Hawks In Texas

Hawks in Texas – 15 Species To Spot In Texas (With Pictures)

In Texas, the skies are alive with 670 bird species, including majestic hawks. As a birdwatcher, I’ve researched these keen-eyed hunters. They’re part of the Accipitridae family, known for their sharp vision and hearing. Interestingly, size is deceptive; female hawks outsize the males. Their presence is a testament to Texas’ diverse wildlife, making every glance upward a potential discovery.

Hawks can be found all over the world. In the United States, there are 24 kinds of hawks, and 19 of those have been seen in Texas. But, only 15 kinds of hawks are seen in Texas often. There are a few hawks, like the Short-tailed Hawk, Roadside Hawk, Crane Hawk, and Great Black Hawk, that are not seen in Texas very much.

Texas also has many special places where you can go to see birds. These places are protected, which means they are kept safe for the birds and other wildlife. Some of the best places to see birds in Texas are:

  • Big Bend National Park
  • Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge
  • Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park
  • Davis Mountains State Park
  • Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge
  • Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge
  • Aransas National Wildlife Refuge
  • Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge
  • Brazos Bend State Park
  • South Padre Island
  • Lake Tawakoni State Park
  • Goose Island State Park
  • Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge
  • Lost Maples State Natural Area
  • Mitchell Lake Audubon Center
  • Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary

Next, we’ll explore more about the 15 types of hawks you can find in Texas and where exactly you can spot them.

1. Red-shouldered Hawk

  • Scientific name: Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Average Lifespan: 10 years, can live up to 25 years
  • Size: 16.9 to 24 inches
  • Weight: 17.1 to 27.3 ounces
  • Wingspan: 37 to 43.7 inches
  • Conservation Status: Least concern

The Red-shouldered Hawk is a kind of bird that’s not too big or too small, with wide wings and a long tail. It has a pretty reddish-brown belly, a white tail, and its wings and tail have white and dark stripes.

Red-shouldered Hawk

On top, it’s dark brown mixed with white, making a cool pattern. This bird has a loud call that sounds like “kee-aah.”

These hawks of texas build their homes high up in trees with lots of leaves, close to the main part of the tree. They use sticks for the outside and softer stuff like lichen, bark, and moss for the inside.

The female  hawk lays about two to five eggs at a time. It takes about 32 to 40 days for the eggs to hatch. After they hatch, the baby hawks grow for 42 to 49 days before they’re ready to fly off on their own.

This hawk eats different things like birds, tiny animals, reptiles, frogs, and even things like crabs. It likes to eat sparrows, doves, starlings, chipmunks, and voles.

The Red-shouldered Hawk is doing okay, with its numbers growing about 2% every year. There are about 1.9 million of these hawks that can have babies. The biggest problem for them is when their homes in the wild are destroyed or cleared away.

2. Red-tailed Hawk

  • Scientific name: Red-tailed Hawk
  • Average Lifespan: 7 years, can live up to 30 years
  • Size: 17.7 to 25.6 inches
  • Weight: 24.3 to 51.5 ounces
  • Wingspan: 44.9 to 52.4 inches
  • Conservation Status: Least concern

The Red-tailed Hawk is a big bird that hunts for food and has wide wings and a short, red tail. Its back and head are brown, but its belly is white with a dark stripe, and its neck is white too. It makes a loud, high-pitched sound like “kee-eeee-arr.”

Red-tailed Hawk

Usually, these hawks of texas build their nests at the top of really tall trees, but sometimes they use towers, cliffs, or even buildings. They make their nests out of sticks and line them with plants, mostly bark. The mother hawk lays 2 to 5 eggs, and she sits on them for about 28 to 35 days to keep them warm until they hatch. The baby hawks stay in the nest for 42 to 46 days after they come out of the eggs.

What They Eat: Red-tailed Hawks mostly eat small mammals like mice, squirrels, and rabbits. Sometimes, they also eat snakes, dead animals, and other birds like blackbirds and starlings.

Population and Safety: People don’t need to worry too much about Red-tailed Hawks because there are lots of them—about 3.1 million. They’ve been growing in number by 1.3% each year for a while. But they do face some dangers, like people bothering them, getting hit by cars, and being hunted.

