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Hawks in Michigan

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

In Michigan, Hawks in Michigan soar across the diverse landscape, showcasing their prowess as skilled hunters. With eight native species documented, each equipped with powerful beaks and sharp vision, they dominate the skies. Their agile movements in pursuit of prey offer a captivating spectacle for observers. Follow me as we journey through Michigan’s varied terrain to uncover the fascinating world of these majestic birds, noting their seasonal presence in the state.

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

1. Red-shouldered Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo lineatus
  • Life span: 19 years
  • Size: 16.9-24.0 in
  • Weight: 17.1-27.3 oz
  • Wingspan: 37.0-43.7 in
  • Status: Least Concern

The Red-Shouldered Hawk is a common bird in Michigan and can be spotted all year round. You can find it from Canada down to Mexico and in all the eastern states.

Red-Shouldered Hawk

These hawks have a brown head and a pale, striped, reddish chest. They’re called Red-Shouldered Hawks because of the red patches you can see on their shoulders when they fly. Also, These hawks have a long tail compared to other hawks. They like to live in forests and swamps, which makes Michigan a great place for them, especially in the northern parts.


Red-shouldered hawks start mating in April. They like to make their nests in mixed wooded places close to water. These hawks choose forests with lots of different trees. They stick to one mate and defend their territory.


Red-shouldered hawks mostly hunt in the woods. They sit on tall trees or glide over the land to find food. They mainly eat small mammals like voles, mice, and moles. Sometimes, if there aren’t many small mammals around, they might also eat crayfish and small birds, especially in winter.


The Red-Shouldered Hawk used to be really common in North America, but in the 1900s, people cut down a lot of the old forests where they lived, so their numbers dropped. Since the 1950s, though, people have been working to protect them, and hunting them is now illegal. Also, banning certain pesticides, like DDT, has helped keep their numbers steady. Now, they’re doing okay, and we don’t need to worry about conserving them as much.

2. Northern Harrier

  • Scientific name: Circus hudsonius
  • Life span: 12 years
  • Size: 18.1-19.7 in
  • Weight: 10.6-26.5 oz
  • Wingspan: 40.2-46.5 in
  • Status: Least Concern

The Northern Harrier is a big hawk often seen in Michigan all year. It’s one of the largest hawks in the state. These birds breed in the northern U.S., Canada, and Alaska, and they stick around southern Michigan all year, while in the summer, you’ll find them in the north.

Northern Harrier

People sometimes call them the “Gray Ghost” because they look kind of gray. They might remind you of an owl, but they’re not actually related. They mostly hang out in open places like marshes and prairies.


Northern Harriers are polygynous, which means one male can mate with up to five females in a breeding season. This starts around April. The male shows off to impress a female by soaring high and diving close to her, sometimes doing loops in the sky.


Northern Harriers, like other harriers, mostly eat small mammals like voles and ground squirrels, and they also snack on small birds. They hunt by flying in circles over open areas, using their keen senses to find prey. Then, they swoop down and fly close to the ground, staying just a few meters above it, which catches their prey by surprise.


Northern Harriers have a wide distribution and aren’t facing any direct threats, except for losing their homes and the poisoning of their prey. But because they live over a large area, they’re not at risk of quickly disappearing.

3. Red-Tailed Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo jamaicensis
  • Life span: 10-15 years
  • Size: 19.7-25.6 in
  • Weight: 31.8-51.5 oz
  • Wingspan: 44.9-52.4 in
  • Status: Least Concern

The Red-Tailed Hawk is a familiar sight in Michigan all year, and you can spot it across a huge area from Panama to Alaska, covering most of North America.

Red-tailed Hawk

It’s the second largest hawk in Michigan and stands out with its short, red tail and brown back with a light underside. There are 14 kinds of Red-Tailed Hawks in North America, each with its own colors. The ones in Michigan are pretty big compared to others in the U.S. They can live in lots of different places but like hanging out in woodlands and edges of forests.


Red-tailed hawks start their breeding season in February. The male shows off to impress his chosen mate by flying high and diving close to her. Sometimes, he even brings her a meal to win her over. In Michigan, they usually make their nests in tall trees, either taller than the others around or in nest boxes. They often use the same nest again in the following years.


Red-tailed hawks mostly eat small mammals like voles, rats, and rabbits, but they also snack on small birds. They hunt by either sitting in trees and ambushing their prey or by soaring about 20-50 meters above the ground, keeping an eye out for dinner.


In the past century, the Red-Tailed Hawk’s range has grown, maybe because deep forests have been cut down, leaving smaller patches of trees from logging. But, like many other hawks, they’re still at risk from people shooting them and from their prey being poisoned.

4. Cooper’s Hawk

  • Scientific name: Accipiter cooperii
  • Life span: 12 years
  • Size: 14.6-15.3 in
  • Weight: 7.8-14.5 oz
  • Wingspan: 24.4-35.4 in
  • Status: Least Concern

The Cooper’s Hawk is a medium-sized bird found across North America, even as far south as Mexico. It lives in forests and is famous for being very agile, able to hunt prey much bigger than itself because it’s such a good flyer.

Cooper’s Hawk

Adults have eye-catching patterns on their chests, often confused with Sharp-Shinned Hawks. They’re clever hunters and might hang around bird feeders to catch the birds visiting, which can make them unpopular with some homeowners.


Cooper’s Hawks begin their breeding season in March. The males impress their chosen females with fancy flying displays high in the sky. Once they’re a pair, they fly together around where they’ll nest, flapping their wings slowly to claim their territory. Also, They usually build their nests high up in tall trees, often on top of old bird nests or other structures.


Cooper’s Hawks mainly eat small birds, catching them while they’re flying or by surprising them on branches. They also snack on small mammals like mice and voles, but they don’t catch them in such fancy ways as they do with birds.


