Maryland is our 9th smallest state with about 9, 774 square miles of land, just slightly larger than the Vermont. Even though it’s only a small state on the east coast of the United States, some large birds of prey can be found there. In this article we’ll go over 20 birds of prey in Maryland including hawks, owls, eagles, and falcons.
Some can be found in the state year-round, others are just migrants and not commonly seen. We’ll talk a bit about each species, its size, how to identify it, and where you might look for them.
Birds of prey in Maryland
This list of 20 raptors includes hawks in Maryland, owls in Maryland, falcons in Maryland, and eagles in Maryland.
Hawks in Maryland
1. Red-tailed Hawk
Length: 17.7-25.6 in
Weight: 24.3-51.5 oz
Wingspan: 44.9-52.4 in
The Red-tailed Hawk is a large hawk and the most common one in all of North America. They have a year-round range in the entire state of Maryland and can commonly be seen soaring overhead or perched high up on telephone wires and high in trees. They feed mostly on small to medium-sized mammals so they aren’t seen in backyards stalking bird feeders as often as a Sharp-shinned or Copper’s Hawk is.
Check out this article for more facts Red-tailed Hawks
2. Rough-legged Hawk
Length: 18.5-20.5 in
Weight: 25.2-49.4 oz
Wingspan: 52.0-54.3 in
The Rough-legged Hawk has a non-breeding population in all of Maryland. Probably the best time to see one anywhere in the U.S. is in the winter time. Rough-legged Hawks migrate far north to the arctic regions of Alaska and northern Canada each year to breed. They can easily be identified by their feathered legs that go all the way down to their toes. The only other species of hawk with this trait is the Ferruginous Hawk who is further down this list of hawks in Arizona.
3. Broad-winged Hawk
Length: 13.4-17.3 in
Weight: 9.3-19.8 oz
Wingspan: 31.9-39.4 in
The Broad-winged Hawk has a breeding-only population in most of Maryland. If you’re in the state in the Spring through Fall, keep your eyes open along roadsides and in forests as this is the best time of year to spot them.
Broad-winged Hawks leave South America by the hundreds of thousands in the fall to start their migration to their breeding grounds in North America. Once they arrive they are found in the eastern part of the U.S. and throughout much of Canada, but not the western parts of the United States.
4. Red-shouldered Hawk
Length: 16.9-24.0 in
Weight: 17.1-27.3 oz
Wingspan: 37.0-43.7 in
The Red-shouldered Hawk has a year-round range in Maryland, and can be found in much of the eastern half of the United States. They are most common east of the Mississippi River, but they can be found along the coast in California and south into Baja. They eat mostly small mammals, other birds, as well as reptiles and amphibians.
The population of Red-shouldered hawks has increased over the last 50 years in their range. Red-shouldered Hawks are known for living and nesting in wooded areas and forests. The biggest threat to this species is the clearing of wooded areas where they nest and breed. Red-shouldered Hawks will commonly re-use the same nest year after year. Learn more about the Red-shouldered hawk here.
5. Northern Goshawk
Length: 20.9-25.2 in
Weight: 22.3-48.1 oz
Wingspan: 40.5-46.1 in
Northern Goshawks are scarce in Maryland, but do have a limited range there. These birds don’t occur in populated areas so they aren’t seen in the wild as often as other types of hawks anyway.
The Northern Goshawk is the larger relative to the Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks. This raptor got its name from the Old English word for “goose hawk,” which refers to the fact that it preys on other birds. They can be identified by their mostly gray color, orange or red eyes, and white stripes over their eyes that look like eyebrows.
6. Cooper’s Hawk
Length: 14.6-17.7 in
Weight: 7.8-24.0 oz
Wingspan: 24.4-35.4 in
Copper’s Hawks can be found all year long throughout the state of Maryland. Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks look extremely similar and the size difference is the main indicator between the two species. Like the Sharpie, the Cooper’s Hawk loves to prey on other birds and can also be a nuisance in backyards. See the video below for some tips on how to tell the two hawks apart.
7. Sharp-shinned Hawk
Length: 9.4-13.4 in
Weight: 3.1-7.7 oz
Wingspan: 16.9-22.1 in
The Sharp-shinned Hawk has a non-breeding population in most of the state of Maryland. In western Maryland they may have a year-round population near the birder. Sharp-shinned Hawks, aka Sharpies, are notorious for stalking backyards and bird feeders as songbirds make up about 90% of their diet. If you see one in your yard be sure to take down your feeders for a few days and allow the hawk to move on before putting them back up.
