Identifying North Carolina’s Hawks: A Guide to the Different Types of Raptors

North Carolina is home to a variety of hawk species, both resident and migratory. Here are some common hawks that can be found in North Carolina:

1. Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis):

The Red-tailed Hawk is a large hawk species with a distinctive rust-colored tail. It has a wide range and can be found year-round in North Carolina. Red-tailed Hawks are often seen soaring in open areas such as fields and along highways.

2. Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii):

The Cooper’s Hawk is a medium-sized hawk with a bluish-gray back, reddish-brown barred breast, and rounded wings. They are known for their agility and are skilled hunters, preying on birds and small mammals. Cooper’s Hawks can be found in various habitats across North Carolina, including wooded areas and suburban neighborhoods.

3. Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus):

The Red-shouldered Hawk is a medium-sized hawk with reddish-brown shoulders and a barred breast. It has broad wings and can be found near water sources and in forested areas. Red-shouldered Hawks are known for their distinctive vocalizations.

4. Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus):

The Broad-winged Hawk is a small to medium-sized hawk with broad wings and a rounded tail. It has a brown back with white bars and a pale underbelly. Broad-winged Hawks are migratory birds that pass through North Carolina during their spring and fall migrations. They can often be spotted in forested areas.

5. Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus):

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a small hawk species with a slate-gray back, pale underbelly with vertical streaks, and short rounded wings. They are agile fliers and hunt small birds and mammals. Sharp-shinned Hawks can be found in wooded areas and suburban habitats.

These are just a few examples of hawks that can be found in North Carolina. Other hawk species, such as the Northern Harrier, Rough-legged Hawk, and Osprey, may also be observed in the state depending on the season and habitat. If you are interested in birdwatching or hawk identification, it can be helpful to consult a local field guide or connect with birding communities in North Carolina for more specific information and sightings.