3. Harris’s Hawk

  • Scientific name: Harris’s Hawk
  • Average Lifespan: 10 years, can live up to 15 years
  • Size: 18.1 to 23.2 inches
  • Weight: 18.2 to 31 ounces
  • Wingspan: 40.5 to 46.9 inches
  • Conservation Status: Least concern

The Harris’s Hawk is a pretty big bird with wide wings and a long tail. It’s mostly dark-colored, but it has some reddish-brown spots under its wings. The tail has a white base with a wide dark stripe.

Harris’s Hawk

Also, the top of its body is dark, and it has reddish-brown patches on its shoulders. It makes a short, rough sound.

These hawks like to build their nests really high up in trees, on cacti, cliffs, or even on man-made structures like towers and windmills. They hawks of texas use sticks and pieces of cacti to make the nest, and they line it with soft things like feathers, grass, and more cacti pieces. The female hawk can lay up to five eggs, and she keeps them warm for about 31 to 36 days until they hatch. The baby hawks stay in the nest for about 44 to 48 days before they’re ready to fly.

Harris’s Hawk’s Diet: Harris’s Hawks eat mostly animals like rabbits, squirrels, and hares. Sometimes they also eat birds and reptiles.

Conservation Status: Harris’s Hawks are not in danger right now, but their numbers have been slowly going down by about 2% each year for the last 50 years.

4. Sharp-shinned Hawk

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a tiny hunter with long legslong tail, and a small head. It’s known for its red-orange chest with horizontal stripes, blue-grey back, and a tail with dark bands. Its belly and the bottom of its wings are mostly white. This bird is also known for its kik-kik sound that it makes in a series.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

When it comes to making a home, the Sharp-shinned Hawk chooses the top parts of tall trees, close to the trunk. They build their nests out of sticks and line them with bark pieces. The mother hawk lays three to eight eggs in one go. She keeps the eggs warm for 30 to 35 days until they hatch. The young hawks then grow in the nest for 21 to 28 days before they’re ready to spread their wings and fly away.

5. Cooper’s Hawk

The Cooper’s Hawk is a kind of bird that hunts other animals. It’s not too big or too small and has wide wings, a long tail, and a pretty big head. On top, it’s a blue-gray color, and it has a neat black hat on its head. Its eyes are a bright red. Its chest has stripes of a reddish-orange color, and its belly and the bottom of its wings are white. The tail is special because it has dark stripes and ends with a white stripe. This hawk makes a short sound that goes like “cak-cak.”

Cooper’s Hawk

Now, let’s talk about where they live. Cooper’s Hawks like to build their homes, called nests, high up in tall trees. Sometimes, they find an old nest that’s not being used anymore and make it their own, or they might build it in a bunch of mistletoe or on a big branch. They use sticks to make the nest and decorate it with green leaves and pieces of bark. The mom hawk lays about two to six eggs at one time, which is called a clutch. She keeps the eggs warm for about 30 to 36 days until they hatch, and then the baby hawks, called nestlings, stay in the nest for another 27 to 34 days.

6. White-tailed Hawk

The White-tailed Hawk is a big bird with really wide wings. It’s mostly white underneath, including its tail, but the tail has a dark stripe near the end. The tips of the wings are dark, but the part closer to the body is white.

White-tailed Hawk

On top, this hawk is dark with some brownish-red spots on its shoulders, and its head is a grey color. It makes a sound that’s high and kind of like a whistle, followed by two notes.

These hawks build their homes, called nests, in small trees or bushes where there’s a lot of open space and water nearby. They use sticks, grass, and plants to make their nests. The mom hawk lays about two to three eggs, and she sits on them to keep them warm for 29 to 32 days until they hatch. After that, the baby hawks stay in the nest for about 47 to 53 days before they’re ready to fly off.

7. Ferruginous Hawk

The Ferruginous Hawk is a large bird that looks a bit like an eagle. It has light-colored feathers on its tail and big wings, and even its legs are covered in feathers. There are two main types of this hawk.

Firstly, the adult hawks can have white feathers on their belly with reddish-brown on the sides of their wings and body. They also have reddish-brown legs and a mix of reddish-brown and light gray on their back. Secondly, some hawks are mostly dark brown but have a light-colored tail and light feathers on their wings.

Ferruginous Hawk

Young hawks, called juveniles, have lighter colors and don’t have the reddish-brown feathers.

When this hawk flies, it spreads its wings into a shallow ‘V’ shape, and you can see light patches on the top part of its wings.

The Ferruginous Hawk likes to eat animals like prairie dogs and other small mammals, but sometimes it catches birds that live near water. It hunts by sitting quietly on the ground or a low spot, or by flying close to the ground before grabbing its food with its sharp claws, called talons.

