Arizona Hawks: 13 Types of Hawks in Arizona (AZ)

Arizona is a birder’s dream. The region is a well-known location in the country for bird admirers. Arizona has the most bird species reported than any other state.

This comes as no surprise given Arizona’s diverse ecosystems, including canyonlands, wooded mountains, alluvial river floodplains, inland marshes, grassland plains and deserts, and hills.

Arizona’s geographical location gives it a perfect habitat for numerous bird species. So it’s no wonder the Arizona Bird Committee (ABC) classifies approximately 560 bird species throughout Arizona, including the state’s official bird, the Cactus Wren.

Arizona is inhabited by several hawk species, making it a must-see location for anybody looking for an amazing birding excursion.

These raptors may be found in a variety of environments. They live in broad fields, rocky areas, mountains, cliffs, and even marshes where they may readily obtain prey.

In this post, we are going to discuss distinct kinds of hawks found in Arizona and their unique characteristics.

ImageName
White-tailed HawkWhite-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged HawkRough-legged Hawk
Northern GoshawkNorthern Goshawk
Ferruginous HawkFerruginous Hawk
Swainson’s HawkSwainson’s Hawk
Sharp-shinned HawkSharp-shinned Hawk
Gray HawkGray Hawk
Northern HarrierNorthern Harrier
Zone-Tailed HawkZone-Tailed Hawk
Red-shouldered HawkRed-shouldered Hawk
Short-tailed HawkShort-tailed Hawk
Common Black HawkCommon Black Hawk
Cooper’s HawkCooper’s Hawk

Different Types of Arizona Hawks

Apart from the uncommon vagrant, there are 15 species of hawks found in Arizona. As per allaboutbirds.org and neotropical.birds.cornell.edu, these 15 species all have a range in Arizona.

The Zone-tailed Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Common Black Hawk, Gray Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Harris’s Hawk, White-tailed Hawk, Northern Goshawk, Ferruginous Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, and Swainson’s Hawk are among the 15 species.

1. White-tailed Hawk

White-tailed Hawk
Credits – Wikipedia

White-tailed hawks are relatively uncommon in Arizona, yet they are now on the Arizona Bird Committee’s authorized list now.

White-tailed Hawks have a striking appearance, with black coloration on the back, red shoulders, and a flash of the white underbelly.

Their tails are very distinctive, with white on top and below and a black stripe wrapping around the apex.

Immatures have speckled chests and bellies, and some birds have an all-dark variation. Males are relatively bigger than females.

Male

  • Length: 46 to 52 centimeters (18.1 to 20.5 inches)
  • Wingspan: 128 to 131 centimeters (50.4 to 51.6 inches)
  • Weight: 880-1235 grams (31.0 to 43.6 ounces)

Female

  • Length: 48 to 58 centimeters (18.9 to 22.8 inches)

White-tailed hawks don’t really migrate and therefore are found in South America, with certain birds traveling as far north as Texas.

White-tailed Hawks like savannahs and grasslands as hunting grounds.

Their food consists of lizards, rabbits, rodents, and other birds.

They are extremely easy to identify after a fire because they prey on the fleeing animals.

2. Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawks are regarded as an erroneous species in Arizona. However, in 2021, they were observed in the Coconino National Forest.

Rough-legged Hawks get their title from their feathered legs, which warm them up in the north. They are huge hawks, around the size of a goose or a crow.

This mostly dark-drown species has dark and light variants, with dark spots on the bend of the tail end, wing, and across the abdomen.

In comparison to certain other hawks, they possess wide wings that are rather slender and long.

Length 47 to 52 centimeters (18.5 to 20.5 inches)
Wingspan 132 to 138 centimeters (52.0 to 54.3 inches)
Weight 715 to 1400 grams (25.2 to 49.4 ounces)

Rough-legged Hawks spend the summer in northern Canada and Alaska until moving to the United States for the winter.

They are most commonly seen flying above marshes and open land or sitting on a pole.

Rough-legged Hawks feed mostly on voles and lemmings. Winter prey in places like West Virginia includes ground squirrels, mice, voles, and other small animals.

They normally build their nests on a steep rock ledge and hatch 3 to 5 light bluish-white eggs.

3. Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawks are uncommon hawks in Arizona, and they’ve been sighted in Flagstaff, Grand Canyon National Park, and Kaibab National Forest in the last ten years.

Northern Goshawks are larger and more aggressive cousins of Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks. They are primarily gray, with short, wide wings and a long tail, with a white stripe above their yellow eyes.

Length 53 to 64 centimeters (20.9 to 25.2 inches)
Weight 631 to 1364 grams (22.3 to 48.1 ounces)
Wingspan 103 to 117 centimeters (40.5 to 46.1 inches)

Northern Goshawks may be found in Alaska, Canada, and the Rocky Mountains. During the winter, some juvenile birds might travel to the Central States.

Read:  Texas Hawks: 7 Different Species of Hawks in Texas

They reside in big woods and are difficult to locate because they are quite cautious and can be violent if you go too close to their nest.

