9 Species of Hawks in Pennsylvania: Know the Different Types

There are 9 Species of Hawks in Pennsylvania, making it home to a wide variety of hawks. The Red-tailed Hawk, which is distinguished by its vivid red tail, is among the most easily recognized. The Sharp-shinned Hawk, which is the smallest hawk species in Pennsylvania, is on the other end of the size spectrum and is frequently observed darting around bird feeders. 

Conversely, Cooper’s Hawks are usually found near fields or in wooded areas, where they hunt songbirds as their primary food source. The fierceness of the larger and more elusive Northern Goshawks is well known, but Red-shouldered Hawks would rather live in forests and hunt small mammals. 

9 Species of Hawks in Pennsylvania:

1. Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Swift and astute hunters, Sharp-shinned Hawks maneuver through dense forests, snatching small and medium-sized birds as well as rodents out of the undergrowth. These raptors are extremely agile among the trees because of their long tails and long wings.

2. Cooper’s Hawk

The Cooper’s Hawk, the classic Accipiter, is a medium-sized stealth missile that is trained to hunt songbirds. It maneuvers through dense forests by using its long tails and powerful, rounded wings. Cooper’s Hawk adults have long, gray tails with black banding and a white tail edge. 

3. Northern Goshawk

One of the biggest hawks observed in Pennsylvania is the northern goshawk, which inhabits coniferous and mixed old-growth forests. They also choose to live in forests throughout their entire range, making them some of the most reticent species. Although these elusive raptors are rare visitors to Pennsylvania in the winter, keep an eye out for them.

4. Buteo Hawks    

Large raptors with broad wings, short, wide tails, and heavy, solid bodies are called buteos. Although the feathers of most raptors have a uniform color, Buteo hawks can exhibit variations in their overall plumage color.  A shadowy transformation Though generally darker, the rough-legged hawk resembles the field guide bird in appearance. 

Read more: 18 Birds With Blue Eggs (in North America)

5. Red-Tailed Hawk

The most prevalent hawk in Pennsylvania and throughout North America. There are fourteen subspecies of red tails, and each has a unique plumage. Since most of the subspecies of Red-tailed Hawks are found west of the Mississippi River, you can find the eastern version of the bird, commonly known as the “Red-tailed Hawk,” throughout Pennsylvania.

6. Red-Shouldered Hawk

Easily recognizable Buteo with a distinctive whistle call that can be heard in the state’s wetland forests. The mottled black-and-white back, rufous “shoulders,” and peach-colored underparts are characteristics of red-shouldered hawks. 

7. Rough-Legged Hawk

Large, long-tailed, narrow-winged Buteo that prefers open areas. During the winter, they visit Pennsylvania and the Northeast, where they can be spotted perched on trees and posts close to open grasslands or soaring over fields in search of food.

8. Broad-Winged Hawk

A robust, small, crow-sized Buteo from Pennsylvania’s interior woods, with a short tail that is banded in black and white. Mostly during the breeding season and at hawk watches during fall migrations, they can be observed. The white banding on the short tails of the Broad-winged Hawk is a distinguishing field mark.

9. Northern Harrier

As you’re traveling across an open field, you see a low-flying, nearly eye-level raptor glide across the field with its wings folded into a V. Its long tail and effortless floating motion allow it to slowly search and drift over the arid ground for food.

Where Can You Find Different Species of Hawks In Pennsylvania?

Anywhere there is water, fresh or salt, is the best place to see ospreys in Pennsylvania. Look for osprey nests on platforms, poles, and any other location they deem suitable for raising a brood. 

During the summer, major rivers in Pennsylvania and their tributaries, as well as the areas surrounding lakes, ponds, reservoirs, and wetlands, are good places to spot osprey.

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Waggoner’s Gap Hawk Watch, and Kittatinny Ridge Hawk Watch are just a few of the fantastic hawk watching locations in Pennsylvania. 

Ask one of the enumerators if they are present about what you are seeing; they are very knowledgable and usually seem to have helpful advice on raptor identification. 

Even though there might be more traffic during fall migration, you might still find some amazing birds migrating up the coast in the spring.


Hawks are essential to the ecosystem because they help regulate the numbers of small mammals and birds. The richness and diversity of Pennsylvania’s habitats can be seen in the variety of hawk species that call the state home. 

Due to the distinctive traits, lifestyles, and dietary preferences of each hawk species, habitat conservation is crucial to the hawks’ survival. Hawks are a magnificent bird that will always be in our skies if we recognize their diversity in Pennsylvania and work to protect them.

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