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Hawks of Florida

8 Types of Hawks in Florida (ID Guide With Pictures)

Ever thought about the many hawks in Florida? The state is heaven for those who love birds. You may wonder how many types of hawks there are in Florida.

Florida is famous for its wide variety of birds, and hawks shine here. There are 8 types of hawks living in Florida naturally. These birds are strong hunters with sharp claws and excellent eyesight.

They are key members of the Florida ecosystem. From the well-known red-shouldered hawk to the hard-to-find Swainson’s hawk, each species is special. They all add to Florida’s natural beauty.

This detailed article will cover Florida’s hawks. We’ll talk about their looks, homes, how they hunt, and if they need protection. It’s great for bird lovers or anyone interested in Florida’s wildlife.

Here we’ll learn about 8 different types of Hawks in Florida

Introduction to Hawks of Florida

Florida is a great place to spot hawks. It has many species living in the state. Some well-known hawks in Florida are the red-shouldered hawk, northern harrier, red-tailed hawk, Cooper’s hawk, and sharp-shinned hawk. They are important for Florida’s ecosystem as they keep the balance by being top predators and controlling other animal populations.

Hawks of Florida

If we learn about each type of hawk in Florida and their home, we start to see their role in the natural order. Each hawk species has its own traits and needs, making Florida’s nature more varied and interesting.

Diversity of Hawks in Florida

Some hawks stay in Florida all year, like the red-shouldered and red-tailed hawks. Others, such as the broad-winged hawk, come in winter and leave for summer. This creates a big mix of hawks in Florida, such as the rare short-tailed hawk.

Learning about the features and behavior of each hawk type helps us enjoy the colorful hawk population in Florida. From their looks to how they hunt, each hawk brings something special to Florida’s skies.

Importance of Hawks in the Ecosystem

As key predators, hawks in Florida are crucial for the ecosystem there. They keep the numbers of small animals, birds, and more in check. This stops any one group from taking over, which is important for the health of Florida’s wildlife.

By playing their part as top hunters, hawks help keep Florida’s environments diverse and natural. Their work supports a healthy balance that benefits all of Florida’s living things.

Red-Shouldered Hawk

The red-shouldered hawk is common in Florida all year. It stands out with its brown head and reddish chest stripes. You’ll spot its red shoulders underneath when it flies.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Physical Characteristics

In Florida, the red-shouldered hawk (extimus) looks a bit different. It has a lighter head and breast. The Red-Shouldered Hawk’s size falls between a crow and a goose. It is smaller than a Red-tailed Hawk but larger than a Broad-winged Hawk.

Habitat and Distribution

Red-shouldered hawks like forest areas, including swamps and bottomlands. They also live in wooded suburban areas. In Florida, they are a common sight all year long.

Breeding and Nesting Habits

The breeding season for red-shouldered hawks lasts from late winter to spring (January-May). They mate in April and build nests in big trees. They often reuse these nests for the next breeding.

These hawks lay 2 to 5 eggs, which both parents protect. The chicks leave the nest around a month and a half after hatching.

Hunting and Diet

Red-shouldered hawks look for food in woodland areas. They eat small mammals, like voles and mice, as well as moles and crayfish. They also hunt small birds. If they see a threat near their nest, they can swoop down from up to 150 feet away.

Conservation Status

Clearing old forests lowered red-shouldered hawk numbers in the past. Luckily, conservation and pesticide bans have helped. They’re now more stable in most places, but still not as many as before in some areas.

Northern Harrier

The northern harrier is the second-most-seen hawk in Florida. It’s big, being among the largest hawks there. These birds come down to Florida in the winter. They are known as the “Gray Ghost” because of their grey look. They live in places like moorlands and prairies. A special note is, that the male can have up to 5 mates in one season. The harrier hunts by flying low. It listens for prey and then swoops in to catch them from behind.

Northern Harrier

This hawk has a wide wingspan of 43 inches and weighs 15 ounces. It is not too small. In the sky, you can spot the harrier by its white patch on the rump. If you see one in flight, the males are gray above. Females and young ones are lighter and have markings. Their bellies are a soft red-brown with dark wings and tails.

