length:

34cm to 44cm

Wingspan:

81cm to 100cm

Weight:

265g to 560g

Seen :

Between April and October

Broad-winged Hawk

Although the Broad-winged Hawk features a short and stocky body, it makes them ideal for forest life. Only observable in Oklahoma between April and October, this raptor is common but difficult to see because of their preference away from humans in the forest. This bird spends summers in the United States and Canada, and winters in Central and South America.

This species is best known for its massive migration distances every fall with distances up to 4,000 miles one-way. Broad-winged Hawks are considered perch and pounce hunters where they sit atop tree limbs to survey the area then swoop down to catch toads, frogs, and other small mammals.

Swainson's Hawk

Buteo swainsoni

Swainsons hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Swainsons hawk close up

Close up portrait of a Swainson's Hawk

Swainsons hawk in flight

Swainson's Hawk in flight

Swainsons hawk perched on post

Swainson's Hawk perched on a post

Length:

48cm to 56cm

Wingspan:

117cm to 137cm

Weight:

937g to 1.367kg

Seen :

Between April and October

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawks can be spotted perched on trees in open areas, telephone poles, and fence posts or soaring between April and October. They spend their summers raising their young and breeding in Oklahoma, then begin a lengthy migration to Argentina, which is around 6,000 miles away and takes two months to arrive.

They fly in kettles with other large migratory birds and can be spotted based on their light underbellies, brown and grey feathers, reddish-brown chests, long wings, and short tails. Their dinners consist of mammals and small reptiles at the beginning of the summer and large insects throughout the other seasons.

Zone-tailed Hawk

Buteo albonotatus

Zone tailed hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone tailed hawk 1

Zone-tailed Hawk in flight

Zone tailed hawk in flight

Zone-tailed Hawk in flight, side profile

Length:

45cm to 56cm

Wingspan:

119cm to 140cm

Weight:

610g to 940g

Seen :

Between May and September

Zone-tailed Hawk

The Zone-tailed Hawk is a lightly built raptor with a long tail and slim wings. Their size falls between a goose and crow but is smaller than a Red-tailed Hawk. They can be identified by their black and white barred undersides, grayish-black color throughout, and two-toned flight feathers that look like a turkey vulture.

This species moves slowly and low across treetops, waiting for the perfect time to drop onto prey from low heights. You can observe their hunting habits between May and September in foothills, pine forests, cliffs, and other areas with uneven terrain. They typically dine on small ground animals like squirrels, mice, rats, and voles.

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

Available to spot around the state year-round, the Red-tailed Hawk is a large raptor that is more likely to be seen during drives through the countryside than in cities or suburbs. These soaring hawks can be identified by their white-to-black plumage color, but the best identification feature is their characteristic red tail.

These hawks can adapt well to any environment including pastures, scrublands, fields, woodlands, deserts, parks, and roadsides. For dinner, this species usually hunts rabbits, squirrels, rats, voles, and mice, with the occasional carrion, snakes, and larger birds.

Rough-legged Hawk

Buteo lagopus

Rough legged hawk

Rough-legged Hawk

Rough legged hawk in flight

Rough-legged Hawk in flight

Rough legged hawk close up

Close up of a Rough-legged Hawk

Rough legged hawk flying low

Rough-legged Hawk flying low

Length:

45cm to 63cm

Wingspan:

120cm to 153cm

Weight:

600g to 1.66kg

Seen :

Between October and April

Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawks spend their summers mating and living in the Arctic tundra then migrate south to Oklahoma from the winter (October and April). You can identify this large, chunky raptor by its random pattern of brown and white plumage, white head, black eyes, small curved yellow bill, and pale tail. This species has feather-covered feet that keep it warm when living in the Arctic.

These predators have a unique hunting style in that they hover in the wind while searching for food. The Rough-legged Hawk prefers to hunt lemmings in the Arctic and small rodents like shrews, voles, and mice, in Oklahoma.

Ferruginous Hawk

Buteo regalis

Ferruginous hawk

Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous hawk close up

Close up of a Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous hawk in flight

Ferruginous Hawk in flight

Ferruginous hawk with spread wings

Ferruginous Hawk with spread wings

Length:

56cm to 69cm

Wingspan:

122cm to 152cm

Weight:

977g to 2.074kg

Seen :

All year, but most common during fall and winter

Ferruginous Hawk

These beautiful birds live in open areas of Oklahoma year-round, but the best time to see them is in the fall and winter. As the largest North American hawk, the Ferruginous Hawk features a wide, gray, white, or rusty tail with long broad wings, pale underparts, and a rusty brown back, which is the light morph. The dark morph has a chestnut color on the belly, chest, and back.

This social hawk roosts during the winter on trees, rock outcrops, manmade structures, power poles, ledges, and haystacks. This species has a limited diet consisting of small mammals, but they hop or run around on the ground to chase their food.

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