Hawks in Arkansas: Discovering 10 Species (With Photos)




Hawks in Arkansas

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Hawks in Arkansas are diverse and can be found in various habitats across the state. Arkansas provides a suitable environment for different hawk species due to its diverse landscape, including forests, wetlands, grasslands, and open fields.

List of hawks in Arkansas:

  1. Red-tailed Hawk: These hawks can be found throughout Arkansas, including open fields, farmlands, and forested areas.

  2. Red-shouldered Hawk: Look for them in wetland areas, including swamps, marshes, and along rivers and streams in Arkansas.

  3. Cooper’s Hawk: Found in woodlands and suburban areas, especially near bird feeders where they hunt smaller birds.

  4. Sharp-shinned Hawk: Look for them in dense forests and woodlands, particularly in areas with thick understory vegetation.

  5. Broad-winged Hawk: During migration season, these hawks can be seen in large numbers soaring above Arkansas’ forested areas.

  6. Swainson’s Hawk: They can be found in open agricultural fields and grasslands, especially during their migration through Arkansas.

  7. Northern Harrier: Look for them in open habitats such as marshes, fields, and grasslands, particularly in the eastern part of the state.

  8. Rough-legged Hawk: These hawks are winter visitors to Arkansas and can be spotted in open fields and marshy areas.

  9. Ferruginous Hawk: While less common in Arkansas, they can be found in grasslands and prairies, particularly in the western part of the state.

  10. Northern Goshawk: These hawks prefer mature forests and can occasionally be seen in the more remote areas of Arkansas.

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red Tailed Hawk
Red Tailed Hawk 2
Scientific NameButeo jamaicensis
Length 45–65 cm (18–26 in)
Wingspan110–141 cm (3 ft 7 in – 4 ft 8 in)
Weight690 to 1,600 g (1.5 to 3.5 lb)

The Red-Tailed Hawk is a bird of prey that is commonly found across North America. This adaptable raptor is known for its brick-red tail, which is most noticeable in adults from above or underneath. The diet of the Red-Tailed Hawk is very diverse, including small mammals like mice and squirrels, as well as birds and reptiles.

This hawk is often seen perched on poles or soaring in wide circles high above fields, forests, and highways. Its habitat is extremely varied, ranging from desert and scrublands to forests and tropical rainforests. Its call, a raspy, screaming kee-eeeee-arr, is often used in movies to represent any bird of prey.

Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red Shouldered Hawk
Red Shouldered Hawk 2
Scientific NameButeo lineatus
Length15 to 23 in
Wingspan35 to 50 in
Weight1.21 lb- 1.5 lb

The Red-Shouldered Hawk is a medium-sized bird of prey, belonging to the Buteo genus, prevalent in North America. It is characterized by its reddish-brown shoulder patches, from which it derives its name. Other distinctive features include its banded tail and translucent crescents near the wingtips that are visible during flight.

Red-Shouldered Hawks typically inhabit mixed woodlands, often near rivers and swamps, where they hunt for a variety of prey, including small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and occasionally other birds. Unlike some other hawk species, they are quite vocal, emitting a distinctive, repetitive whistle that often gives away their presence. These hawks build nests high in deciduous trees where they usually lay 2 to 4 eggs. The pairs are monogamous, often maintaining their bond for many years and defending their territories fiercely.

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier
Northern Harrier 2
Scientific NameCircus hudsonius
Length41–52 cm (16–20 in)
Wingspan 97–122 cm (38–48 in)
WeightMale 10 to 26 ounces (280 to 730 g)
Female: 11 to 30 ounces (310 to 850 g)

The Northern Harrier is a bird of prey that belongs to the Circinae subfamily and stands out due to its distinctively owl-like facial disk, slender body, and long tail. This species exhibits a low and slow flying pattern when hunting, often skimming just above the ground of open fields and marshes. The males are predominantly gray, while the females and young are brown with streaks of white.

