The 9 Species of Hawks in Virginia – Where to Find Them?

The 9 Species of Hawks in Virginia: Hawks can be found all over North America, including the United States. These are medium to large-sized predatory birds that typically fall into the two distinct groups of accipiters and buteos. Virginia is home to both types of hawks, and we will discuss them all in this article. Remember that female raptors are significantly larger than males when making identifications. 

This can make it difficult to tell what you’re seeing in some species, such as Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned. Although the male Cooper’s Hawk can be the same size as a female Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawks are larger overall than Sharp-shinned Hawks.

The 9 Species of Hawks in Virginia

1. Broad-Winged Hawk

The broad-winged hawk is a small hawk species. Despite being among the larger species just in terms of length, they have a very robust, rectangular build. Their tails are blunt, and their wings are small. Because of this, they can be easily identified in Virginia when contrasted with other, smaller varieties of hawks. 

2. Cooper’s Hawk

Even though flying seems natural to birds, it’s not always simple. Living in a forested area like Cooper’s Hawk can actually be extremely dangerous! Cooper’s hawks primarily consume smaller birds, such as pigeons and doves, as food. 

Read more: 9 Species of Hawks in Pennsylvania

3. Northern Goshawk

Hunting with falcons is a popular activity. Hunters will teach large birds of prey, such as the northern goshawk, to hunt small prey on their behalf rather than using conventional weapons. Mice and rabbits are examples of such animals. The northern goshawk was a unique bird when falconry first gained popularity as a hunting method during the Middle Ages. 

4. Northern Harrier

The northern harrier has abandoned its typical sharp hawk face in favor of a flat face that is better suited for listening to prey. Even though it has benefits for hunting, a face like that can make the northern harrier in Virginia resemble an owl more than any other kind of hawk!

5. Rough-Legged Hawk

Known by several names, including Rough-legged Falcons and Rough-legged Buzzards, these birds of prey live and breed on the Arctic tundra during the summer. These big hawks are only visible in Virginia in the winter, when they migrate south.

6. Red-Shouldered Hawk

In Virginia, the red-shouldered hawk, red-tailed hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, and Cooper’s hawk are probably among the most common hawk species. But unlike many of these other hawk species, the red-shouldered hawk isn’t found thriving anywhere in the United States. Rather, these raptors are actually very picky about the locations of their nests.

7. Red-Tailed Hawk

Another common hawk species in Virginia is the red-tailed hawk. When birdwatching, they are easily mistaken for the red-shouldered hawk. They are, nevertheless, considerably larger than red-shouldered hawks and do not have the checkered pattern of the latter.

8. Sharp-Shinned Hawk

The smallest hawk species found in Virginia is the sharp-shinned hawk. Furthermore, it is the smallest hawk in both the United States and Canada, making it one of the smallest hawks in all of North America. Though the male Sharp-shinned Hawk has the official right to occupy that spot.

9. Osprey

While ospreys are not hawks, they undoubtedly resemble them in appearance. When people see an osprey for the first time, they often mistake it for a different species of hawk. Additionally, these raptors have been given monikers that allude to the relationship between an osprey and a hawk, such as Fish Hawk, River Hawk, and Sea Hawk.

Read more: 8 Species of Hawks in North Carolina 

Where To Find Hawks In Virginia?

In every part of Virginia, hawks can be found. Anywhere there’s water, fresh or salt, in Virginia, is a good place to spot ospreys. Search for osprey nests on platforms, poles, and any other location they deem suitable for building a nest. The James River, the Atlantic Coastline, and the Chesapeake Bay and its environs are great spots to view during the summer.


Being able to witness a hawk up close is an amazing experience, but you have to venture outside to see them. This was only a quick dive into Virginia’s nine hawk species. We really hope you enjoyed this article and will read some of our other articles about the birds of the United States. 

Recall that a decent pair of binoculars and a good location are all you need to get started. Get outside and observe the hawks and other incredible birds that can be found all over Virginia.

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