This hawk builds a big nest made of sticks. It places its nest in a single tree, on a cliff, or on another tall structure.

You can find this hawk living in open areas like prairies in south-central Canada, the western United States, and northern Mexico.

Here’s how you can recognize the Ferruginous Hawk:

  • It’s a big hawk with long wings and a light-colored tail.
  • It hunts for food like prairie dogs in open spaces.
  • It builds a large nest out of sticks in a lonely tree or similar place.
  • It makes a loud, rough call that sounds like “reeaaaauh!”

The name “Ferruginous” comes from the word for rust-colored, which describes the reddish feathers on their back and legs. This hawk is really special because of its size and the places it lives.

8. Grey Hawk

The Grey Hawk is a medium-sized bird with short, rounded wings and a long tail. Its feathers are mostly grey, but its head is a lighter shade of grey, and its chest has thin, striped patterns. Its tail is decorated with black and white stripes. This bird has a special whistle that sounds like three notes.

Grey Hawk

Grey Hawks like to build their nests up high in cottonwood trees, right on the edge of the branches, usually close to rivers. They also make their homes in other trees like oak, willow, ash, and walnut. Their nests are made of twigs with leaves on them, and they line the inside with leaves and bits of bark. The mother hawk lays one to four eggs at a time and sits on them to keep them warm for about 32 to 34 days. The baby hawks stay in the nest for 42 days before they’re ready to leave.

These hawks mostly eat reptiles, such as different kinds of lizards and snakes like horned lizards, spiny lizards, tree lizards, whip snakes, and garter snakes. Sometimes, they might catch and eat birds, small animals, frogs, and bugs.

9. Zone-tailed Hawk

The Zone-tailed Hawk is a medium to large, slender bird of prey. It has long wings and a long, black and white tail. Both males and females look similar, but females are larger. Their wings have grayish, barred feathers, and the trailing edge is dark. They also have a black and yellow beak.

When young, these hawks resemble adults but have grayer feathers in their wings and fine black bands in their tail.

Zone-tailed Hawk

In flight, the Zone-tailed Hawk glides with its long wings forming a “V” shape, often flying alongside Turkey Vultures.

These hawks hunt small animals like mammals, birds, and reptiles. They cleverly mimic Turkey Vultures to sneak up on prey in vegetation and on the ground.

For nesting, they build a stick nest high in a tree or on a cliff.

You’ll find Zone-tailed Hawks in shrubby and forested habitats across the American southwest, extending south to Bolivia.

Here are the key features to recognize them:

  • Black, slender raptor that flies like a Turkey Vulture.
  • Catches birds and other small animals on the ground and in the tops of bushes and trees.
  • Builds a stick nest on a cliff or in a tall tree.
  • Makes a long, drawn-out, somewhat hoarse call: “reeeeyah!

10. Swainson’s Hawk

The Swainson’s Hawk is a large hawk with dark-brown feathers on its back, long and sharp wings, and a wide tail with thin dark stripes and a dark end. Both male and female hawks look alike, but the female are usually bigger.

Grown-up hawks might have white feathers on their throat and belly, with reddish-brown across their chest. They can also be all dark brown or have a mix of white and reddish-brown.

Swainson’s Hawk

Younger hawks, called juveniles, might have dark spots on their light belly or be mostly dark underneath.

This hawk is great at catching grasshoppers and other small creatures on the ground. It flies up high, then dives down fast or walks on the ground to find food.

They make their homes in big, chunky nests made of sticks, high up in a tree.

Swainson’s Hawks of texas like to live in open places like grasslands and meadows in central and western Canada and the USA. When it gets cold, they fly through the middle of the USA to spend the winter in the grasslands of Argentina. Some even go to southern Florida to stay warm.

11. Broad-winged Hawk

The Broad-winged Hawk is a small bird of prey, about the same size as a crow. The adults have dark brown feathers on top, reddish-brown stripes underneath, and a wide tail with big white stripes.

Both male and female hawks look alike, but the female are a bit bigger. They also have a dark stripe on each side of their throat. The young ones, called juveniles, have dark streaks on their light-colored belly.

Broad-winged Hawk

When flying, this hawk likes to glide high in the sky. It shows off its black and white tail and its long wings that look like a “paring knife” with a dark edge.

