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8 Species of Hawks Found in Ohio (Pictures)

 Last Reviewed by Jesse Foutch on 01-26-2024

Ohio’s vast landscapes, encompassing dense forests and expansive wetlands, offer a conducive habitat for several different species of hawks. In this article we’ll discuss these hawks found in Ohio. We’ll tell you how many species can be found in the state, and a give you an overview of each one.

When it comes to hawks in Ohio, there are 8 different species that you may encounter. Those species are the Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Northern Harrier, and the Rough-legged Hawk.

Keep reading to learn a little bit about where you can see them in Ohio and what they look like. 

1. Red-tailed Hawk

Length: 17.7-25.6 in  
Weight: 24.3-51.5 oz 
Wingspan: 44.9-52.4 in  

Red-tailed Hawks are the most common hawks around with almost 2 million nesting hawks in North America. This number accounts for about 90% of the global Red-tailed Hawk population.

Red-tailed Hawks have a distinctive reddish-brown tail that sets them apart, making them easily identifiable even from a distance. Their diet is versatile, primarily consisting of small mammals, birds, and reptiles, showcasing their adaptability and prowess as hunters in Ohio’s varied ecosystems.

They also play a crucial role in maintaining the ecological balance by controlling rodent populations, underscoring their importance in the natural environment.

These large hawks live in Ohio and most of North America all year long. Red-tailed Hawks are most active during the day or early morning and are commonly seen soaring above looking for prey with their amazing vision or perched along the roadside on telephone poles. Learn some more facts about the Red-tailed Hawks.

2. Red-shouldered Hawk

Length: 16.9-24.0 in
Weight: 17.1-27.3 oz
Wingspan: 37.0-43.7 in  

You can ID a Red-shouldered Hawk by its unique shoulder and chest markings, which are a deep, rusty red. Unlike their Red-tailed cousins, these hawks have a more vocal nature, often heard calling out with a loud kee-rah in dense woods.

They’re also quite attached to their homes, frequently returning to the same nest year after year, which makes them great neighbors if you’re near a forest.

red-shouldered hawk standing on top of dead opossum
Red-shouldered Hawk with its prey | image by

The Red-shouldered hawk is a year-round resident to most of Ohio, and most of the eastern half of the U.S. They eat mostly small mammals, other birds, reptiles, and amphibians.

They are known for living and nesting in wooded areas and forests. Red-shouldered Hawks will commonly re-use the same nest year after year.

The population of Red-shouldered hawks has increased over the last 50 years in their range. The biggest threat to this species is the clearing of wooded areas where they nest and breed. Learn more facts about Red-shouldered hawks.

3. Sharp-shinned Hawk

Length: 9.4-13.4 in
Weight: 3.1-7.7 oz
Wingspan: 16.9-22.1 in

You can recognize the Sharp-shinned Hawk by its small size, the smallest among hawks in North America. These hawks are known to hang around backyard feeders in Ohio, especially in the southern parts where they live year-round. 

Sharp-shinned Hawks are agile flyers, darting through trees with ease, which makes them adept at catching birds and small mammals in dense forests. Their presence in Ohio, particularly around backyard feeders, showcases their adaptability to both wild and suburban environments.

sharp-shinned hawk
Image by dbadry from Pixabay

Observing these hawks can provide a fascinating glimpse into the predator-prey dynamics right in your backyard, highlighting the complex interactions within local ecosystems.

As mentioned, they are known for stalking backyard feeders and eating songbirds as prey. If you see one consider taking down your feeders for a week or two and allowing the hawk to move on. Learn more facts about the Sharp-shinned hawk.

4. Cooper’s Hawk

Length: 14.6-17.7 in
Weight: 7.8-24.0 oz
Wingspan: 24.4-35.4 in

Cooper’s Hawks are often mistaken for their smaller relatives, the Sharp-shinned Hawks. This size difference is one of the key factors in distinguishing between the two species, especially when observed from a distance.

To help distinguish between Cooper’s Hawks and Sharp-shinned Hawks, bird watchers can look for several key differences:

  • Size: Cooper’s Hawks are generally larger.
  • Behavior: Cooper’s Hawks often exhibit more assertive hunting techniques.
  • Flight Patterns: Cooper’s Hawks have a flap-flap-glide pattern, contrasting with the more frenetic wingbeats of Sharp-shinned Hawks.

Like sharpies, Cooper’s Hawks are notorious for stalking feeders and feed almost exclusively on other birds. Their preferred habitat is forests and wooded areas but will also nest in suburban wooded areas and backyards too. Learn more facts about the Cooper’s hawk.

Cooper’s hawks are residents of Ohio throughout the year, and adapt well to the state’s varied landscapes. Their presence across most of North America shows their adaptability and resilience in different habitats, from dense forests to suburban areas. 

5. Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged hawk (Image: Andrew Cannizzaro | CC BY 2.0 | wikicommons)

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 range throughout the entire state of Ohio, which means they are only present during warmer weather. Broad-winged Hawks migrate each year by the thousands, these large flocks are called “kettles”.

