Discover 10 Hawks in Wyoming (+ Guide)




Hawks in Wyoming

Affiliate Disclaimer

This blog is reader-supported. When you make a purchase or take any action through links on this site, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Your support helps me continue providing valuable content to enhance your experience. Thank you!

Hawks in Wyoming thrive in its diverse landscapes, making it a haven for these magnificent birds of prey. From the vast plains to the towering mountains, Wyoming offers a range of habitats that attract a variety of hawk species. Wyoming’s open spaces and abundant prey populations provide the perfect conditions for hawks to hunt and nest, ensuring their survival and contributing to the state’s rich biodiversity.

Lists of Hawks in Wyoming:

  1. Red-tailed Hawk – The most common hawk in Wyoming, they can be spotted throughout the state, including in Yellowstone National Park.

  2. Swainson’s Hawk – Frequent in open grasslands and agricultural areas across Wyoming, particularly in the Great Plains region of the state.

  3. Northern Harrier – Preferring open habitats, Northern Harriers can be found across the state, notably in the National Elk Refuge.

  4. Cooper’s Hawk – Distributed across Wyoming, they are often seen in forested habitats like the Grand Teton National Park.

  5. Ferruginous Hawk – Common in open grasslands, these hawks are found in abundance in the eastern part of the state.

  6. Rough-legged HawkRough legged hawks are winter visitors, most commonly seen in the state’s open fields and meadows.

  7. Sharp-shinned Hawk – Common during migration seasons, they can be seen in forested areas like Shoshone National Forest.

  8. Northern GoshawkNorthern goshawks Preferrg large, dense forests, they can be found in areas like the Bridger-Teton National Forest.

  9. Red-shouldered Hawk – Less common, but can be spotted in various parts of the state, typically in forested habitats.

  10. Broad-winged Hawk – Broad winged hawks are mostly seen during migration season, particularly in the state’s forested areas.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

Where to Spot Hawks in Wyoming 

The best place to find the widest range of hawks in Wyoming is the Yellowstone National Park. This vast natural reserve is home to various hawk species, including the Red-tailed Hawk, Northern Harrier, and Rough-legged Hawk.

Here are some of the top places to spot hawks in Wyoming:

  1. Grand Teton National Park: Famed for its towering peaks, this park is also a great place to spot Ferruginous Hawks and Swainson’s Hawks, especially in the spring and summer months.

  2. Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area: The high cliffs here are home to nesting Golden Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks.

  3. Devils Tower National Monument: Sharp-shinned Hawks are frequently observed in this area, especially during fall migration.

  4. Shoshone National Forest: Cooper’s Hawks are often seen in this forest, particularly during summer.

  5. Fossil Butte National Monument: This is a good place to see Swainson’s Hawks in summer, as the area’s grasslands provide plenty of hunting grounds.

  6. Boysen State Park: Northern Harriers are common in the wetlands of this state park during the breeding season.

The diverse habitats of Wyoming, from its towering mountains and vast forests to its sweeping grasslands and tranquil wetlands, provide ample opportunities for hawks to thrive. Whether it’s the harsh winter or the balmy summer, there’s always a chance to spot these magnificent birds throughout the year in Wyoming.

As you explore the various hawks in Wyoming, it’s worth noting that the neighboring states also have their unique raptor communities. For instance, the hawks of Montana are worth noting, as the state’s diverse ecosystems attract a variety of hawks. To the south, the hawks of Colorado offer a splendid spectacle against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.

On the eastern side, the hawks of South Dakota benefit from the state’s grasslands, forests, and river valleys, ensuring a healthy raptor population. Don’t forget the hawks in Idaho, to the west, which benefit from the state’s rich river systems and expansive wilderness. Discovering these interconnected hawk populations provides a comprehensive understanding of their distribution in the American West.

Facts about Hawks in Wyoming 

  1. Unique Ferruginous Hawk Population: Wyoming has a significant population of Ferruginous Hawks, the largest hawk species of the Buteo genus, who prefer the open, arid landscapes of the state.

  2. Migration Through the Rocky Mountain Flyway: During migration seasons, Wyoming’s section of the Rocky Mountain Flyway becomes a major corridor for numerous raptor species, including hawks.

  3. Rare Sighting of Harris’s Hawks: This species is typically seen in the southwestern U.S., but rare sightings have been reported in Wyoming, creating excitement among bird watchers.

  4. Red-tailed Hawks Flourishing: These hawks are found throughout the state, often seen soaring over open fields and highways in search of prey.

  5. Raptor Rehabilitation at the Teton Raptor Center: Based in Wilson, Wyoming, this center provides essential care to injured, sick, or orphaned hawks, contributing to the conservation of these raptors in the state.

FAQs About Hawks in Wyoming 

What is the most common hawk in Wyoming?

The most common hawk in Wyoming is the Red-tailed Hawk. This adaptable bird is found in various habitats and is easily recognized by its broad, rounded wings and namesake red tail.

What is the biggest hawk in Wyoming?

The Ferruginous Hawk, the largest of the Buteo hawks, is common in Wyoming. They are recognized by their rust-colored back and broad wings. These hawks prefer open grasslands and prairie environments.

What is the smallest hawk in Wyoming?

The smallest hawk in Wyoming is the Sharp-shinned Hawk. Although small, they are formidable hunters and are often found near bird feeders preying on smaller birds.

When is the breeding season for hawks in Wyoming?

The breeding season for hawks in Wyoming usually begins in early spring, around March or April, and can extend until July. Timing can vary slightly based on the species and environmental factors at their breeding grounds.

What do hawks eat in Wyoming?

In Wyoming, hawks have a varied diet which includes small mammals, ground squirrels, birds, and reptiles. Red-tailed Hawks, for instance, are known to feed on rodents, while Sharp-shinned Hawks frequently prey on smaller birds.

Are Hawks protected in Wyoming?

Yes, all north american hawks and other birds of prey such as bald eagles are protected in Wyoming under state laws and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It is illegal to kill, trap, or possess hawks without a specific permit.

About the author

Latest posts