Owls in Maryland
8. Barn Owl
Length: 12.6-15.8 in
Weight: 14.1-24.7 oz
Wingspan: 39.4-49.2 in
Barn Owls have a year-round in Maryland. The Barn Owl is easily identified by their beautiful plumage and heart-shaped face. Barn Owls actually nest in many man-made structures including barns, which is where they got their name. They are also one of the most widely distributed birds in the entire world with 46 different sub-species worldwide. The North American Barn Owl is the largest of all of these.
Barn Owls, like other owls, are nocturnal and may be spotted at night hunting for small mammals. They are known for swallowing their prey completely whole, bones and all. Rather than digesting food normally through their digestive tract, they will regurgitate “pellets” of what their bodies did not need for nutrition.
Barn owls have exceptional low-light sight and hearing which makes them amazing night hunters and feared by anything known to be their prey. They are able to track and capture their prey by sound alone better than any other animal ever tested.
9. Eastern Screech-owl
Length: 6.3-9.8 in
Weight: 4.3-8.6 oz
Wingspan: 18.9-24.0 in
The Eastern Screech-owl is a year-round resident to the entire state of Maryland. These small owls feed on various insects, rodents, and songbirds. Eastern Screech-owls will readily take up residence in nest boxes, if you’d like to attract a mating pair then consider putting one up in your yard. They will also use bird baths if you have one in your yard.
Whether they’re using a nesting box that you provide or a tree cavity that they’ve found, the female and young rely on the slightly smaller male to hunt and bring them food. They prefer living in wooded areas near a water source but are commonly found in suburban areas.
10. Great Horned Owl
Length: 18.1-24.8 in
Weight: 32.1-88.2 oz
Wingspan: 39.8-57.1 in
The Great Horned Owl is among the largest of owls in Maryland and are also year-round residents to the entire state. They’re easily recognized by their large size, ear tufts, and yellow eyes. They are the only bird known to regularly kill and eat skunks and are also known to be mortal enemies with Red-tailed Hawks.
Great Horned Owls have a wide range of habitats and are common in forests, swamps, deserts, tundras, tropical rainforests open fields, as well as in urban and suburban areas like cities and parks.
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11. Snowy Owl
Length: 20.5-27.9 in
Wingspan: 49.6-57.1 in
Snowy Owls are slightly larger than Great Horned Owls and their white plumage makes them incredibly beautiful and a treat to see should you ever be lucky enough. They are scarce in Maryland but the state does barely fall within their southernmost range. Snowy Owls migrate far north to the arctic tundra regions of Canada and Northern Greenland to breed.
Along with their white feathers, they have rounded heads with no ear tufts like other owls do making them impossible to mistake for any other type of owl if you see one. Snowy Owls are not only the largest but in my opinion among the most beautiful birds of prey in Maryland.
12. Barred Owl
Length: 16.9-19.7 in
Weight: 16.6-37.0 oz
Wingspan: 39.0-43.3 in
The Barred Owl is common throughout the entire state of Maryland. They are known to be very vocal and have a very recognizable call that sounds like they are saying; “Who cooks for you, Who cooks for you all? ” As with most owls, they are not always easy to spot. You may get lucky and spot one roosting during the day time if you take a walk through a mature forest. Barred Owls don’t migrate and are generally sedentary by nature.
Their number 1 predator is the Great Horned Owl. If a Great Horned Owl moves into a Barred Owl’s territory, it will quickly vacate the area and move on, although likely not very far. Out of 155 Barred Owls studied, none of them ventured further than 6 miles away from where they were originally banded.
13. Long-eared Owl
Length: 13.8-15.8 in
Weight: 7.8-15.3 oz
Long-eared Owls have a non-breeding population in Maryland and migrate north to breed each year. They can easily be identified by their extra long ears, but are well camouflaged and may be hard to spot.
They are fierce and silent hunters that feed on the typical owl diet of small mammals and occasionally other birds. Like the Barn Owl they swallow their prey whole and regurgitate the unneeded parts in pellets. The call of the male Long-eared Owl can be heard from almost a mile away.
14. Short-eared Owl
Length: 13.4-16.9 in
Weight: 7.3-16.8 oz
Wingspan: 33.5-40.5 in
Short-eared Owls have a non-breeding population in Maryland and most are only present in the state for part of the year. They are most commonly spotted in open fields and grasslands near dawn or dusk.
