Hawks in Massachusetts – 8 Types (With Photos)




Hawks in Massachusetts

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Hawks in Massachusetts are a diverse group of birds of prey that can be found throughout the state’s varied habitats. From open fields and forests to wetlands and coastal areas, hawks in Massachusetts have adapted to thrive in different environments. Whether soaring high in the sky or perched in trees, hawks in Massachusetts are a captivating sight to behold, showcasing their impressive hunting skills and natural beauty.

Here is the list of hawks in Massachusetts:

  1. Red-tailed Hawk – These hawks can be found throughout Massachusetts, including open fields, forests, and along highways.

  2. Red-shouldered Hawk – Look for them near wetland areas, such as marshes and rivers, in the eastern and central parts of the state.

  3. Broad-winged Hawk – Spot them in the woodlands and forests of Massachusetts, particularly during their spring and fall migrations.

  4. Cooper’s Hawk – These hawks are commonly found in suburban areas with mature trees and backyard bird feeders.

  5. Sharp-shinned Hawk – Look for them in dense forests, especially areas with a dense understory, such as Wachusett Mountain.

  6. Northern Harrier – They can be seen in open habitats like grasslands, marshes, and coastal areas, including the Plum Island Wildlife Refuge.

  7. Rough-legged Hawk – Spot them during winter in open fields and marshes, with locations like Parker River National Wildlife Refuge being good places to look.

  8. Northern Goshawk – This hawk prefers mature forests and can be found in remote areas of Massachusetts, particularly in the western part of the state.

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.

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.

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’.

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 Massachusetts

Massachusetts offers various habitats where hawks can be observed in their natural environment. Here are some of the best places to find hawks in the state:

  1. Mount Auburn Cemetery – Located in Cambridge, this historic cemetery is a haven for birdwatchers. With its tall trees and open spaces, it attracts a variety of hawks, including red-tailed hawks and Cooper’s hawks.

  2. Plum Island – Situated in Newburyport, Plum Island is a barrier island known for its diverse birdlife. It is a prime spot for observing migratory hawks, especially during the fall migration season.

  3. Quabbin Reservoir – As the largest inland body of water in Massachusetts, Quabbin Reservoir provides ample opportunities to spot hawks. The surrounding woodlands and open areas attract a variety of species, including red-shouldered hawks and broad-winged hawks.

  4. Cape Cod – The coastal region of Cape Cod offers excellent birdwatching opportunities, including sightings of hawks. Sandy Neck Beach, Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, and Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge are popular spots to observe these magnificent birds.

Hawks can be found in Massachusetts throughout the year, but their presence may vary depending on the season. During the breeding season in spring and summer, hawks can be seen nesting and raising their young. The fall migration season, particularly September and October, is an ideal time to witness large numbers of hawks as they pass through the state on their southward journey.

After exploring the fascinating diversity of hawks in Massachusetts, it would be remiss to not venture further into the breathtaking landscapes and vibrant avian ecosystems of the neighboring states. Experience the serene wilderness and captivating variety of hawks in Connecticut, where rolling hills and quiet forests provide ideal habitats for these majestic creatures.

Or travel north to uncover the distinct hawks of New Hampshire, their resilience reflecting the rugged spirit of the Granite State. And who could overlook the rich variety of hawks in New York, thriving amidst the state’s lush river valleys and scenic mountains? Exploring these regions further might just lead to your next great birdwatching adventure!

10 Interesting Facts about Hawks in Massachusetts

1. Hawks of the Sky: Hawks are fascinating birds of prey found in Massachusetts. They possess sharp vision, strong talons, and powerful wings that enable them to hunt and survive in their natural habitat.

2. Migratory Marvels: Many hawks in Massachusetts are migratory, meaning they travel long distances during specific times of the year. They undertake remarkable journeys, covering thousands of miles to reach their breeding grounds or wintering areas.

3. Raptor Diversity: Massachusetts is home to a diverse range of hawk species, including the red-tailed hawk, Cooper’s hawk, northern goshawk, northern harrier, red-shouldered hawk, rough-legged hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, and more. Each species has its unique characteristics and behaviors.

4. Seasonal Visitors: Hawks can be observed in Massachusetts throughout the year. However, their presence may vary depending on the season, with peak sightings occurring during migration periods, particularly in spring and fall.

5. Nesting Nurturers: Hawks build nests using twigs and branches in trees, often in secluded areas. They show remarkable parental care, with both males and females participating in incubating the eggs and raising their young.

6. Acrobatic Hunters: Hawks are skilled hunters and use various hunting techniques. They employ stealth and agility to swoop down on their prey, which primarily consists of small mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects.

7. Impressive Adaptations: Hawks have adapted to their environments over time. Their sharp beaks are designed for tearing flesh, while their powerful talons help them catch and hold onto prey. Their keen eyesight allows them to spot small prey from high above.

8. Courtship Displays: During the breeding season, hawks engage in elaborate courtship displays to attract mates. These displays often involve aerial acrobatics, soaring, and vocalizations to establish pair bonds.

9. Ecological Significance: Hawks play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems. By controlling populations of small mammals and birds, they help regulate prey populations and contribute to the overall health of their habitats.

10. Conservation Concerns: Some hawk species in Massachusetts, such as the northern goshawk and red-shouldered hawk, face conservation challenges due to habitat loss and other human-induced factors. Conservation efforts are essential to protect these remarkable birds and their habitats.

FAQS On Massachusetts Hawks

What is the most common hawk in Massachusetts?

The most common hawk species in Massachusetts is the Red-tailed Hawk. It is widespread and can be found in various habitats, including forests, fields, and urban areas. Its distinctive red tail feathers are a key identifying feature.

What is the biggest hawk in Massachusetts?

The biggest hawk species in Massachusetts is the Northern Goshawk. With a length of around 20-27 inches and a wingspan of approximately 40-50 inches, it is known for its large size and powerful build.

What is the smallest hawk in Massachusetts?

The smallest hawk species in Massachusetts is the Sharp-shinned Hawk. It measures around 10-14 inches in length and has a wingspan of about 20-27 inches. Its small size and agile flight make it an effective hunter of smaller birds and insects.

When is the breeding season for hawks in Massachusetts?

The breeding season for hawks in Massachusetts generally begins in late winter or early spring, typically between February and April. During this time, hawks engage in courtship displays, construct nests, and lay eggs. The exact timing may vary slightly among different hawk species.

What do hawks eat in Massachusetts?

Hawks in Massachusetts have a varied diet that primarily consists of small mammals, such as mice, voles, and rabbits. They also prey on birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. Their diet depends on the specific hawk species and the availability of prey in their respective habitats.

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