Northern Harriers primarily feed on small mammals and birds. Unique among hawks, these birds possess an owl-like trait of using auditory cues as well as visual ones to locate and catch prey. They’re also known for their polygynous breeding system, where a male may have up to five mates at once, each nesting in different locations within his territory.

Cooper’s Hawk

Coopers Hawk
Coopers Hawk 2
Scientific NameAccipiter cooperii
Length35 to 46 cm (14 to 18 in) /Female: 42 to 50 cm (17 to 20 in)
Wingspan 62 to 99 cm (24 to 39 in)
WeightMale: 280 g (9.9 oz) in 48/ Female: 473 g (1.043 lb)

Cooper’s Hawk is a medium-sized bird of prey in the Accipiter genus, native to the North American continent. It’s named after the American naturalist William Cooper, and distinguished by its slate-gray back, red-barred chest, and rounded tail with broad white terminal band. It is similar in appearance to the smaller Sharp-shinned Hawk, but can be differentiated by its larger size and rounded tail.

Inhabiting various types of woodland and forests, Cooper’s Hawks are agile predators known for their skill at chasing birds through trees, their primary prey being small to medium-sized birds. They also feed on small mammals and, less commonly, reptiles. They’re noted for their explosive flight pattern, consisting of a few rapid wingbeats followed by a short glide. Cooper’s Hawks nest in trees, and both parents share duties of incubating the eggs and raising the young. Their call is a distinctive, repetitive ‘cak-cak-cak’, often heard during courtship or when disturbed.

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Sharp Shinned Hawk
Sharp Shinned Hawk 2
Scientific NameAccipiter striatus
Length23 – 30 cm
Wingspan17 to 23 in
Weight82 – 120 g

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is the smallest member of the Accipiter genus found in North America. Noted for its slender body and short, rounded wings, this hawk is characterized by its blue-gray back and barred orange or reddish underparts. The name “sharp-shinned” refers to the bird’s thin, pencil-like lower leg.

Sharp-shinned Hawks inhabit forests and woodlands, where they exhibit agility and stealth in hunting small birds, their primary food source, although they occasionally consume rodents and insects. They’re known for their impressive flight pattern involving quick, successive wingbeats followed by short glides. When it comes to nesting, they favor coniferous trees and both parents participate in raising their young. Their call, often heard during courtship or territory disputes, is a high-pitched, repetitive ‘kik-kik-kik’.

Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad Winged Hawk
Broad Winged Hawk 2
Scientific NameButeo platypterus
Length13 to 17 in
Wingspan29 to 39 in
Weight9.3 to 19.8 oz

The Broad-winged Hawk is a medium-sized bird of prey, belonging to the Buteo genus. It’s primarily found throughout the eastern United States and southern Canada, migrating long distances to Central and South America for the winter. The bird is named for its relatively broad wings, and it displays a characteristic white band on the tail, which is bordered by two darker bands.

Broad-winged Hawks inhabit deciduous forests and woodlands, where they primarily feed on small mammals, amphibians, insects, and occasionally birds. They are known for their distinctive soaring flight during migration, often traveling in large groups known as “kettles.” These hawks are monogamous and build nests high in trees where the female usually lays 1 to 3 eggs. Their call is a piercing, two-parted whistle, heard most frequently during the breeding season.

Swainson’s Hawk

Swainsons Hawk
Swainsons Hawk 2
Scientific NameButeo swainsoni
Length17–22 in
Wingspan46–54 in
Weight1.8 lb – 2.5 lb

Swainson’s Hawk, a raptor in the Buteo genus, is recognized by its long wings and somewhat small bill. Named after British ornithologist William Swainson, this hawk is notable for its long-distance migration, travelling from its breeding grounds in North America to wintering areas in Argentina, one of the longest migratory journeys of any American raptor.

The diet of Swainson’s Hawks changes with the seasons. During the breeding season, they primarily feed on rodents and birds (burrowing owls if they are in abundance), while they shift to a diet of insects, especially grasshoppers and beetles, during migration and in their wintering grounds. They are also known for their soaring flight pattern and their distinctive two-part call that sounds like a plaintive whistle.