The Cooper’s Hawk population has had a bumpy ride since the 1900s. First, there was a quick threefold increase, but then hunting caused a sharp drop in numbers.

5. Sharp-Shinned Hawk

  • Scientific name: Accipiter striatus
  • Life span: 5 years
  • Size: 9.4-13.4 in
  • Weight: 3.1-7.7 oz
  • Wingspan: 16.9-22.1 in
  • Status: Least Concern

The Sharp-Shinned Hawk is the tiniest hawks in Michigan and the whole United States. They have a grayish back and an orange chest, which can make them look like Cooper’s Hawks.


But one key difference is the stripes on the Sharp-Shinned Hawk’s tail. Because they’re so small, they like to keep to themselves, hiding out in forests, especially when they’re nesting.


During courtship, male and female Sharp-Shinned Hawks will fly together above forests, calling out to each other. The male shows off by diving close to the female and showing his whole body. When they build nests, they pick the thickest coniferous trees in dense forests. They build the nest close to the trunk to blend in better.


Sharp-shinned hawks hide in dense bushes or trees, patiently waiting for prey to come close. They mostly eat small birds and mammals, just like Cooper’s Hawks do. They’re agile flyers, able to snatch small birds right out of the air.


Back in the 1960s and 1970s, a pesticide called DDT hurt Sharp-Shinned Hawks. But after DDT was banned, more hawks started showing up, and now there are more than ever before.

6. Broad-Winged Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo platypterus
  • Life span: 12 years
  • Size: 13.4-17.3 in
  • Weight: 9.3-19.8 oz
  • Wingspan: 31.9-39.4 in
  • Status: Least Concern
Broad-Winged Hawk

In spring and summer, you can see Broad-winged Hawks all over Michigan. But one of the coolest things for bird watchers is in the fall when these hawks migrate to South America. They travel in huge groups of thousands. Broad-winged hawks have dark brown bodies with light bellies that have stripes.


In April, the breeding season starts for Broad-Winged Hawks. The male shows off by doing fancy flying to impress a female. They both work together to build a nest in leafy trees deep in forests. You can find these nests near the Tennessee River up to Maine.


Broad-winged hawks eat lots of different things. They’re not fussy eaters like some other hawks. They mostly munch on small mammals like voles, but they also snack on frogs, bugs, birds, and even reptiles. These hawks hide in low branches and swoop down to catch their dinner with their sharp claws.


One big danger for Broad-Winged Hawks is when forests get broken up into smaller pieces where they breed. But it seems like their numbers are going up, maybe because of efforts to protect them in the United States. Even though their homes are getting split up, the Hawks are doing better thanks to conservation work.

7. Rough-Legged Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo lagopus
  • Life span: Up to 15 years
  • Size: 18-20 in
  • Weight: 1.5-3.25 lbs
  • Wingspan: 52-54 inches
  • Status: Least Concern

The Rough-Legged Hawk is special because it’s the only hawk that nests in the far north, like the Arctic. In Michigan, you often see them in winter.

Rough-Legged Hawk

They’re mostly brown with a lighter head and dark spots on their body. What sets them apart is the big dark spot on their underside. Their name comes from the fact that their legs are fluffy with feathers all the way down to their toes, which helps them stay warm in the cold Arctic.


Rough-Legged Hawks do something different from other Hawks. In the fall, before it’s time to breed in May, they look for places to build their nests. Before they head south for the winter, they check out spots where there’s lots of food, so they’ll be ready when it’s time to raise their babies.


Rough-legged hawks mainly eat small critters like voles, lemmings, and ground squirrels. They hunt by flying low over open areas, sometimes sitting on high spots to spot their prey. Then they swoop down to snatch it up or hover in the air before diving to grab a meal.


Rough-Legged Hawks are doing okay for now. Their breeding spots in the Arctic don’t have a lot of people bothering them, so they’re not facing any big problems at the moment.

Check Our Previous Articles:

Falcons in Michigan
White Birds In Michigan
Red Birds in Michigan
 Finches in Michigan

8. Northern Goshawk

  • Scientific name: Accipiter gentilis
  • Life span: Up to 15 years
  • Size: 24-29 in
  • Weight: 1.5-3 lbs
  • Wingspan: 45-52 in
  • Status: Least Concern

Northern Goshawks, just like Cooper’s Hawks and Sharp-Shinned Hawks, are really good at flying through forests. They’re also pretty sneaky and like to stay hidden in the woods.

Northern Goshawk

Rough-Legged Hawks hang out in Michigan all year round, especially in the northern part. In the south, you might see them less during certain times of the year.

Northern Goshawks have dark gray on top and lighter gray underneath, with black stripes.


Northern Goshawks are special because they stick with one partner for their whole lives. When they’re courting, they fly together over the forest. The male does fancy flying and even offers food to the female as part of their courtship. This behavior is similar to Sharp-Shinned Hawks.


Northern Goshawks are meat-eaters, and they like to munch on small to medium-sized animals like squirrels, rabbits, hares, and sometimes even small deer. They also feast on birds like grouse, pheasants, and pigeons. These hawks are really good at catching fast birds and quick mammals in the thick forests where they live. They’re smart hunters and eat whatever’s around, depending on what’s available.


Like some other hawks, Sharp-Shinned Hawks were affected by DDT in the 1960s and 1970s, but not as much as some other types of hawks.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Are hawks common in Michigan?

Yes, hawks are common in Michigan.

Q2. Are the Hawks in Detroit?

Yes, Hawks can be found in Detroit.

Q3. Do hawks in Michigan migrate?

Some hawks in Michigan migrate.

Q4. Are broad-winged hawks in Michigan?

Yes, broad-winged hawks are found in Michigan.

John William

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