In the beautiful state of Delaware, there are a total of eight fascinating species of hawks that call this place their home. These magnificent birds, known as the broad-winged hawk, Cooper’s hawk, northern goshawk, northern harrier, red-tailed hawk, red-shouldered hawk, rough-legged hawk, and sharp-shinned hawk, each possess their own distinctive physical characteristics and habitats. While some of these hawks are migratory, others are year-round residents, creating an exciting diversity in their presence throughout the year. From forests and woodlands to bodies of water and even suburban areas, these hawks have made their mark as diverse and adaptable creatures. Their diets consist of small mammals, insects, and amphibians, making them key players in maintaining the local ecosystem. While some of these majestic hawks prefer to stay hidden and away from human eyes, others can often be spotted in the comfort of our own backyards. Of all these remarkable species, the red-tailed hawk holds a special place as the most common hawk in North America. Its distinct call has even been featured in numerous movies and TV shows as the definitive sound of raptors.
The Broad-winged Hawk is one of the eight species of hawks found in Delaware. This hawk is known for its broad, rounded wings and short, wide tail. It has a relatively small body size compared to other hawks, making it agile and well-suited for maneuvering through dense forests. The Broad-winged Hawk can be identified by its dark brown feathers on the upper side, while its underparts are light with brown streaks.
In Delaware, the Broad-winged Hawk is a migratory bird that travels long distances during the summer and winters in South America. During migration, these hawks can be seen in large groups called kettles, soaring high in the sky as they ride thermals. They tend to breed in deciduous and mixed forests, building their nests on tall trees near the trunk. Their diet mainly consists of small mammals, amphibians, and insects.
The Cooper’s Hawk is another species of hawk that can be found in Delaware. This hawk has a medium-sized body with short, rounded wings and a long, rounded tail. The adult Cooper’s Hawk has a slate-gray back, while its underparts are finely barred with reddish-brown and white. The juvenile Cooper’s Hawks have brown upperparts and heavily streaked underparts.
Unlike the Broad-winged Hawk, the Cooper’s Hawk is a year-round resident in Delaware. It can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, and suburban areas. These hawks are known for their exceptional agility and speed when hunting. Their diet primarily consists of birds, but they also feed on small mammals and sometimes insects.
The Northern Goshawk is a larger hawk species found in Delaware. It has a robust build with broad wings and a long tail. The adult Northern Goshawk has a dark gray or blackish back, while its underparts are white with fine dark barring. The juvenile Goshawks have brown upperparts and heavily streaked underparts.
Like the Cooper’s Hawk, the Northern Goshawk is a year-round resident in Delaware. It is a forest-dwelling species that prefers mature forests with dense cover. These hawks are known for their aggressive behavior, especially during the breeding season. They are skilled hunters and their diet consists of medium-sized birds, small mammals, and occasionally reptiles.
The Northern Harrier, also known as the Marsh Hawk, is a unique hawk species found in Delaware. It has a slender body with long, broad wings and a long, rounded tail. The adult Northern Harrier has a gray back and white underparts with dark streaking. The male harriers have a distinctive white rump patch, while the females have a brownish back and streaked underparts.
In Delaware, the Northern Harrier is both a resident and a migratory bird. It can be found in a variety of habitats, including marshes, wetlands, and grasslands. These hawks have a characteristic hunting behavior called “hovering,” where they fly low over open areas while searching for prey. Their diet mainly consists of small mammals, birds, and insects.
The Red-tailed Hawk is one of the most common and iconic hawk species in North America, including Delaware. It has a large body size with broad wings and a broad, rounded tail. As the name suggests, the adult Red-tailed Hawk has a reddish-brown tail, while its back is dark brown. The underparts are pale with a belly band of dark streaks.
In Delaware, the Red-tailed Hawk is a year-round resident. It can be found in various habitats, including forests, woodlands, and open areas. These hawks are known for their distinct call, often heard in movies and TV shows to represent all raptors. They have a diverse diet, feeding on small mammals, birds, reptiles, and occasionally carrion.
The Red-shouldered Hawk is another species of hawk found in Delaware. It has a medium-sized body with broad wings and a long, rounded tail. The adult Red-shouldered Hawk has reddish-brown shoulders and barring on its underparts. Its back is dark brown, and the tail is black with white bands.
Similar to the Red-tailed Hawk, the Red-shouldered Hawk is a year-round resident in Delaware. It prefers forests and woodlands near bodies of water, such as swamps and rivers. These hawks are known for their distinctive call, a series of high-pitched whistles. Their diet primarily consists of small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and occasionally birds.
The Rough-legged Hawk is a migratory hawk species that can be found in Delaware during the winter months. It has a large body size with long, broad wings and a long, feathered tail. The Rough-legged Hawk is named for its feathered legs, which provide insulation in cold climates. Its plumage varies between light and dark morphs, with the light morph having a mostly white belly and dark brown upperparts.
During winter, the Rough-legged Hawk can be seen in open areas such as marshes, grasslands, and agricultural fields. These hawks are efficient hunters and feed mainly on small mammals, particularly voles and mice. They are known for their soaring flight and will often hover in search of prey before diving down to catch it.
The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a small hawk species found in Delaware. It has a compact body with short, rounded wings and a long, squared tail. The adult Sharp-shinned Hawk has a grayish-blue back and barred underparts. Its head is small with a distinctive dark cap.
In Delaware, the Sharp-shinned Hawk is a year-round resident that can be found in a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, and suburban areas. These hawks are swift and agile when flying and hunting. Their diet mainly consists of small birds, but they also feed on small mammals and insects.
In conclusion, Delaware is home to a diverse range of hawk species, each with its own unique characteristics and habitats. Whether resident or migratory, these majestic birds can be found soaring through the skies, hunting for their prey, or nesting in trees. From the Broad-winged Hawk to the Sharp-shinned Hawk, these avian predators contribute to the rich biodiversity of Delaware’s ecosystems. Taking the time to appreciate and learn about these fascinating birds can deepen our understanding and appreciation of the natural world around us.