Updated at: 11-10-2023 - By: petstutorial

Hawks are fascinating birds of prey that are known for their sharp talons and beaks, which make them powerful animals with fantastic hunting skills. Arkansas is home to a diverse range of hawks, thanks to its varied landscapes that support an incredible array of wildlife.

There are about 10 types of hawks that can be found in Arkansas, and they vary in shapes, sizes, colors, and behaviors. In this article, we will discuss the 10 species of hawks that are common in Arkansas, including their appearance, habitat, diet, and unique sounds they make.

Whether you are an avid bird enthusiast or simply curious about the hawks that call Arkansas home, this article is a must-read for anyone interested in these captivating creatures.


10 Types Of Hawks In Arkansas

Red-tailed Hawk

The Red-tailed Hawk is one of the most common hawks in Arkansas, and it is a species that many people are familiar with. These large raptors are often seen on long drives in open fields and grasslands that have dispersed trees and telephone poles.

Red-tailed hawks have a distinctive feature, which is a short and wide red tail, and their wings are large and rounded like those of a goose. They have a brown back and are pale underneath with a streaked belly.

Red-tailed hawks prefer mammals for their diet, such as moles, ground squirrels, rabbits, small raccoons, mice, and voles. They are present in Arkansas year-round, but they are more frequently spotted in winter, appearing in 18% of checklists submitted by bird watchers for the state.

Red-shouldered Hawk

The Red-shouldered Hawk is a medium-sized hawk that can be found year-round in Arkansas. They have deep, reddish chestnut-colored feathers that appear marbled on the wings with bars on the breast. They have stark bars on the tail and pitch-black eyes.

Red-shouldered hawks live in wet deciduous woodlands, and they prefer woods with an open upper canopy since this extra space allows them to hunt more efficiently. They are also common in suburban areas where houses have been mixed into woodlands.

Red-shouldered hawks prefer non-feathered prey if they can and eat small mammals, snakes, lizards, and amphibians. They make a loud cack-cack-cack-cack call.

Northern Harrier

The Northern Harrier is a unique hawk that is native to North America, and it is the only harrier variety of hawks that can be found in the region. They breed as far north as Canada, but they migrate to more southern climates, including Arkansas, during winter.

Northern Harriers prefer living and hunting in fields and marshes, and they are known for their acute hearing and excellent vision, which they use to hunt for prey. They are also similar to owls in this regard.

Northern Harriers are slender with long broad wings, and they often fly with the tips of their wings higher than their bodies in a V-shape. They have a white rump patch, and males can have up to five female partners at once, although it is more common for them to have just one or two.

Northern Harriers mostly eat small mammals and small birds, and they nest on the ground in dense vegetation such as reeds, willows, or brushtails.

Cooper’s Hawk


Cooper’s Hawk is a medium-sized hawk that is native to North America and can be found in Arkansas. However, it is important to note that there is also a restaurant and winery chain called Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants, which is not related to the bird species.

The Cooper’s Hawk bird species is a member of the genus Accipiter, which is the most diverse of all diurnal raptor genera. They have broad, rounded wings and a very long tail, and the head often appears large, with the shoulders broad and the tail rounded.

Cooper’s Hawks are larger than Sharp-shinned Hawks and about crow-sized, but males can be much smaller. They are known for their agility and ability to hunt large and evasive prey.

Cooper’s Hawks mostly eat birds and small mammals, and they hunt by stealth, approaching their prey through dense cover and then pouncing. They build bulky nests of sticks, lined with softer materials such as strips of bark.

Sharp-shinned Hawk


The Sharp-shinned Hawk, also known as the Northern sharp-shinned hawk, is a small hawk that is native to North America, including Arkansas.

They are the smallest bird-hunting Accipiter hawks, with males being the smallest hawks in the United States and Canada. Sharp-shinned Hawks are agile fliers that speed through dense woods to surprise their prey, typically songbirds. They have small heads that in flight do not always project beyond the “wrists” of the wings, and they have long tails that are used for navigating their deep-woods homes at top speed.

