Hawks In Connecticut (8 Species with Photos)




Hawks in Connecticut

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Hawks in Connecticut are a captivating sight, enchanting both nature enthusiasts and casual observers alike. These magnificent birds of prey grace the skies of Connecticut with their soaring flights and keen hunting skills. With their sharp vision, impressive wingspans, and diverse species, hawks bring an air of majesty to the state’s landscapes.

Connecticut provides a favorable habitat for hawks, offering a mix of open fields, woodlands, wetlands, and coastal areas that cater to their varying needs. From the Red-tailed Hawk soaring over open fields to the Cooper’s Hawk stealthily hunting in suburban neighborhoods, these avian predators can be found throughout the state.

Here is the list of hawks in Connecticut:

  1. Red-tailed Hawk – Found throughout Connecticut, including open fields, woodlands, and along highways. They can be spotted in national parks such as Sleeping Giant State Park and Hammonasset Beach State Park.

  2. Cooper’s Hawk – Spotted in wooded areas and suburban neighborhoods, often near bird feeders, across the state. Look for them in national parks like Sherwood Island State Park and Penwood State Park.

  3. Red-shouldered Hawk – Commonly found in wetland areas, along rivers, and in forests, particularly in the southern part of the state. They can be observed in national parks such as Housatonic Meadows State Park and Meshomasic State Forest.

  4. Broad-winged Hawk – Seen in the forests of Connecticut, especially during their migration period in the spring and fall. Look for them in national parks like Mohawk State Forest and Chatfield Hollow State Park.

  5. Sharp-shinned Hawk – Often observed in woodlands and parks, where they pursue small birds. Look for them in national parks such as Cockaponset State Forest and Bluff Point State Park.

  6. Northern Harrier – Found in open habitats such as marshes, meadows, and grasslands, particularly in coastal areas. Look for them in national parks like Silver Sands State Park and Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge.

  7. Rough-legged Hawk – Winter visitors to Connecticut, can be found in open fields, marshes, and along the coastline. Look for them in national parks like Hammonasset Beach State Park and Rocky Neck State Park.

  8. Northern Goshawk – Least common hawk species in Connecticut, prefers mature forests, especially in the northern parts of the state. Look for them in national parks like Natchaug State Forest and Peoples State Forest.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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’.

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.

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.

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 Connecticut

Connecticut offers a variety of excellent locations for observing hawks in their natural habitats. Here are some of the best places to find hawks in the state:

  1. Lighthouse Point Park: Situated on the coast in New Haven, Lighthouse Point Park provides a prime viewing spot for hawk migration in the fall. The park’s open fields and proximity to the shoreline attract a diverse range of hawk species.

  2. Sleeping Giant State Park: Nestled in Hamden, Sleeping Giant State Park is known for its scenic trails and panoramic views. During the migration seasons, hawks can be spotted soaring above the park’s woodlands, especially along the ridgeline.

  3. Quinebaug Valley State Trout Hatchery: Located in Plainfield, the Quinebaug Valley State Trout Hatchery is not only a popular fishing destination but also an ideal spot for hawk watching. The surrounding forests and open areas attract various hawk species, including the majestic Red-tailed Hawk.

  4. Bluff Point State Park: Situated in Groton, Bluff Point State Park offers a mix of coastal habitats, including salt marshes, woodlands, and meadows. It serves as an excellent location to observe hawks, such as the Sharp-shinned Hawk, as they hunt for prey in the diverse ecosystems.

Hawks can be found in Connecticut throughout the year, but the best time to observe their impressive migrations is during the fall and spring. During these seasons, large numbers of hawks pass through the state as they travel to and from their breeding grounds. September and October are particularly noteworthy for witnessing the spectacle of hawk migration.

Having uncovered the avian wonders of Connecticut, it’s worth exploring beyond state lines to appreciate the rich tapestry of hawk species in the surrounding region. As you travel north, you’ll find a diverse array of hawks in Massachusetts waiting to captivate your interest.

Heading west, offers an abundance of natural beauty and a remarkable variety of New York hawks. And as you journey south, don’t miss the chance to discover the fascinating species of hawks in New Jersey and observe their thriving habitats. Or trek the rolling landscapes and hidden waterways and immerse yourself hawks found in Rhode Island.

