Discover the Hawks in Georgia: (6 Species with Stunning Pictures)




Hawks in Georgia

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Prepare to be mesmerized as we delve into the lives of these majestic birds of prey that grace the skies of the Peach State. From the iconic Red-tailed Hawk to the agile Sharp-shinned Hawk, we will uncover the fascinating behaviors, unique characteristics, and stunning beauty of Georgia’s hawk species.

List of Hawks in Georgia

  1. Red-Tailed Hawk: Red-Tailed Hawks are commonly found throughout Georgia, particularly in open fields and forests.

  2. Red-Shouldered Hawk: These hawks prefer mature forests with nearby water bodies in Georgia, making them frequently spotted in wooded areas.

  3. Cooper’s Hawk: Found in woodlands across Georgia, Cooper’s Hawks are known for stalking bird feeders in suburban areas.

  4. Broad-Winged Hawk: Mostly seen in Georgia’s northern forests, especially during the summer breeding season.

  5. Sharp-Shinned Hawk: These hawks prefer forested areas and are most commonly observed during the migration season in Georgia.

  6. Northern Harrier: Frequently found in Georgia’s marshes and open grasslands, Northern Harriers can be spotted soaring low while hunting.

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.

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.

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.

Top Places to Find Hawks in Georgia

  1. Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge: This vast wetland in southern Georgia provides a prime habitat for hawks, especially during migration seasons. Look for them perched on tree branches or soaring above the marshes.

  2. Chattahoochee National Forest: With its diverse forests and abundant prey, this expansive forested area offers excellent opportunities to spot hawks year-round. Scan the treetops and open meadows for their distinctive flight patterns.

  3. Jekyll Island: Nestled along Georgia’s coast, Jekyll Island is a haven for hawks, particularly during winter months. Keep an eye out for them along the shorelines, dunes, and maritime forests.

  4. Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge: Located in central Georgia, this refuge boasts a mix of woodlands, fields, and wetlands that attract various hawk species. Explore the trails and open areas for sightings throughout the year.

  5. Oconee National Forest: Covering a large portion of central Georgia, this forested region provides a home to a diverse array of hawks. Search for them in the open spaces near the forest edges and along the riverbanks.

Hawks can be found in Georgia year-round, although migration seasons offer increased opportunities for sightings. In general, hawks prefer areas with suitable perching spots, open fields for hunting small mammals and birds, and nearby water sources. During breeding season, they establish territories and build nests nest up in tall trees or atop rocky outcrops.

As your bird-watching expedition takes you beyond the lush landscapes of Georgia, there’s much to explore in the neighboring states. In the north, Tennessee’s smoky mountains and serene valleys make it a captivating haven for diverse hawk species; explore more with our comprehensive guide on Tennessee’s hawks. Heading west, Alabama’s rich forests and wetlands create a vibrant habitat for these birds of prey; discover this diverse avian world with our Alabama hawk-focused article.

To the south, Florida’s coastal ecosystems offer a unique viewing experience for hawk enthusiasts; delve into the details with our informative piece on Florida’s hawks. Lastly, on the east, South Carolina’s diverse landscapes play host to a variety of hawks; learn more in our overview of South Carolina’s hawks.

10 Fascinating Insights into Georgia’s Hawks

  1. The Georgia Raptor Center: Located in Athens, this renowned center specializes in rehabilitating injured hawks and educating the public about their conservation.

  2. Cooperative Hunting: Some hawk species in Georgia, such as the Red-shouldered Hawk, exhibit cooperative hunting behaviors, where pairs or family groups work together to capture prey.

  3. Migratory Marvels: Georgia serves as an important stopover for migratory hawks, with thousands of these birds passing through the state during their seasonal journeys.

  4. Sharp-shinned Stealth: The Sharp-shinned Hawk, a small but agile hawk species in Georgia, is known for its remarkable maneuverability and ability to navigate through dense forest canopies.

  5. Unique Courtship Displays: During breeding season, hawks engage in elaborate courtship displays, which may include aerial acrobatics, impressive dives, and soaring together in synchronized flights.

  6. Red-tailed Royalty: The Red-tailed Hawk, a widespread species in Georgia, showcases a variety of color morphs, ranging from light to dark plumage variations.

  7. Broad-winged Brigade: Georgia is a vital breeding ground for the Broad-winged Hawk, a species known for its impressive group migration known as a “kettle,” where hundreds or even thousands of hawks soar together in a spiral pattern.

  8. Urban Adaptability: Hawks, such as the Cooper’s Hawk, have successfully adapted to urban environments in Georgia, utilizing tall buildings and trees as convenient perching and nesting spots.

  9. Fierce Falcon Fighters: Falcons and hawks engage in occasional territorial disputes, with hawks often displaying their agility and aerial prowess to defend their nesting territories against their swift counterparts.

  10. Silent Hunters: Many hawk species possess specialized feathers on their wings that allow for silent flight, enabling them to approach prey quietly and launch surprise attacks.

FAQS on Georgia Hawks

What is the most common hawk in Georgia?

The most common hawk species in Georgia is the Red-tailed Hawk. These magnificent birds of prey are widespread across the state and can be found in various habitats, including forests, open fields, and along roadways. With their distinct red tails and broad wings, Red-tailed Hawks are a familiar sight soaring through the Georgia skies.

What is the biggest hawk in Georgia?

The largest hawk species in Georgia is the Northern Harrier. Also known as the Marsh Hawk, these impressive raptors have a wingspan of around 3 to 4 feet, making them one of the largest species of hawks anywhere in the state. Northern Harriers are commonly found in marshy areas, grasslands, and open fields where they hunt for small mammals and birds.

What is the smallest hawk in Georgia?

The smallest hawk species in Georgia is the Sharp-shinned Hawk. These agile hunters have a size range of approximately 10 to 14 inches in length, making them one of the smallest types of hawks here in the state. Sharp-shinned Hawks are known for their quick flight and maneuverability as they navigate through dense vegetation in search of small birds and mammals.

When is breeding season for hawks in Georgia?

The breeding season for hawks in Georgia typically occurs from late winter to early spring, depending on the species. During this time, hawks engage in courtship displays, build nests, and lay eggs. It is important to note that the specific breeding season may vary for different hawk species, so it is best to consult species-specific information for more accurate timing.

What do hawks eat in Georgia?

Hawks in Georgia are skilled hunters and primarily feed on a variety of prey, they eat small mammals, birds, reptiles, and even insects. Their diet varies depending on the species and their preferred habitats. Larger hawks like the Red-tailed Hawk and more common hawks and the Northern Harrier often prey on small mammals such as rodents, while smaller hawks like the Sharp-shinned Hawk specialize in hunting smaller birds. Hawks are opportunistic predators and adapt their diet to the available prey in their environment.

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