Length18.1 to 19.7 inches
Weight10.6 to 26.5 ounces
Wingspan40.2 to 46.5 inches
SpeedOver 150 mph while diving for prey

The northern harrier is the only one in its genus in North America. It has wide wings and a long tail, good for low flying. Female harriers glide just above the fields and wetlands, hunting for small animals.

Red-Tailed Hawk

Appearance and Identification

Red-tailed Hawk

The red-tailed hawk is a familiar sight in Florida all year round. It stands out with a short red tail. Its back is brown while the underside is pale. With 14 North American subspecies, the one in Florida is bigger but looks much the same.

Habitat and Range

These hawks like woodlands and their edges. The Florida red-tailed hawk can be found throughout the state. Its range goes north to Tampa Bay and the Kissimmee Prairie. It stretches to the south, all the way to the Florida Keys.

Breeding and Nesting Behavior

In February, the male red-tailed hawk puts on impressive flight displays to impress a mate. They build their nests high in trees, often reusing them the next year.

Prey and Hunting Techniques

They feed on small mammals and birds, hunting from above. They either dive down from a perch or glide through the air. If there’s a strong wind, they can also hover while they look for prey on the ground.

Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper’s hawk is a medium-sized bird found all over North America, even in Mexico. This forest cooper’s hawk Florida shows incredible hunting skills, taking prey larger than itself. It features pale orangy barring on its chest.

Cooper's Hawk

Physical Description

Cooper’s hawk identification is known by its shape, with broad wings and a long tail. The adults have blue-gray upperparts with reddish bars underneath. Juvenile birds differ, being brown above and streaked brown below. In the West, Cooper’s Hawks are smaller compared to those in the East.

Habitat and Distribution

Cooper’s hawk habitat is mainly in wooded areas, including forests and suburban places. In Florida, they live in over 3 million hectares. Most are in North Florida, visiting South Florida in winter.

Courtship and Nesting

They nest in tall trees, often using old bird nests. Breeding happens in wooded areas. Males hunt smaller birds while females go for larger ones.

Diet and Hunting Strategies

Cooper’s hawk diet is mainly birds, caught mid-air or by ambush. They also eat small mammals. Their flying style is unique, with a flap-flap-glide pattern. This helps them hunt effectively, surprising their prey.

Despite population changes over the last century, Cooper’s hawk is now common in Florida. These birds are an important part of the state’s ecosystem.

Hawks of Florida

Florida has many hawk species that you can see all year. You’ll often spot red-shouldered and red-tailed hawks. Other hawks like the northern harrier and broad-winged hawk visit during migration. To find hawks, know what to look for. Learn about each hawk’s traits and when they come to Florida. With this knowledge, birdwatchers can see more hawks in Florida.

Seasonal Variations and Migration Patterns

In Florida, hawks live here year-long or visit during certain times. For instance, broad-winged hawks fly to South America in the winter. Meanwhile, short-tailed hawks are a rare sight in South Florida’s skies. Flown all the way from Argentina, Swainson’s hawks have one of the longest migration paths of Florida’s hawk species.

Identifying Features and Characteristics

To tell Florida’s hawk species apart, you need to know what makes each one unique. Florida is home to hawks like the red-shouldered hawk, red-tailed hawk, Cooper’s hawk, and sharp-shinned hawk. Red-tailed hawks are especially common, seen in both cities and the countryside. Knowing details like wing shape and size helps you identify these hawks.

Short-Tailed Hawk

The short-tailed hawk is a small raptor seen in Florida. It comes in two color types. One can look dark on top, light underneath, or mostly black. When it flies, this short-tailed hawk shows a squared tail. It has fine dark bands and long wings with dark patterns. It hunts small birds, reptiles, and big bugs. It has a special way of hunting. It flies high, then quickly drops down to grab its food from plants or the ground.

Appearance and Identification

Finding a short-tailed hawk can be hard. This is because they look different based on where they are from. Light morphs are mostly brown on top, with some brown on the neck. In the South, these birds are very black and do not have brown necks. This makes the short-tailed hawk in Florida unique. It looks different from those living elsewhere.