Females are considerably larger than males, approaching the size of a male Cooper’s Hawk. Sharp-shinned Hawks are forest birds, and they are found in pine, fir, and aspen forests, among others. They can also be found near rural, suburban, and agricultural areas, where they often hunt at bird feeders.

Sharp-shinned Hawks often hunt from a perch and dart out from hiding to catch prey, and their long, sharp talons help them to grab onto prey. They feed mainly on birds captured in flight and often stalk feeders in search of prey.

Northern Goshawk

The Northern Goshawk is a large bird of prey that is native to North America and Eurasia. It is the largest and bulkiest of the Accipiters, with broad, rounded wings and long tails.

Northern Goshawks are secretive birds that typically live in large tracts of forest, so they are hard to find. They are vocal near their nests, but they are also fiercely defensive and have been known to attack people who come too close to a nest.

Northern Goshawks are highly territorial, maintaining regularly spaced home ranges that constitute their territory. They are found solitarily or in pairs, and their territories are vigorously defended both to maintain rights to their nests and mates as well as the ranges’ prey base.

Northern Goshawks are powerful predators of northern and mountain woods, and they hunt inside the forest or along its edge. They feed on large prey such as hares and grouse. The Northern Goshawk has been split into two species based on significant morphological and genetic differences: the Eurasian Goshawk and the American Goshawk.

Rough-legged Hawk

The Rough-legged Hawk, also known as the Rough-legged Buzzard, is a medium-large bird of prey that is found in Arctic and Subarctic regions of North America, Europe, and Russia during the breeding season and migrates south for the winter.

Here are some key facts about the Rough-legged Hawk:

– Rough-legged Hawks are fairly large hawks with broad wings that are fairly long and narrow compared to other Buteo hawks.
– The tail of the Rough-legged Hawk is longer than in many other buteos, and the wingtips are broad and often swept back slightly from the wrist, giving a hint of an M shape to the wing.
– The Rough-legged Hawk is larger than an American Crow but slightly smaller and less bulky than a Red-tailed Hawk.
– Rough-legged Hawks are long-winged, northern raptors found in open areas like fields and marshes.
– They have feathered legs that help conserve heat, and they breed throughout the arctic and sub-arctic regions of North America, Europe, and Asia.
– Rough-legged Hawks are known for their hovering hunting style, and they often hunt by hovering over fields, watching for movement below.
– They also hunt by watching from a perch or patrolling low over the ground.
– Rough-legged Hawks feed primarily on small mammals such as mice, rats, gerbils, pikas, shrews, and squirrels of the genera Spermophilus and Tamias, as well as birds such as snow buntings, Lapland longspur, and American tree sparrow.
– Rough-legged Hawks are part of the family Accipitridae, which includes 224 species of hawks, eagles, vultures, harriers, and kites.

Broad-winged Hawk

The Broad-winged Hawk is a medium-sized hawk that is part of the Buteo genus. They are distributed over eastern North America, as far west as British Columbia and Texas, during the summer, and they migrate south to winter in the Neotropics from Mexico south to southern Brazil.

Broad-winged Hawks are small, compact raptors with chunky bodies and large heads. They have relatively short and broad wings, pointed at the end, which have a tapered appearance unique to the species. The tail is short and square, and the wings come to a distinct point. Females are slightly larger than males.

Broad-winged Hawks are birds of the forest interior and can be hard to see during the nesting season. They are most easily seen during migration at hawkwatches such as Hawk Ridge, Minnesota, and Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania.

Broad-winged Hawks are known for forming massive flocks called kettles during migration, when they travel from the U.S. and Canada all the way to winter in Central and South America. They feed on small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk is a medium-sized hawk that is part of the Buteo genus. Here are some key facts about the Swainson’s Hawk:

– Swainson’s Hawk is a raptor and a medium-sized member of the genus Buteo.
– It is colloquially known as the grasshopper hawk or locust hawk, as it is very fond of Acrididae and will feed on them almost exclusively during migration.
– Swainson’s Hawks are slimmer and longer-winged than many other buteos, with their wings typically held in a shallow V when soaring.
– They are larger than a Cooper’s Hawk but smaller than a Ferruginous Hawk, and they are on average 43–56 cm (17–22 in) long and weigh 0.5–1.7 kg (1.1–3.7 lb).
– The habitat of Swainson’s Hawk consists of open and semi-open country, such as deserts, grasslands, and prairies, in both its breeding and wintering ranges.
– Swainson’s Hawks are known for perching conspicuously on utility poles, fence posts, and isolated trees in areas that otherwise lack such elevated perches.
– They feed on small mammals such as young ground squirrels as prey for their nestlings, as well as insects such as grasshoppers and dragonflies.
– Swainson’s Hawks are long-distance migrants, traveling around 6,000 miles each way, and undertake one of the longest migrations of any North American bird of prey.
– They are monogamous and usually return to the same nest site year after year, which is usually in a tree or large shrub in open country, usually 15-30′ above ground, but may be lower or higher.
– Swainson’s Hawks are a friend to farmers throughout the Americas, as they are often seen in freshly mown fields, feasting on grasshoppers and other insects that can be detrimental to crops.

Ferruginous Hawk

The Ferruginous Hawk is a large bird of prey that belongs to the broad-winged buteo hawks. Here are some key facts about the Ferruginous Hawk:

Physical Characteristics:
– Ferruginous Hawks are larger than a Swainson’s Hawk but smaller than a Golden Eagle, with a length of 22.1-27.2 in (56-69 cm), a wingspan of 52.4-55.9 in (133-142 cm), and a weight of 34.5-73.2 oz (977-2074 g).
– They have relatively long wings and large heads, and the wings narrow to form more pointed tips than is typical for other buteos.
– The adult is brown above with rusty streaks and white below, and its legs are feathered to the toes.
– Ferruginous Hawks have short, dark, hooked beaks and extremely long, yellow gapes that extend to below the eye.

Habitat and Behavior:
– Ferruginous Hawks are found in prairies, deserts, and open range of the West.
– They hunt from a lone tree, rock outcrop, or from high in the sky, and they eat a diet of small mammals, sometimes standing above prairie dog or ground squirrel burrows to wait for prey to emerge.
– Ferruginous Hawks are monogamous and build nests of large twigs or roots, grasses, old bones, or cow or horse dung.
– Both the male and female participate in nest building, followed by the laying and incubation of three or four eggs that are laid at two-day intervals.
– The young hatch between February and July after about 28 days of incubation, and leave the nest 38 to 50 days later.

– The Ferruginous Hawk is a well-regarded falconry bird, though not recommended for beginners due to its large size, power, and aggressive personality.
– For the experienced falconer, it offers an opportunity to experience the nearest equivalent to hunting with the golden eagle with much lower risk of injury to the falconer by the hawk.

– The Ferruginous Hawk is now considered common and is afforded no special conservation status, but it has declined seriously over most of its range, and the current population may be fewer than 4,000 pairs.
– Causes of decline include shooting and loss of habitat.


1. What are the 10 types of hawks in Arkansas?

The 10 types of hawks in Arkansas are Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Swainson’s Hawk, and Ferruginous Hawk.

2. Which hawk is the most common in Arkansas?

The Red-tailed Hawk is the most common hawk in Arkansas, and it is a species that many people are familiar with.

3. What do hawks eat?

Hawks eat a variety of prey, including small mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects. The specific diet of each hawk species can vary.

4. Where can I find hawks in Arkansas?

Hawks can be found throughout Arkansas, but their specific habitats can vary depending on the species. Some hawks prefer open fields and grasslands, while others prefer forests and woodlands.

5. When is the best time to see hawks in Arkansas?

Hawks can be seen in Arkansas year-round, but some species are more common during certain seasons. For example, the Broad-winged Hawk is more common in summer, while the Red-shouldered Hawk and Red-tailed Hawk are more common in winter.

6. How can I identify different types of hawks?

Different types of hawks can be identified by their appearance, habitat, diet, and unique sounds they make. It can be helpful to use a field guide or consult with an experienced birdwatcher to learn more about identifying hawks.

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