7 Species of Hawks In Vermont (With Pictures and Info)

The article titled “7 Species of Hawks In Vermont (With Pictures and Info)” provides a fascinating glimpse into the diverse range of hawks that inhabit the woods and fields of Vermont. These birds of prey play an important role in the ecosystem, preying on small mammals and songbirds. The article features detailed information on each of the seven hawk species found in Vermont, including their physical characteristics and interesting behaviors. From the nimble Sharp-Shinned Hawk to the majestic Red-Tailed Hawk, this article offers a comprehensive overview of these fascinating creatures and their role in Vermont’s wildlife.


Hawks are an integral part of Vermont’s ecosystem, patrolling the skies and maintaining the balance of nature. With their incredible hunting skills and unique characteristics, hawks play a crucial role in controlling the population of small mammals and songbirds in the state. In this article, we will explore the different species of hawks found in Vermont, their physical attributes, behaviors, and their importance in the wild.

1. Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Length: 9.4-13.4 inches

Weight: 3.1 oz-7.7 oz

Wingspan: 16.9-22.1 inches

The Sharp-Shinned Hawk is a permanent resident in much of Vermont, while also breeding in the northernmost part of the state. These hawks are known for their agility and nimble toes, which they use to catch small mammals and songbirds. They are often found flying through densely wooded areas, quickly maneuvering through the trees to catch their prey.

One interesting behavior of the Sharp-Shinned Hawk is its feeding habits. Even after their young have fledged, the parent hawks continue to feed them for a few weeks. They start by dropping prey into the nest, but as the fledglings gain flying skills, the parent will call out and the young hawk will rise up to catch its food while in flight.

Another fascinating characteristic of the Sharp-Shinned Hawk is its ability to reach into wire bird traps to remove prey. They are even known to use bird feeders as a buffet, swooping in to catch unsuspecting songbirds. While bird feeders do not necessarily increase the risk of becoming prey for the birds that eat there, the Sharp-Shinned Hawk sees it as an opportunity for a quick meal.

2. Cooper’s Hawk

Length: Male- 14.6-15.3 inches, Female- 16.5-17.7 inches

Weight: Male- 7.8-14.5 oz, Female- 11.6-24.0 oz

Wingspan: Male- 24.4-35.4 inches, Female- 29.5-35.4 inches

The Cooper’s Hawk is known for its beautiful slate blue color and reddish striping on its front. These hawks can be found in secluded wooded areas as well as highly occupied places. They are year-round occupants of Vermont and the majority of the continental United States.

Cooper’s Hawks have a unique hunting method, using their nimble feet to squeeze their prey to death instead of biting it. They have even been observed drowning their prey. However, these hunting behaviors often lead to injuries, with fractured chest bones being a common issue identified post-mortem.

Interestingly, Cooper’s Hawks have adapted well to urban sprawl. Their populations in urban and suburban areas outnumber those in their natural habitats. This is likely due to the abundance of pigeons and doves, which are their preferred prey.

3. Northern Goshawk

Length: 20.9-25.2 inches

Weight: 22.3-48.1 oz

Wingspan: 40.5-46.1 inches

The Northern Goshawk prefers roosting in coniferous forests but can also make their homes in deciduous forests. These hawks are skilled hunters, frequently feeding on other birds. In the past, they were popular in falconry for their ability to bring down birds for the handler.

In terms of gender differences, the females are 25% larger than the males. During breeding, the males are responsible for bringing food while the females incubate the eggs. Northern Goshawks keep around eight nests in a forest, either changing locations or using the same nest every year.

Northern Goshawks tend to stay away from populated areas, making them rarely seen by humans. With shorter wings, they are well-suited for hunting in densely wooded areas, allowing them to navigate and capture their prey with ease.

4. Red-Shouldered Hawk

Length: 16.9-24.0 inches

Weight: 17.1-27.3 oz

Wingspan: 37.0-43.7 inches

The Red-Shouldered Hawk is a colorful hawk with red barring on its breast and checkered wings. These hawks prefer higher perches and often swoop down on their prey, which includes amphibians, small animals, and reptiles. They build their nests of sticks in the crotch of trees, particularly those close to rivers or wetlands.

An interesting behavior of Red-Shouldered Hawks is their relationship with crows. While crows often mob the hawks, the hawks have been observed chasing crows and stealing their food. They have even banded together in groups to chase away Great Horned Owls.

Red-Shouldered Hawk nestlings have a unique way of keeping their nests clean. By the time they are five days old, they have mastered the ability to shoot their feces over the nest and onto the ground. Once they find a nesting territory, they tend to return to it, with some individuals using the same nesting territory for almost two decades.

