8 Species of Hawks in North Carolina (Pictures and Info)

8 Species of Hawks in North Carolina: North Carolina is home to a diverse population of hawks in addition to its picturesque mountain ranges and breathtaking beaches. These magnificent birds have made North Carolina their home, with seven different species of hawks calling this region home. Hawks in general, lend a graceful and amazing quality to the state; these include the ubiquitous Red-tailed Hawk. 

To find hawks in North Carolina, one should search woodland areas for smaller species like Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned hawks or open grasslands, marshes, or high ridges for larger hawk species.

They can be found in a variety of habitats and feeds primarily on mammals, and the elusive Northern Harrier, which soars at great altitudes. These amazing animals, whether soaring through the skies or perched atop trees, are an essential component of North Carolina’s natural heritage.

Read more: 9 Species of Hawks in Pennsylvania

8 Species of Hawks in North Carolina

1. Red-tailed Hawk

The Red-tailed Hawk is a magnificent predatory bird distinguished by its remarkable appearance. It can weigh up to four pounds and has a broad wingspan that averages four feet. The most distinctive characteristic of the Red-tailed Hawk, as its name implies, is its red tail feathers, which strikingly contrast with its dark brown plumage. 

Red-tailed Hawk

2. Sharp-shinned Hawk

The smallest hawk species that can be found in North Carolina is the Sharp-shinned hawks. Its length is approximately 11 inches, and its wingspan is on average 22 inches. These hawks have light, pale underparts with horizontal barring and dark blue-gray upperparts. They have a unique appearance due to their long tails and short, rounded wings.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

3. Northern Harrier

Northern harriers have long, thin tails and faces resembling owls. In North Carolina, they are rarely seen outside of the winter. They are observed swooping low over open fields, marshes, and prairies. Also they inhabit both arid and wet environments. They mostly eat carrion in the winter. 

Northern Harrier

Read more: The 10 Types of Woodpeckers in North Carolina

4. Cooper’s Hawk

Medium-sized raptors with exceptional speed and agility are Cooper’s Hawks. Their length is approximately 16–20 inches, and their wingspan is roughly 35–37 inches. Their lighter underparts with horizontal barring and blue-gray upperparts are similar to those of the Sharp-shinned Hawk. 

Cooper’s Hawk

5. Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawks are well-known for their extensive migratory patterns, frequently covering great distances to reach their wintering and breeding grounds. They are typically found in North Carolina’s deep forests during the breeding season. But these hawks migrate to Central and South America in the winter. 

Broad-winged Hawk

6. Osprey

The Osprey is not technically a hawk, but because of its similar appearance and predatory habits, people frequently confuse it for one. They are large raptors, with a length of about 21–24 inches and a wingspan of 54–72 inches. Ospreys are distinguished by their white head with a dark eye stripe, brown upperparts, and white underparts.


7. Rough-legged Hawk

During the winter, North Carolina is home to rough-legged hawks. They are extremely rare in the state. Some of them are visible hovering over the open fields and marshes or sitting atop poles by the sides of the roads. Their name comes from their feathered legs; they are dark-brown raptors.

Rough-legged Hawk

8. Northern Goshawk

North Carolina is a common wintering habitat for northern goshawks. Compared to sharp-shinned hawks, they are larger and more formidable. Their broad wings and long tails contrast with their dominant grayish color.

Northern Goshawk

Where to find Hawks in North Carolina?

Take heed of these pointers and visit some of North Carolina’s best birding spots to spot hawks:

  • Haw River State Park is a great place to begin your hawk-watching adventure and is situated in the Piedmont region. Ideal viewing locations can be found on the trails that follow the Haw River through the surrounding woodlands. 
  • Travel to the western portion of the state, where a variety of habitats can be found in the Pisgah National Forest. You may be able to see the magnificent Red-tailed Hawks soaring over the mountains along the Blue Ridge Parkway. 
  • For birdwatchers, this Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is a sanctuary. Over the open wetlands, Northern Harriers can be seen gliding. 
  • Jordan Lake is a great place to go birding if you want a mix of woodland and waterfront views. Look for Bald Eagles and Ospreys along the lake’s shoreline. During the migration season, Broad-winged Hawks may be visible in forested areas.


Hawks are eloquent representatives of North Carolina’s abundant biodiversity in its colorful landscapes. These raptors, which range in size from the majestic Red-shouldered Hawk to the sly Northern Harrier, enthrall with their beauty and provide insightful information about the delicate balance of our natural ecosystems.

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