The Broad-winged Hawks of texas hunts for food like voles, frogs, bugs, and other small creatures. It sits quietly on a branch, then dives down super fast to grab its meal.

These hawks build their homes out of sticks, making a big, sturdy nest way up in a tree.

12. Northern Goshawk

The Northern Goshawk is a large bird of prey with broad wings and a long tail. Its upper parts and cap are slate-grey, while its belly is grey with fine bars. You can easily spot this hawk by its red eye and the conspicuous white eyebrow.

Northern Goshawk

These hawks of texas build their nests in forests where there are gaps in the canopy. They choose a large branch high up in a tall tree, right next to the trunk. Their nests are made of sticks, and they line the inside with bark pieces and green plant material.

Sometimes, they even take over nests that other birds have abandoned. The female hawk lays two to four eggs in a clutch, and she sits on them to keep them warm for 28 to 38 days. Once the eggs hatch, the baby hawks stay in the nest for 34 to 35 days before they’re ready to explore the world.

13. Rough-legged Hawk

The Rough-legged Hawk is a hawk with long wings and a black and white tail. It comes in two different looks, or “morphs,” both featuring wide white patches near the dark tips of their wings, and a long, light-colored tail with a wide black tip.

Rough-legged Hawk

For the lighter-colored hawks:

  • The females and the young ones, called juveniles, are pale gray-brown with a black belly and black ‘wrists’ on their wings.
  • The adult males are a colder gray color, have less black on their belly, and their chests have a lot of streaks.

For the darker-colored hawks:

  • The females and juveniles are mostly dark brown, except for their tail and the feathers they use to fly, called flight feathers.
  • The adult males are black except for their flight feathers and tail.

These hawks are known for their unique patterns and the way they can be seen soaring in the sky with their impressive wingspan.

14. Northern Harrier

The Northern Harrier is a medium-sized hawk that’s really special because of its long wings, long tail, and a white patch on its backside. The boy hawks, or adult males, have gray feathers on their back, head, and chest, with some light brown spots on their belly and black tips on their wings.

Northern Harrier

The male hawks, or females, are dark brown on top with dark brown stripes on their light belly. The young hawks are also dark brown on top but have a bright orange-buff color on their belly.

All Northern Harriers have that white patch on their backside and they fly low to the ground with their wings shaped like a “V”.

They hunt for small animals on the ground, and sometimes they hover in the air before they swoop down to catch them.

When it’s time to make a home, they use grass and plants to build a flat nest right on the ground, hidden in thick, wet places like marshes or big grassy fields.

15. Common Black Hawk

The Common Black Hawk is a large bird of prey with broad wings and a short tail. Its feathers are black all over, and you can easily spot it by the white band on its tail, especially the white tip.

These hawks of texas like to build their nests in big trees along rivers. They usually choose a spot where a branch splits into two, like a crotch or fork in the tree. Their nests are made of sticks, and they line the inside with fresh leaves. The female hawk lays three or four eggs at a time. She sits on them to keep them warm for about 38 days, and once the eggs hatch, the baby hawks stay in the nest for 41 to 52 days before they’re ready to explore the world.

When it comes to food, Common Black Hawks mostly eat fish, but they also go after small mammals, reptiles, and insects. Their menu includes things like wasps, grasshoppers, waterbugs, centipedes, ants, butterflies, crayfish, clams, fish, frogs, lizards, snakes, and even rabbits. They rarely catch other birds for their meals.

These hawks of texas are doing well in terms of conservation because they have a large range. Scientists estimate that there are about 2 million of them out there. However, they do face some threats, like changes in water levels due to agricultural practices, overgrazing, and the spread of invasive plants that affect their favorite habitats.

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Q: What is the most common hawk in Texas?

A: The most common hawk in Texas is the Red-tailed Hawk.

 Q: What attracts hawks to your yard?

A: Hawks are attracted to yards that offer suitable habitat, prey availability, and perching spots in texas.

 Q: Are hawks good to have around?

A: Yes, hawks are beneficial as they help control rodent populations and maintain ecological balance.

 Q: What is the GREY bird of prey in Texas?

A: The grey bird of prey in Texas is the Northern Harrier.

Mya Bambrick

I am a lifelong bird lover and nature enthusiast. I admire birds for their beauty, diversity, and intelligence. Birding is more than a hobby for me; it is a way of life. Therefore, I created this website to provide better and quality information about bird species. You know there are many bird species in the world right now. I started a path to introduce you to birds one by one.

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