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7 Florida Hawk Species (Native & Migratory Raptors)

Hawk looking on a prey

Last Updated: May 31, 2022

There are many birding destinations where you can spot Florida hawks.

They are...

At the Big Cypress National Preserve and Apalachicola National Forest.

Some raptors breed in the state, while others come for shelter during winter. Further, some species have made FL home. Carry pictures of these raptors to make their identification exciting and informative.

So which hawks await you? Read on!

Florida Hawk Species

1. Red-Shouldered Hawk

red-shouldered hawk on a tree

It's a resident of FL, so you'll spot it any time of the year. But, you have to visit woodlands, swamps, and marshes to see them. Luckily, this raptor reuses a nest, so it's easy to spot when nesting.

Even better, there are many red-shouldered hawks in this state, so you'll always spot one whenever you go birding. It rarely chases birds; instead, it feeds on frogs, grasshoppers, crickets, and snakes.

It perches on posts or dead tree trunks, waiting to pounce at the right time.

2. Red-Tailed Hawk

red-tailed hawk looking behind

It lives all year round in the southern states, and during the breeding season, it moves to the northern states. Hence, it's the one you'll see more often in FL, even when driving across the countryside.

The red-tailed hawk soars high over farm fields and perches on telephone poles to watch small mammals below. It eats various rodents like rabbits, squirrels, and mice.

To know you're looking at one, check the size of its wings.

It's a red-tailed hawk if they're broad and rounded. Also, it should have a brick-colored tail, a dark brown back, and a light, streaked underbelly. Note, some birds are paler than others.

The nesting season in FL starts around February and lasts for about four months.


3. Cooper's Hawk

juvenile cooper's hawk on low-lying field

This raptor has a dark crown that complements its light nape. The wings are dark-bluish, the underbelly is reddish and barred, while the tail has a white tip contrasting the dominant dark and light-gray colors on it.

But, juveniles have a brown back instead of a dark-gray one, and their underbelly is cream-colored.

Cooper's hawk is a resident bird in FL, and it may hunt small birds in your backyards.

This hawk lives in forests and woodlands, and it nests there or in residential areas. It prefers forests with deciduous and mixed-deciduous trees. For food, it hunts songbirds, reptiles, fish, and amphibians.


4. Northern Harrier

northern harrier hunting for a prey on top of a tree

It breeds in the northern states, even nesting in Canada, but spends winter down south. That's when you can see it in Florida. Start your search in the open fields and marshes where the northern harrier hunts insects, frogs, birds, and snakes.

It sneaks up on its prey by flying slow and low in the open fields studying its prey. Its unique flying strategy makes identification easy.

Further, this Florida hawk builds its nest on the ground within dense vegetation. The northern harrier has long wings with unfeathered legs. Its tail is also long, and males and females have some plumage differences.

The male has a grayish back with white, streaked underparts, while the female has a brown back and a streaked underbelly. The juveniles almost resemble the brown shade of the adult female, though darker. Its wingspan ranges from 40 to 47 inches, and its other names are harrier and marsh hawk.

Fun Fact: Hawks are popular (both the bird and the basketball team) and always at the forefront of many avian watchers. Did you know that this species is likewise on the list as one of the birds of Iowa?


5. Broad-Winged Hawk

broad-winged hawk perched on a stump

It's a migratory bird that moves in a flock of thousands. This raptor loves forest edges, and it's elusive during the breeding season. Like other raptors, it's a sneaky predator that watches prey from trees on the edge of woodlands.

Sometimes, it may fly through woods chasing prey or over the water searching for crayfish.

In addition to fish, the broad-winged hawk calls it a day after hunting mice, snakes, toads, insects, and turtles. Even centipedes are lunch or dinner.

It builds a nest on a tree, lower than most raptors do, and nest building is an activity of both genders.


6. Short-Tailed Hawk

black and brown short-tailed hawk in a forest

Interestingly, you'll only find it in Florida, but it's also rare to see it. Sounds confusing? There might be less than 500 short-tailed hawks, so sightings are rare.

This raptor's home includes pines, cypress swamps, and mangroves, preferably in places near marshes or prairies. Luckily, it can find open fields near woodlands in FL. You have to search for it in forests as it rarely perches in open areas.

Even when hunting, it flies high that you may not notice it. When it spots small birds, which make up its main diet, it dives fast and pounces. If there are no songbirds to hunt, a sharp-shinned hawk can stand in as dinner, or it can consider snakes, rodents, or insects.

The short-tailed hawk likes to remain mysterious, so it builds nests on pines or other trees about 25-feet high.

7. Sharp-Shinned Hawk

sharp-shinned walk on a sunset

It lives in most parts of Florida except in summer when it moves north. The sharp-shinned hawk loves hanging near bird feeders, just like Cooper's hawk, preying on small birds.

This Florida hawk likes forests and open fields, for it eats bats, insects, snakes, and lizards. You're likely to see sharp-shinned hawks along coastlines and lakeshores during their migration.


Frequently Asked Questions About Hawks Of Florida

What Does A Hawk Look Like In Florida?

Hawks have different plumage colors, eye colors, tail shapes, wingspan, and lengths. Therefore, you'd have to define the characteristics of a specific species, such as Cooper's hawk.

Overall, dark gray, brown, and bluish-gray are the common upper colors of hawks in Florida. They have white, pale red, or brownish underbellies with streaks. Wings and tail length vary, with the northern harrier and the red-tailed hawk exhibiting long wingspans.

What Do Florida Hawks Eat?

Generally, they eat birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. Each species has its diet, but the most popular delicacies from the mentioned classes are frogs, songbirds, crayfish, snakes, lizards, insects, rabbits, mice, and voles. Hawks that eat small birds get them from bird feeders.

Watch This!

Can You Own A Hawk In Florida?

Yes, after getting a permit. Since the law protects these birds, you have to apply for a permit to own, import, buy, sell or transport them.

Final Thoughts

Birding in FL will introduce you to a rare species, the short-tailed hawk. You'll also see other six species of North America, such as the red-tailed hawk. Even though most of them have similar diets and hunting styles, there are differences in their physical characteristics and nesting habits.

In addition to sightings of hawks in Florida, you'll explore woodlands, marshes, lakeshores, and open fields. But, don't focus on traveling to spot hawks and forget that some species, such as Cooper's hawk, can come to bird feeders.

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