Rough-legged Hawk

Rough legged Hawk
Rough legged Hawk 2
Scientific NameButeo lagopus
Length18–24 in
Wingspan47 to 60 in
Weight1.32 to 3.66 lb

The Rough-legged Hawk, also a member of the Buteo genus, is named for its feathered legs that are adapted to cold environments in its Arctic breeding grounds. Characterized by a wide variety of plumage, all individuals display a characteristic dark “wrist” patch on the underwing, and a white base to the tail. The light morphs are predominantly white and brown, while the dark morphs are more uniformly dark brown.

Rough-legged Hawks are known for their unique hovering flight behavior when hunting for small mammals, which make up a significant portion of their diet. During the breeding season, these hawks are found in the tundra of the Arctic, where they nest on cliffs or bluffs. In winter, they migrate to southern Canada and the northern United States, becoming one of the few raptors that can adjust well to the cold weather conditions.

Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk 2
Scientific NameButeo regalis
Length51 to 69 cm (20 to 27 in)
Wingspan122 to 152 cm (48 to 60 in)
Weight907 to 2,268 g (32.0 to 80.0 oz)

The Ferruginous Hawk is a large raptor native to the open landscapes of North America. The term “ferruginous” comes from the Latin word for rust, referring to the bird’s reddish-brown coloration. Ferruginous Hawks are primarily known for their size, broad wings, and a distinctive leg feathering that extends to the toes, a feature that makes them the most “feather-legged” of the North American hawks. This bird feeds primarily on mammals like rabbits and prairie dogs, but will also eat birds and reptiles. They thrive in open habitats such as prairies, plains, and deserts, where they often perch on the highest point available. Their nests are typically constructed on cliffs, trees, or man-made structures and are quite large, reflecting the size of the bird itself. Despite their intimidating presence, Ferruginous Hawks are generally more docile than other raptors.

Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk
Northern Goshawk 2
Scientific NameAccipiter gentilis
LengthMale: 46 to 61 cm (18 to 24 in) / Female: 58 to 69 cm (23 to 27 in)
Wingspan89 to 105 cm (35 to 41 in)/ Female: 108 to 127 cm (43 to 50 in)

The Northern Goshawk is a large bird of prey and the largest member of the Accipiter genus. Native to the Northern Hemisphere, it’s characterized by its slate-gray upperparts, finely barred underparts, and prominent white eyebrow stripe. The name “goshawk” originates from the Old English term for “goose hawk,” denoting the bird’s prowess at hunting large prey.

Northern Goshawks inhabit large, uninterrupted forests, where they are skilled hunters of a wide range of prey, including small mammals and medium to large birds. They are particularly agile fliers, often chasing prey through densely forested environments. These hawks are monogamous, with pairs often returning to the same nesting territory year after year. Their nests are built high in trees, and their breeding season is heralded by spectacular aerial displays and a loud, repetitive ‘kak-kak-kak’ call.

Best Places to Find Hawks in Arkansas

  1. Ozark National Forest: Home to a diverse range of habitats, including forests, mountains, and open fields, Ozark National Forest provides ample opportunities to spot various hawk species (red tailed hawks are permanent residents). Look for them perched on tree branches or soaring above the treetops.
  2. Cache River National Wildlife Refuge: This expansive wetland area is an ideal location to observe hawks such as the Northern Harrier. Scan the marshes and open grasslands for these agile hunters gliding low over the vegetation.
  3. Buffalo National River: The scenic Buffalo National River offers a chance to see hawks against the backdrop of towering cliffs and meandering river valleys. Look for them soaring along the riverbanks or perched on rock formations.
  4. White Rock Mountain: Positioned in the heart of the Ozarks, White Rock Mountain provides stunning panoramic views and an excellent vantage point to observe hawks in flight. Scan the skies for their distinctive silhouettes and listen for their piercing calls.
  5. Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge: Situated along the Arkansas River, Holla Bend attracts a variety of hawks, especially during migration seasons. Visit during the fall or spring to witness the impressive spectacle of hawks as they pass through the refuge.

