8 Incredible Hawks in New Hampshire (Updated Photo Guide)




Hawks in New Hampshire

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New Hampshire is home to several species of hawks, making it a diverse and exciting location for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. The state’s varied habitats, including forests, wetlands, and open fields, provide suitable environments for different hawk species.

List of hawks in New Hampshire:

  1. Red-tailed Hawk: This is the most common hawk in New Hampshire. They can be found in a variety of habitats throughout the state, including the White Mountain National Forest.

  2. Broad-winged Hawk: These birds are commonly seen in the state during the summer months, particularly in forested areas. Monadnock State Park is a great place to spot them.

  3. Cooper’s Hawk: Often found in forests and wooded areas, these hawks are quite common throughout the state, including towns like Concord and Manchester.

  4. Sharp-shinned Hawk: These small hawks can be found in wooded areas throughout the state. They’re often seen at bird feeders, preying on smaller birds.

  5. Northern Harrier: This bird prefers open fields and marshy areas. The Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge is a common location to spot them.

  6. Red-shouldered Hawk: Although less common, they can be found in mature forests near water bodies and spotted by their strongly banded tail. The Bear Brook State Park is a place where they are often seen.

  7. Northern Goshawk: They are relatively uncommon, preferring dense, mature forests. They can be occasionally spotted in places like the White Mountain National Forest.

  8. Rough-legged Hawk: These birds are winter visitors and prefer open fields and marshes. They are most likely to be seen in coastal areas during the colder months.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

Where to Spot Hawks in New Hampshire 

The White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire offers a great opportunity to spot a wide variety of hawks, thanks to its extensive size and varied habitats, ranging from dense forests to open meadows. Other places to spot hawks in New Hampshire:

  1. Monadnock State Park: During the summer, this park is a popular spot for seeing Broad-winged Hawks. The large forested areas provide an ideal habitat for these birds.

  2. Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge: This refuge, with its open fields and marshlands, is a great spot to see Northern Harriers, especially in the fall and winter months.

  3. Bear Brook State Park: Red-shouldered Hawks are often seen in this state park, thanks to its mature forests near water bodies.

  4. Presidential Range: The high peaks of this range, part of the White Mountains, provide a unique vantage point for spotting soaring hawks like the Red-tailed and Broad-winged Hawks.

  5. Pawtuckaway State Park: This park, with its diverse habitats, is a good spot for observing several species of hawks, including Cooper’s Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks.

  6. Coastal Areas: During the winter, the coastal areas of New Hampshire, such as Hampton Beach State Park, become a haven for the Rough-legged Hawk, a visitor from the Arctic.

In New Hampshire, the hawks’ habitats range from dense forests and open fields to high mountain ranges and coastal areas. The White Mountain National Forest and Monadnock State Park, known for their extensive forested areas, are ideal habitats for forest-dwelling species such as the Red-tailed Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, and the Northern Goshawk.

Meanwhile, open areas and marshlands, like those in Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge, attract Northern Harriers, particularly in the fall and winter. The coastal areas become a prime spot for spotting winter visitors like the Rough-legged Hawk.

If you’re interested in seeing the hawks of the Green Mountain State, check out our guide to hawks in Vermont. Alternatively, you might be drawn towards the Atlantic coast and its unique habitats. In that case, our overview of hawks in Massachusetts will provide valuable insights. Cross the Connecticut River to the west and you’ll find yourself in a birdwatcher’s paradise with our list of hawks in Vermont. Regardless of which state you choose to explore next, you’ll continue to discover the rich diversity of hawks in the Northeast region.

Facts about Hawks in New Hampshire 

  1. Northern Goshawk’s Preference for Cold: The Northern Goshawk, a hawk that prefers cooler climates, breeds in the northern parts of New Hampshire, particularly in the White Mountain National Forest. Their elusive nature combined with their preference for dense, mature forests makes them a thrilling, if challenging, find for bird enthusiasts in the state.

  2. Broad-winged Hawk Migration: Broad-winged Hawks, commonly seen in New Hampshire during the summer months, embark on a remarkable migration journey to South America for the winter. Their synchronized flights in large groups, known as “kettles,” during fall migration are a sight to behold.

  3. The Cooper’s Hawk’s Adaptability: Cooper’s Hawks were once threatened due to hunting and habitat loss, but these birds have shown an impressive adaptability to human environments. In recent years, they’ve been spotted more frequently in urban and suburban areas of New Hampshire, including towns like Concord and Manchester.

  4. Northern Harrier’s Unusual Flight Pattern: The Northern Harrier, often spotted in Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge, is noted for its distinctive flight pattern. Unlike most hawks, Northern Harriers fly low to the ground in a back-and-forth pattern when hunting, providing a unique spectacle for birdwatchers.

  5. Red-tailed Hawks’ Monogamy: Red-tailed Hawks, the most common hawk in New Hampshire, are known to mate for life. Pairs will often return to the same nest year after year, reinforcing it with fresh material each breeding season. This level of loyalty and constancy is a fascinating aspect of their behavior.

FAQs About Hawks in New Hampshire 

What is the most common hawk in New Hampshire?

The Red tailed Hawk scientific name Buteo jamaicensis is the most common hawk in New Hampshire. This raptor is found all over the state due to its adaptability to a variety of habitats, ranging from dense forests to open fields and even urban environments.

What is the biggest hawk in New Hampshire?

The Northern Goshawk is the biggest hawk in New Hampshire. Known for its size and agility, these secretive birds prefer dense forests in the northern parts of the state, particularly the White Mountain National Forest.

What is the smallest hawk in New Hampshire?

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is the smallest hawk in New Hampshire. Despite its size, this little raptor is a formidable hunter, often seen darting through the state’s forests in pursuit of smaller birds.

When is the breeding season for hawks in New Hampshire?

Breeding season for hawks in New Hampshire generally starts in early spring and lasts until mid-summer, although the exact timing may vary slightly between different species. The Broad-winged Hawk, for example, is a summer resident known to breed during this period.

What do hawks eat in New Hampshire?

Hawks in New Hampshire have a varied diet which consists of small mammals like mice and squirrels, birds, reptiles, and even insects. Larger species like the Red-tailed Hawk can also take larger prey such as rabbits.

Are Hawks protected in New Hampshire?

Yes, hawks are protected in New Hampshire under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This law makes it illegal to hunt, capture, kill, or possess hawks or interfere with their nests or eggs without a permit.

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