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Hawks in Illinois

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

Exploring the skies of Illinois, I’ve discovered hawks in Illinois—eight unique species that grace the state. Also, These birds of prey captivate with their keen eyesight and agile hunting skills. Illinois hosts both the tiniest and mightiest of them, each with distinct lifestyles and diets. In this article, I’ll unveil their diverse traits and share tips to identify these similar yet distinct raptors. Join me in marveling at these winged wonders.

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

1. Red-Tailed Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo jamaicensis
  • Life span: 10-15 years
  • Size: (50-65 cm)
  • Weight: (900-1460 g)
  • Wingspan: (114-133 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern

The Red-Tailed Hawk is super popular in the U.S. and you can spot it in Illinois too. It’s a big bird that loves to fly over many places, from the warm lands of Panama all the way up to chilly Alaska.

Red-tailed Hawk

Now, this hawk is pretty big, but it’s not the biggest in Illinois. What’s cool about it is its red tail that’s easy to see, and its brown back with a light-colored belly. Even though there are about 14 types of Red-Tailed Hawks with different colors, the ones in Illinois look like their cousins across the country.

Lastly, these hawks are not picky about where they live. They’re happy in many places, especially where there are few trees and lots of open space to soar and hunt.

2. Red-shouldered Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo lineatus
  • Life span: 19 years
  • Size:(43-61 cm)
  • Weight: (486-774 g)
  • Wingspan: (94-111 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern

The Red-Shouldered Hawk is a bird you can easily spot in Illinois throughout the year. It’s found in many places, from Canada down to Mexico and all across the eastern United States. You can recognize it by its brownish head and reddish chest with pale stripes.

Red-shouldered Hawk

This hawk stands out because it has a longer tail than most other hawks. Its name comes from the reddish patches on its shoulders, which you can only see when it’s flying. It likes to make its home in places like swamps and forests with lots of trees that lose their leaves in winter.

3. Sharp-Shinned Hawk

  • Scientific name: Accipiter striatus
  • Life span: 5 years
  • Size: (24-34 cm)
  • Weight: (87-218 g)
  • Wingspan: (43-56 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern

The Sharp-Shinned Hawk holds the title for the smallest hawk you’ll find in Illinois and across the whole United States. It’s grayish on its back and has an orangey chest, which makes it look a lot like the Cooper’s Hawk. But if you look closely, you’ll notice stripes on the tail of the Sharp-Shinned Hawk, which helps tell them apart.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

These little hawks are quite secretive. They like to hide out in forests, especially when they’re nesting. Because they’re so good at keeping to themselves, there’s still a lot we don’t know about them.

4. Cooper’s Hawk

  • Scientific name: Accipiter cooperii
  • Life span: 12 years
  • Size: (37-39 cm)
  • Weight: (220-410 g)
  • Wingspan: (62-90 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern

The Cooper’s Hawk is a medium-sized bird that you can find all across North America, even down to Mexico. It loves living in forests and is really good at flying through trees to catch prey, even if it’s bigger than itself.

Cooper’s Hawk

These hawks in Illinois have a distinctive look with pale orangey bars on their chests. They’re often confused with Sharp-Shinned Hawks because they look so much alike. Cooper’s Hawks are clever hunters and sometimes cause trouble for people who have bird feeders. They’ll sneak around the feeders looking for an easy meal, and unfortunately, it’s not the food meant for the smaller birds!

5. Broad-Winged Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo platypterus
  • Life span: 12 years
  • Size: (34-44 cm)
  • Weight: (265-560 g)
  • Wingspan: (81-100 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern

During the breeding season in Illinois, you can easily spot the Broad-Winged Hawk. But what’s truly amazing is their migration. As fall arrives, thousands of these hawks gather in massive flocks before heading south to South America.

Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged hawks have dark brown bodies and pale whitish bellies with horizontal bars. Watching them migrate is considered one of the most incredible experiences for birdwatchers.

6. Northern Goshawk

  • Scientific name: Accipiter gentilis
  • Life span: 6 years
  • Size: 20-9-25.2 inches
  • Weight: oz (265-560 g)
  • Wingspan: 40.5-46.1 inches
  • Status: Least Concern

Similar to Cooper’s Hawk and Sharp-Shinned Hawk, the Northern Goshawk is super nimble in forests, moving around with amazing skill. They’re quite sneaky, preferring to stay hidden in deep woods.

Northern Goshawk

In Illinois, you’ll find the southernmost range of the Northern Goshawk, with a small group that doesn’t breed living in the northern part of the state. These hawks have dark grey upper bodies and lighter underparts, marked with black stripes.

7. Rough-Legged Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo lagopus
  • Life span: 3 years
  • Size: 18.5-20.5 inches
  • Weight: 25.2_49.4 oz
  • Wingspan: 52.0_54.3 inches
  • Status: Least Concern

The Rough-Legged Hawk, the only hawk that breeds in the high Arctic, often visits Illinois during winter. These hawks mostly have brown feathers with lighter heads, and you’ll see dark spots all over their bodies.

Rough-legged Hawk

What sets them apart is the big dark spot on their undersides, making them easy to recognize. Since they live in such cold areas, their legs are covered in feathers down to their toes, which is why they’re called “Rough-Legged” Hawks.

Check Our Previous Articles:

Hawks in Texas
Hawks in Tennessee
 Hawks in California
 Black Birds in Michigan 

8. Swainson’s Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo swainsoni
  • Life span: 16-19 years
  • Size: (48-56 cm)
  • Weight: (693-1367 g)
  • Wingspan: (117-137 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern

Swainson’s Hawk is a special sight in Illinois, where it’s a rare visitor during breeding season. Normally, you’ll find them in vast open spaces, stretching from Northern Alaska all the way down to Argentina. Illinois marks the eastern edge of their range in the United States.

Swainson’s Hawk

These hawks are some of the most well-traveled birds globally, with migration routes spanning thousands of miles. They have light to white undersides with a dark reddish spot on the chest. Their tails are brownish with thin dark bands, while their heads and upper bodies are dark brown.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is the most common hawk in Illinois?

The most common hawk in Illinois is the Red-tailed Hawk.

Q2. Does Chicago have the Hawks or Falcons?

Yes, Chicago is home to both the Hawks and the Falcons. Peregrine Falcons are particularly notable in urban areas like Chicago.

Q3. Are hawks endangered in Illinois?

No, hawks are not currently endangered in Illinois. However, some species may face threats due to habitat loss and other human-related factors.

Q4. What falcons are in Illinois?

In addition to Peregrine Falcons, you can find other falcons in Illinois such as the American Kestrel and Merlin.

John William

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