Fascinating Facts about Hawks in Connecticut

  1. Connecticut’s Hawk Species Diversity: Connecticut is home to a remarkable diversity of hawk species, with over 10 different types of hawks frequently observed in the state. These include the Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, and Sharp-shinned Hawk, among others.

  2. Hawks as Migratory Birds: Many hawks in Connecticut are migratory birds, traveling long distances during the changing seasons. They undertake incredible journeys, covering thousands of miles to reach their breeding and wintering grounds.

  3. Hawks’ Varied Diets: Hawks are versatile predators and have diverse diets. While some species primarily feed on small mammals like rodents, others specialize in capturing birds, reptiles, or even insects, depending on their size and hunting strategies.

  4. Courtship Displays: During the breeding season, hawks engage in elaborate courtship displays to attract mates. These displays involve impressive aerial acrobatics, soaring flights, and vocalizations, showcasing their strength and prowess.

  5. Nest Building Skills: Hawks are skilled builders of nests, using a combination of sticks, twigs, and other materials. They construct their nests in trees, often in elevated locations, where they can safely raise their young.

  6. Hawks as Top Predators: Hawks play an important role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems as top predators. They help control populations of small mammals and birds, contributing to the overall health of the natural environment.

  7. Conservation Efforts: Connecticut has implemented conservation programs to protect hawks and their habitats. Organizations and individuals work together to monitor populations, raise awareness, and support conservation initiatives to ensure the well-being of these magnificent birds.

FAQS about Connecticut hawks

What is the most common hawk in Connecticut?

The most common hawk in Connecticut is the Red-tailed Hawk (red tailed hawk scientific name: Buteo jamaicensis). This species of hawk is characterized by a reddish-brown head and strongly banded tail. Adult sharp-shinned hawks are also quite common, although these are smaller hawks, they’re often seen in dense woods.

What is the biggest hawk in Connecticut?

The largest hawks in Connecticut are the Rough-legged Hawks (rough legged hawk scientific name: Buteo lagopus). They are considered relatively large hawks, usually found around the arctic tundra during breeding seasons. Their yellow eyes and white rump patch are distinctive features.

What is the smallest hawk in Connecticut?

The smallest hawk in Connecticut is the Sharp-shinned Hawk (sharp shinned hawk scientific name: Accipiter striatus). Characterized by long tails and white underparts, these secretive birds often dwell in tall trees and are known for their fall migration.

When is breeding season for hawks in Connecticut?

The breeding season for most species of hawks in Connecticut, including the Broad-winged Hawks (broad winged hawk scientific name: Buteo platypterus), typically begins in the early spring and extends into summer. They often nest in tall trees and cliff ledges.

What do hawks eat in Connecticut?

Hawks in Connecticut, including the Broad-winged Hawks, predominantly feed on small mammals, such as ground squirrels. However, it’s not uncommon for these Connecticut hawks to also eat birds. Immature birds and other hawks can also be part of their diet.

Are Hawks protected in Connecticut?

Yes, hawks are protected in Connecticut under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This protection extends to all species of hawks, from the small Sharp-shinned Hawks to large hawks like the Rough-legged Hawks and even the Red-shouldered Hawks (red shouldered hawk scientific name: Buteo lineatus).

What other birds of prey can be found in Connecticut besides hawks?

Besides the common hawk species like the red-tailed hawk and sharp-shinned hawk, Connecticut is also home to various other birds of prey. This includes the Great Horned Owls, recognized for their large size and notable ear tufts, and the Peregrine Falcons (scientific name: Falco peregrinus), known as the fastest birds in the world. In addition, Bald Eagles, once endangered but now making a strong comeback, can be found near Connecticut’s large rivers and coastlines.

What are some unique characteristics of the Northern Harrier and Cooper’s Hawk found in Connecticut?

  • The Northern Harrier (northern harrier scientific name: Circus hudsonius) is a unique bird of prey. The males are identifiable by their white checkered wings and a noticeable white rump. The females and immature hawks are mostly dark brown. The Northern Harrier, unlike most other hawks, has an owl-like facial disk that helps it hear prey in tall grasses.
  • The Cooper’s Hawk (cooper’s hawk scientific name: Accipiter cooperii) is a relatively common hawk in Connecticut. They’re medium-sized, known for their long tail and rounded wings. The adults have dark grey backs with reddish barred chests and the immature hawks have brown backs and streaky underparts. They’re skilled fliers, often found darting through dense woods to catch prey.

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