Hawks can be found in Arkansas throughout the year, but their abundance may vary depending on the season. During the breeding season, which typically occurs from spring to summer, hawks can be seen engaged in courtship displays and nesting activities. Look for them near suitable nesting habitats, such as tall trees or rocky cliffs.

Having journeyed through the diverse landscapes of Arkansas, soak up the tranquility of Missouri, where the untamed beauty of the Ozarks provides an idyllic backdrop for viewing a variety of hawks in Missouri. If the rich history and vibrant culture of the south call to you, why not delve into the fascinating world of hawks of Louisiana? The bayous and coastal marshes of this state provide a perfect setting for hawk species aplenty.

Or perhaps you might head west to discover the unique species of hawks in Oklahoma, thriving amid the state’s varied landscapes of prairies, mountains, and forests. And let’s not forget the ‘Volunteer State,’ Tennessee, where you can embark on an exciting journey tracking hawks in Tennessee through its scenic vistas.

Facts about Hawks in Arkansas

  1. Migration Spectacle: Arkansas serves as a crucial stopover for hawks during their annual migration. Witness the impressive sight of hundreds of hawks soaring across the state’s skies during migration seasons.
  2. Powerful Hunters: Hawks are skilled hunters, primarily preying on small mammals, birds, and reptiles. Their sharp vision and agile flight enable them to spot and capture their prey with precision.
  3. Courtship Displays: During courtship, hawks engage in breathtaking aerial displays, showcasing their acrobatic skills. These displays involve soaring, diving, and intricate flight patterns to attract mates.
  4. Distinctive Plumage: Hawks display a wide range of plumage variations, allowing for identification based on coloration and patterns. These unique markings help distinguish between different species.
  5. Migratory Patterns: Some hawk species in Arkansas undertake long-distance migrations, traveling thousands of miles between breeding and wintering grounds. They rely on thermals and updrafts to conserve energy during their journey when they migrate south.
  6. Conservation Efforts: Arkansas recognizes the importance of hawk conservation and has implemented measures to protect their habitats. Conservation organizations and initiatives work to preserve suitable nesting areas and promote awareness about the importance of hawks in the state’s ecosystem.

FAQS on Arkansas Hawks

What is the most common hawk in Arkansas?

In the diverse avian ecosystem of Arkansas, the Red-tailed Hawk scientific name, recognizable by its red tails, is the most frequently observed bird of prey, indicating its broad adaptability to various habitats. On the other end of the size spectrum, the Sharp shinned Hawk scientific name, one of the small hawks and very secretive birds at a length of 10-14 inches, is renowned for its agile flight and remarkable hunting skills.

What is the biggest hawk in Arkansas?

Contrastingly, the largest raptor found in Arkansas is the Ferruginous Hawk. This impressive bird of prey, with its broad wings and robust build, can boast a wingspan reaching up to 55 inches. While these ferruginous hawks are an incredible sight, Cooper’s Hawks, medium-sized birds with rounded wings, are also a common feature in the state’s bird population. Other large birds of prey include great horned owls and golden eagles.

What is the smallest hawk in Arkansas?

Adult Sharp shinned Hawks are the smallest hawk species in Arkansas. Measuring around 10-14 inches in length, it is known for its agile flight and hunting skills.

When is breeding season for hawks in Arkansas?

As spring ushers in the breeding season, from March to July, the Broad-winged Hawks breed, engaging in elaborate courtship displays. These birds, known for their broad but thin wings, build nests, often up to eight nests, and raise their young during this period.

What do hawks eat in Arkansas?

The dietary habits of hawks in Arkansas primarily include small mammals like ground squirrels and small birds. Whether it’s the Northern Harriers, known for their unique hunting style over open fields, or the female Hawks, these birds of prey showcase their sharp talons and beaks in capturing and consuming their prey.

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