5. Broad-Winged Hawk

Length: 13.3-17.3 inches

Weight: 9.3-19.8 oz

Wingspan: 31.9-39.4 inches

The Broad-Winged Hawk is known for its distinctive whistling vocalization. These hawks prefer to sweep down on their prey from a perch under the tree canopy. While they are present in Vermont during their nesting season, they spend their winter in South America.

During migration, Broad-Winged Hawks form large flocks known as “kettles”. These flocks can consist of hundreds or even thousands of hawks. They migrate over 4,000 miles, with scientists tracking them revealing that they move around in an area of about a square mile once they reach their wintering grounds.

Due to the large size of these migration flocks, Broad-Winged Hawks are easily observed during their migration season, attracting many birders who are eager to witness their impressive journeys.

6. Red-Tailed Hawk

Length: Males- 17.7-22.1 inches, Females- 19.7-25.6 inches

Weight: Males- 24.3-45.9 oz, Females- 31.8-51.5 oz

Wingspan: Males- 44.9-52.4 inches, Females- 19.7-25.6 inches

The Red-Tailed Hawk, named for its distinctive red tail, prefers open areas and is commonly seen circling or perched on posts and trees. While there are regional variations in coloration, they all possess the signature red tail. The Red-Tailed Hawk is the most common and recognizable hawk species in Vermont and throughout North America.

One interesting fact about the Red-Tailed Hawk is its distinct scream, which has become associated with all raptors. Despite the variations in sounds among different hawk species, their scream has become iconic. Red-Tailed Hawks also exhibit cooperative hunting behavior, with pairs working together to hunt squirrels by watching separate sides of a tree.

While they are large birds that primarily hunt mammals, Red-Tailed Hawks rarely pose a threat to dogs or cats. They prefer to focus on their natural prey and play a vital role in controlling rodent populations.

7. Rough-Legged Hawk

Length: 18.5-20.5 inches

Weight: 25.2-49.4 oz

Wingspan: 52.0-54.3 inches

Rough-Legged Hawks have a prominent presence in Vermont and the majority of the United States but migrate further north for their breeding season. One distinctive feature of these hawks is their feathered legs, making them one of only three species of American raptors with feathers all the way down their legs.

Nesting Rough-Legged Hawks construct their nests from sticks and sometimes caribou bones. These nests are typically perched on the sides of cliffs, at a considerable distance from other breeding pairs. These hawks can be seen hovering over open spaces in search of prey or perched on telephone poles. They are even known to perch on very slim treetops that other large hawks would avoid.

Rough-Legged Hawks display unique behaviors and physical attributes that set them apart from other hawk species, making them a fascinating species to observe in Vermont’s wild.

8. Habitat and Range

Hawks in Vermont can be found in a variety of habitats, each species having its own preferred surroundings. From densely wooded areas to deciduous forests and open spaces, hawks adapt to their environment and thrive in their respective niches.

The range of each species of hawks in Vermont varies. Some hawks, like the Sharp-Shinned Hawk and Red-Shouldered Hawk, are permanent residents, while others, such as the Broad-Winged Hawk and Rough-Legged Hawk, migrate to different regions during their breeding season. Understanding their preferred habitats and range can provide valuable insights into their behavior and conservation efforts.

9. Interesting Facts

  1. Hawks play a vital role in controlling the population of small mammals and songbirds, ensuring a balanced ecosystem.
  2. The agile hunting skills of hawks, such as the Sharp-Shinned Hawk, allow them to catch prey even in densely wooded areas.
  3. Cooper’s Hawks use their nimble feet to squeeze prey to death rather than biting it, leading to unique hunting behaviors and occasional injuries.
  4. Red-Shouldered Hawks have interesting interactions with crows, often mobbing them or stealing their food.
  5. Broad-Winged Hawks form large migration flocks known as “kettles” and travel thousands of miles to their wintering grounds in South America.
  6. The distinct scream of the Red-Tailed Hawk has become associated with all raptors, despite variations in sounds among different hawk species.
  7. Rough-Legged Hawks have feathered legs, distinguishing them from other American raptors, and are skilled at perching on slim treetops.

These fascinating facts highlight the diversity and unique characteristics of hawks in Vermont, making them a beloved species to observe and appreciate in the wild.

In conclusion, hawks in Vermont are not only majestic creatures soaring through the skies but also crucial components of the state’s ecosystem. From the Sharp-Shinned Hawk’s nimble hunting skills to the Rough-Legged Hawk’s distinctive feathered legs, each species brings its own charm and behaviors to the wild. By understanding their physical attributes, behaviors, and habitat preferences, we can better appreciate and protect these remarkable birds of prey in Vermont.

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