If you want to spot a Broad-winged Hawk while they’re in Ohio, try walking through a forest during the summer and listening for their piercing whistle.

broad-winged hawk perched
Broad-winged hawk | image by Courtney Celley/USFWS via Flickr

Broad-winged Hawks have one brood each year with 1-5 eggs. The female is in charge of constructing the nest, with help from the male. They will fiercely protect their nesting site and build their nests with at least a half-mile of separation from other birds of prey. Their diet is consistent with that of most other birds of prey.

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6. Northern Goshawk

photo by: Iosto Doneddu | CC 2.0

Length: 20.9-25.2 in
Weight: 22.3-48.1 oz
Wingspan: 40.5-46.1 in

Northern Goshawks are large birds of prey, similar in size to Red-tailed Hawks. The Northern Goshawk is considered scarce with a non-breeding population in Ohio. However, in the northernmost parts of Ohio near Lake Erie you may catch a glimpse of one if you’re lucky.

Adults are dark slate gray on top with barred light gray underparts, and have a light stripe over their eyes. Northern Goshawks live and nest in forests high up in the trees, making them rather difficult to find. They are mostly opportunistic eaters with a wide range of prey including other birds, mammals, carrion, and insects.

Northern Goshawk (Image: Jevgenijs Slihto | CC BY 2.0 | flickr)

Northern Goshawks exhibit remarkable agility in flight, especially within their forested habitats. This agility, coupled with their keen vision, allows them to navigate through dense trees while hunting. Their nests, typically built high in mature trees, reflect their preference for secluded and dense forest environments.

Observing a Northern Goshawk in its natural habitat offers a rare and insightful glimpse into the life of one of Ohio’s more elusive raptors, showcasing the diversity of avian life in the state’s forested regions.

7. Rough-legged Hawk

photo by: DickDaniels | CC 3.0

Length: 18.5-20.5 in
Weight: 25.2-49.4 oz 
Wingspan: 52.0-54.3 in

Rough-legged Hawks and Ferruginous Hawks are the only North American hawks to have feathered legs all the way down to their toes. The Rough-legged Hawk comes in two distinct variations; light morph and dark morph.

The plumage of males and females look quite different in both morphs. As you might expect, light morphs are overall lighter colored with a somewhat mottled pattern, and dark morphs are a dark chocolate brown color with two-toned light/dark under their wings and tails.

Rough-legged hawk (Image: Tom Koerner/USFWS | CC BY 2.0 | flickr)

Rough-legged Hawks have a non-breeding range throughout the state of Ohio, making winter the best time to see one in Ohio, or the U.S. in general. They migrate far north to the arctic regions of Alaska and northern Canada each season to breed.

During their winter stay in Ohio, Rough-legged Hawks can often be spotted hovering over open fields and marshes, a hunting technique that distinguishes them from other hawk species.

This behavior, combined with their unique feathered legs, makes them a fascinating subject for birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts. Their migration to and from the Arctic adds an element of seasonal anticipation for those hoping to catch a glimpse of these distinctive hawks in the Ohio landscape.

8. Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier |

Length: 18.1-19.7 in (46-50 cm)
Weight: 10.6-26.5 oz (300-750 g)
Wingspan: 40.2-46.5 in (102-118 cm)

The Northern Harrier is the only harrier variety of hawks indigenous to North America. Its breeding grounds range as far north as Canada, but it winters in more southern climates, including Ohio. They like living and hunting in fields and marshes.

Like owls, Northern Harriers rely on their hearing as well as their vision to hunt, and they sometimes subdue their larger prey by drowning them. Males can have up to five female partners at once, although it’s more common for them to have just one or two.

Northern Harriers are the most owl-like hawks in Ohio and North America. They rely heavily on their acute hearing as well as their excellent vision to hunt for prey. 

northern harrier face
northern harrier

The Northern Harrier’s unique hunting strategy, combining visual acuity with a keen sense of hearing akin to owls, allows it to hunt successfully in the open fields and marshlands of Ohio.

Their distinctive facial disk, which functions like an owl’s, helps channel sound to their ears, enhancing their ability to locate prey even in tall grasses or dense marsh vegetation. This adaptation, along with their polygynous mating system, where males may have multiple female partners, highlights the Northern Harrier’s unique place among North American raptors.

Observing these harriers glide low over the ground, with their wings held in a characteristic V-shape, offers a glimpse into their specialized hunting techniques and social behaviors.

10 thoughts on “8 Species of Hawks Found in Ohio (Pictures)”

    • Yes Glen certainly possible. There have been a few sightings recorded on eBird at the airport, and some more frequent sightings at the nearby Springfield lake. They probably don’t hang out at the airport a lot but certainly possible to see them flying in that area.

  1. Yes! There used to be a pair up around Wingfoot lake, they flew over my wedding in 2009 at the lake.

  2. Four hawks perch on the branches of a dead tree every evening at dusk. I believe the nest is in a tall nearby conifer They swoop along the same path and their call is readily identified. They watch me as I watch them. I named them Woody, Urban, Ryan and Brutus…

  3. Have hawk nest in pine trees.They have been learning to fly. Watch early am.3 hanging around .Fun to watch.Still not sure Cooper or SSh.

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