Types of Hawks in North Carolina - Quick Guide

Hammad Tariq

· 10 min read
Types of Hawks in North Carolina

Welcome to our investigation into the amazing world of North Carolina's hawks! Hawks are majestic birds of prey that captivate our imagination with their aerial prowess and keen hunting skills. In this guide, we'll delve into the various types of hawks you can find in North Carolina, from the iconic Red-tailed Hawk to the agile Cooper's Hawk and the majestic Bald Eagle.

Learn about their distinctive features, habitats, and behaviors as we uncover the diversity of these magnificent raptors soaring through the skies of the Tar Heel State. Whether you're a seasoned birdwatcher or just starting your journey into the avian realm, join us as we unravel the secrets of North Carolina's hawk species.

7 Types of Hawks in North Carolina:

Red-tailed Hawk

In North Carolina, one of the common hawks you might spot is the Red-tailed hawks. This hawk is easily recognizable by its rusty red tail feathers. They can be seen flying high in the sky, searching for prey such as rodents, rabbits, and even snakes. They are rather huge, with broad wings.

Red-tailed Hawks are skilled hunters, using their keen eyesight to spot their prey from great distances. With amazing speed and precision, they will dive to retrieve their meal.

These hawks prefer open areas like fields and meadows, but you might also find them perched on fence posts or utility poles, scanning the surroundings for their next meal. During the breeding season, Red-tailed Hawks build nests high up in trees, using sticks and other materials to create a sturdy home for their chicks.

Cooper's Hawk

In North Carolina, you might spot a Cooper's Hawk soaring through the skies. These majestic birds are one of the types of hawks you can find in the state. Cooper's Hawks are known for their medium size, with adults measuring around 14 to 20 inches in length. They can move quickly through the forests and woodlands where they frequently hunt thanks to their large tail and small, rounded wings.

These hawks primarily feed on smaller birds, capturing them with impressive speed and agility. Their diet includes a variety of songbirds and sometimes small mammals like mice or squirrels. Cooper's Hawks are expert hunters who capture their prey with their hooked beaks and keen talons.

One interesting fact about Cooper's Hawks is that they are often found near human habitation, including suburban areas. They do well in these conditions and are frequently spotted perched on trees or fences, looking for possible food.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

In North Carolina, one of the hawks you might spot is the Sharp-shinned Hawk. This bird is small and agile, with short wings and a long tail. Its feathers are slate blue-gray on top and pale underneath, with distinctive narrow, horizontal bars.

They are frequently found in forests, where they hunt smaller birds, such as finches and sparrows. They're fast flyers and skilled hunters, swooping through trees to surprise their prey.

Sharp-shinned Hawks are quite secretive and can be hard to spot despite their common presence. They migrate through North Carolina in the fall and spring, heading to their breeding grounds in Canada and the northern United States.

Despite their small size, they're fierce predators in the bird world. Keep your eyes peeled next time you're in North Carolina's woodlands – you might just catch a glimpse of this fascinating Sharp-shinned Hawk!

Red-shouldered Hawk

In North Carolina, one of the most recognizable hawks soaring through the skies is the Red-shouldered Hawk. With its striking appearance, it's hard to miss. The stunning reddish-brown feathers on the shoulders of these hawks contrast sharply with their creamy-white underparts. They also have distinctive black and white bands on their tails, making them quite distinctive.

Red-shouldered Hawks are often found in forests and wooded areas, where they hunt for their prey. They have keen eyesight, allowing them to spot small mammals like mice and voles scurrying through the underbrush. They occasionally even catch snakes or frogs to eat.

During the breeding season, you might hear the distinctive call of the Red-shouldered hawks echoing through the trees. They build their nests high in the canopy, often in sturdy trees, where they raise their young.

Broad-winged Hawk

In North Carolina, one of the hawks you might spot soaring in the skies is the Broad-winged Hawk. These birds are pretty amazing with their wide wings and keen eyesight. They're not the biggest hawks around, but they're still impressive.

Broad-winged Hawks are known for their migration habits. Every year, they travel long distances to warmer places when the weather gets chilly. They often travel together in large groups called kettles, making for a stunning sight in the sky. These hawks like to nest in dense forests, where they can find plenty of prey like small mammals and insects.

Their unique calls may reverberate through the forest as they converse with one another. Keep your eyes peeled when you're out and about in North Carolina, and you might just catch a glimpse of these fascinating Broad-winged Hawks as they glide gracefully through the air.

Northern Harrier

Several different kinds of hawks soar over the skies in North Carolina, one of which is the magnificent Northern Harrier. This bird is easily recognizable by its long wings and owl-like facial disc.

Unlike many other hawks, Northern Harriers have a unique hunting style, gliding low over fields and marshes as they search for prey like rodents and small birds. With keen eyesight and sharp talons, they're efficient hunters, often surprising their prey with sudden dives from above.

Northern Harriers are often seen in open habitats like marshes, grasslands, and agricultural fields, where they can easily spot their next meal. Their graceful flight and distinctive white rump patch make them a fascinating sight for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Rough-legged Hawk

In North Carolina, you can find a variety of hawks soaring through the skies, including the Rough-legged Hawk. This bird of prey is easily recognizable by its distinctive feathers on its legs that extend down to its toes, giving it a rough appearance. Usually found in open spaces such as fields, marshes, and tundra, these hawks hunt small mammals such as mice and voles.

One interesting fact about Rough-legged Hawks is their seasonal migration patterns. They reproduce in the Arctic tundra in the summer, but they migrate southward throughout the winter to more temperate areas, such as North Carolina.

Spotting a Rough-legged Hawk can be a thrilling experience for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike. Keep an eye on open fields and marshlands, especially during the winter months, for a chance to catch a glimpse of these majestic birds as they hunt for their next meal.

Rough-legged Hawk

In North Carolina, you might spot a Rough-legged Hawk soaring gracefully in the skies. These hawks get their name because of their unusually patterned feathery legs. They're a sight to behold with their wings spread wide, gliding effortlessly above fields and forests.

Rough-legged Hawks are skilled hunters, often preying on small mammals like mice and voles. Despite their name, they are quite agile and precise in their movements.

There are several different kinds of hawks in North Carolina, these magnificent birds being just one of them. From the fierce Red-tailed Hawk to the agile Cooper's Hawk, each species has its own unique characteristics and hunting techniques.

Keep your eyes peeled when you're out exploring the wilderness, as you never know when you might catch a glimpse of one of these incredible raptors.


In conclusion, there are many different species of hawks found in North Carolina, each with distinct traits and habitats. The Red-tailed Hawk, with its distinctive red tail feathers, is commonly spotted soaring above open fields and woodlands. Cooper's Hawks are skilled hunters found in forests, preying on smaller birds and mammals.

During migration seasons, enormous flocks of Broad-winged Hawks, who are renowned for their migratory behavior, come together to create amazing vistas in the sky. Sharp-shinned Hawks are agile hunters of birds and can be found in wooded areas and suburban neighborhoods.

Lastly, the majestic Red-shouldered Hawk prefers forested areas near water sources, where it hunts for amphibians and small mammals. These diverse hawks play essential roles in North Carolina's ecosystem, regulating populations of prey species and contributing to the balance of nature.

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About Hammad Tariq

Hammad Tariq, the passionate founder and author of HappiestBeaks, is a dedicated bird enthusiast, caretaker, and lover. With a deep-seated affection for avian companions, he channels his expertise into crafting insightful and informative blogs on bird care and behavior.