They can fly great distances when they migrate and have a very wide distribution range in North America. All the way from Mexico to the Northern tip of Alaska and everywhere in between.
15. Northern Saw-whet Owl
Length: 7.1-8.3 in
Weight: 2.3-5.3 oz
Wingspan: 16.5-18.9 in
Northern Saw-whet Owls have a non-breeding range in Maryland. Not only is the Saw-whet the smallest owl found in Maryland, but one of the smallest birds of prey in the entire country!
These tiny owls are about the size of an American Robin and got their name because of their call that sounds similar to that of a saw being sharpened on a whetting stone. They are generally very reclusive birds that prefer living in mature forests near a water source.
They feed mainly on mice but during migration will supplement their diets with insects, songbirds, and even other small owls. Less is known about the migration and population of Northern Saw-whets because of their naturally elusive lifestyle.
Falcons in Maryland
16. American Kestrel
Length: 8.7-12.2 in
Weight: 2.8-5.8 oz
Wingspan: 20.1-24.0 in
The North American Kestrel sets itself apart from all other birds of prey on this list for several reasons. The Kestrel is the smallest and most colorful colorful bird of prey in Maryland and all of North America, as well as the most common falcon in the North America.
They live in the state of Maryland year-round and can be seen along fence posts and perched on telephone poles. While many kestrels live in Maryland all year, some are migratory making the best time of year to spot one in the Spring or Fall during migrations or while they’re wintering.
American Kestrels are tiny yet fierce predators with beautiful colors. Just because they are predators themselves though, doesn’t mean they aren’t ever the prey. Many of the larger raptors on this list, like hawks and owls, will readily prey on kestrels as a meal.
Length: 9.4-11.8 in
Weight: 5.6-8.5 oz
Wingspan: 20.9-26.8 in
The North American Merlin is another small falcon and is has a non-breeding or migration only range in Maryland. This makes Spring and Fall the best time to see one as they are passing through the state. Merlins aren’t much bigger than kestrels, but there is still a noticeable size difference.
They feed primarily on songbirds like house sparrows and others of similar size, but may occasionally feed on insects as well. Merlins do not build their own nests but rather take over abandoned nests of other birds like hawks and crows. These highly territorial birds are monogamous during the breeding season but may find new mates each season.
18. Peregrine Falcon
Length: 14.2-19.3 in
Weight: 18.7-56.4 oz
Wingspan: 39.4-43.3 in
Next up, and one of my favorite falcons, is the Peregrine. Peregrine Falcons are able to reach speeds of up to 200mph when diving for prey, making them the fastest animal on the planet. If you’re interested in other cool facts about Peregrine Falcons then you’ll want to check out this article.
According to birdsoftheworld.org, the Peregrine has a migration range throughout most of the state of Maryland but does have a year-round range in some isolated areas near the coast. They have a fairly long migration to the arctic tundra regions of Canada and Alaska each year to breed.
The Peregrine Falcon was almost completely eradicated from North America in the mid 20th century due to pesticides, but have since made a strong comeback and populations are on the rise again.
Eagles in Maryland
19. Golden Eagle
Length: 27.6-33.1 in
Weight: 105.8-216.1 oz
Wingspan: 72.8-86.6 in
Golden Eagles are among the largest birds of prey in Maryland and in all of North America. They are mostly scarce in the state of Maryland but some do migrate through the state, making Spring and Fall the best time to spot one. They feed primarily on medium sized mammals like rabbits, hares, and ground squirrels.
Other than the Rough-legged Hawk they are also the only other raptor on this list whose feathers go all the way down their legs to their feet. Although they have a pretty wide distribution, these powerful eagles are much more common in the western parts of North America.
20. Bald Eagle
Length: 27.9-37.8 in
Weight: 105.8-222.2 oz
Wingspan: 80.3 in
This raptor needs no introduction, it’s been the national emblem of the United States since 1782 and much more. Bald Eagles have a mostly non-breeding range in Maryland, with some sticking around all year near the coast. For the eagles that do winter in Maryland, look for them near bodies of water and in Wildlife Refuges and National Parks.
Bald Eagles are roughly the same size as Golden Eagles, perhaps a bit larger. They are master predators and can easily catch their own prey but often prefer just stealing meals from other animals, like Ospreys. The oldest Bald Eagle in history was 38 years old and didn’t even die of natural causes, it was hit by a car.