Habitat and Range

The short-tailed hawk loves tropical areas. It lives in forests and open spaces. It is found in Florida in North America. Sometimes, it is seen in southern Texas. Only about 500 of these hawks live in Florida. They are 500 miles away from the next closest group in Mexico.

Breeding and Nesting Behavior

The short-tailed hawk makes its nest high up in trees. In Florida, dark morphs are more common than light ones. This is the opposite of what is seen in other areas. The dark morph might help these hawks live in Florida’s environment better.

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

The sharp-shinned hawk is the smallest in Florida. It stands out with its short, sharp wings and a long tail. This bird of prey is fast and nimble, hunting small birds. Most of what it eats are these little birds.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

This hawk’s home is in the woods. There, it can hide and launch surprise attacks on its prey.

Physical Description

The sharp-shinned hawk also holds the title for smallest hawk in both Canada and the U.S. Females are much bigger than males. They are similar in size to an American Kestrel, just a bit bigger than a jay. These birds flap their wings fast a few times, then glide.

Different from other hawks, sharp-shinned hawks have small heads. You might not see their heads sticking out when they’re flying. Younger hawks have dark bands across their long tails.

Habitat and Distribution

Sharp-shinned hawks like deep forests for breeding. When migrating, they can be seen flying high. During winter, they hunt small birds and mammals at the forest’s edge.

Hunting and Prey Selection

These hawks are excellent hunters. They catch their prey by diving from low branches. Their favorite food is small songbirds and mammals.

With their sharp talons, sharp-shinned hawks grab their prey and eat them. Males often eat the head before sharing the rest with their family.

Broad-Winged Hawk

The broad-winged hawk is a unique hawk seen in Florida. It’s known for its wide, rounded wings and a special whistling sound. These hawks live in forests, where they look for small creatures like mammals, birds, and bugs.

Unlike Florida’s other hawks that stay all year, the broad-winged hawk flies to South America for winter. People who enjoy birdwatching in Florida might catch a glimpse of them in spring and fall. This is when they join big groups and glide high above.

Broad-Winged Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

Migratory Patterns

The Swainson’s hawk is a rare visitor to Florida. It reaches the eastern edge of its breeding and wintering range here. This species makes a remarkable journey every year. It flies from the western U.S. and Canada to Argentina.

The round trip for these hawks is over 12,000 miles in total. It’s one of the longest journeys for any North American raptor.

Swainson’s Hawk

Habitat Preferences

In Florida, Swainson’s hawks can be seen in open areas like prairies. They also frequent agricultural fields in search of prey. These hawks prefer open country. Their ideal habitats include grasslands, croplands, and sage flats.

They have a slim build, and their long wings are usually in a shallow V shape when they soar.

Breeding and Nesting

While not common, Swainson’s hawks might breed in Florida. They build their nests high in trees, using large sticks. Mating pairs raise one to four eggs, with an incubation period of just over a month.

In Florida, they often nest in trees, shrubs, and even on power poles. These nests are mainly found in open areas like grasslands.

Read Our Previous Articles:

Hawks in San Diego
Are Hawks Dangerous To Humans
Hawks in Illinois
Hawks in California

Observing and Identifying Hawks in Florida

Florida is a great place for bird lovers. You can see many hawk species here. Use binoculars to look up and you might spot a hawk. Look in parks and nature areas too. Hawks have different calls and looks. This can help you pick out the type of hawk you see.

Hawks stay in Florida all year, while others come only during certain times. The red-shouldered hawk, red-tailed hawk, Cooper’s hawk, and sharp-shinned hawk live here all the time. The red-tailed hawk is quite common. It’s seen in cities and the countryside. Every now and then, the broad-winged hawk flies through during its journey from South America. The Swainson’s hawk is rare in Florida.

Be patient and observant, and you might just see these amazing birds. Get to know where they live and what they look like. This will make you a pro at finding and naming Florida’s hawks. Check out local parks and trails. And use the tips for spotting hawks in Florida. They’ll help you find these wonderful bird predators.

John William

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