Northern Goshawks are found in big groups in predominantly coniferous or mixed woodlands.

They hunt for food from high perches and primarily consume medium-sized birds and tiny animals.

Northern Goshawks may build up to 8 nests and hatch between two and four bluish-white eggs.

4. Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawks are uncommon in Arizona. However, they can be seen in the state’s south throughout the winter season.

Ferruginous Hawks are North America’s biggest hawks. Their heads are huge, and their wings are long. To make recognition more difficult, they come in two morphs: bright and dark, with color patterns that can vary quite a little.

The most prevalent type of light morph, Ferruginous Hawks, has white underwings, abdomen, and forehead. Their backs and top sides of the wings are reddish-brown, and their legs appear darker.

The abdomen and legs of immature light variants exhibit more brown patterning.

Length 56 to 69 centimeters (22.1 to 27.2 inches)
Weight 977 to 2074 grams (34.5 to 73.2 ounces)
Wingspan 133 to 142 centimeters (52.4 to 55.9 inches)

Ferruginous Hawks are another hawk species found in the wide land of the West. They may be breeding as far south as Nevada and Utah and north as Southern Canada.

In the wintertime, they migrate to Mexico and the southern states. Certain birds might spend the entire year in the middle of their habitat.

Ferruginous Hawks can be found in grassland and shrubland in the low country. Also, when traveling, they don’t really pass the Rockies.

Small animals provide the bulk of their food, with cottontail rabbits and jackrabbits in the West and prairie dogs and ground squirrels in the East based on what is accessible.

They are daylight predators who hunt mostly on fly, perch, or even on the land. Their nests are incredibly big, measuring up to 3 feet high and 3 feet broad, and they may hatch up to eight eggs.

5. Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawks are common in Arizona during the summer, especially from April to mid-October. However, they are much more frequently to be seen in the state’s south and feature on 3% of summertime checklists.

Swainson’s Hawks have short tails, sharp wingtips, and long wings. They have speckled brown or gray backs, paler abdomen, and brown or red breasts.

The combination of the black flight feathers on the bottom margins of the wings and tips and the white top section of the wing is visible during flying (which is called the linings).

Weight 24.4 to 48.2 ounces (693 to 1367 grams)
Length 48 to 56 centimeters (18.9 to 22.1 inches)

Swainson’s Hawks can be seen in wide territory throughout the West and the Plains States in the summertime before migrating to South America in big groups numbering in the thousands. They breed from the Pacific to the Midwest in the West and from British Columbia to Alaska.

These hawks are best seen between May and September when they travel greater distances and provide stunning performances in tens of thousands of birds throughout the day.

Swainson’s Hawks search for rodents by sitting on high points, including utility poles or fences, making them more visible in the comparatively flat regions where they hunt.

If no elevated spots are present, they might well be observed searching for bugs on the land in fields and grassland.

In locations where Burrowing Owls are numerous, they might consume them. However, they are rarely picky and may eat anything from lizards and snakes to mice, bats, and rabbits, even dragonflies, and bugs.

Swainson’s Hawks do not have many nesting places in the open land. Therefore, they use any large trees in farmland, power poles, and low mesquite shrubs.

The nests are made of twigs and branches and may be up to two feet wide and a foot in height. The nest is filled with brittle materials, including wood, bark, dung, and grass.

6. Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawks may be seen in Arizona throughout the wintertime, especially in the state’s center between Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff, and Tonto National Forest.

They are on 3% of winter lists and arrive in the state in mid-August and depart in April and May. Sharp-shinned adult Hawks are tiny birds with blue-gray backs and crimson chests. Their tails are marked with black bands.

Females are one-third the size of males. They feature tiny heads, short rounded wings, and long square-ended tails.

Length 24 to 34 centimeters (9.4 to 13.4 inches)
Weight 87 to 218 grams (3.1 to 7.7 ounces)
Wingspan 43 to 56 centimeters (16.9 to 22.1 inches)
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Sharp-shinned Hawks move south after breeding in Canada and certain northern states. Those species in the Appalachians and Western Highlands may spend the entire year there.

Sharp-shined Hawks are highly stealthy, however, they can be observed flying over open spaces on the outside of woodlands. They are quite fast and can sprint through deep woodlands to capture their food in flight, which is mainly songbirds.

They are sometimes observed grabbing tiny birds around feeders. However, if you have issues with them in your garden, remove the feeder for several weeks.

Sharp-shinned Before consuming their food, hawks pick it off a stump or low tree. They often feed on songbirds the size of robins.

Sharp-shinned Hawk nests are commonly found in densely forested conifer trees, mainly at the tops of large trees.

The nest is fairly huge, measuring 1 to 2 feet across and 4 to 6 inches thick. They hatch 3 to 8 speckled white or pale blue eggs.

7. Gray Hawk

Gray Hawk

Gray Hawks may be spotted mating in the southeast of Arizona throughout the summertime.

They occur on 5% of the summer checklist, arrive in Arizona in March, and depart in October.

Gray Hawks appear light gray with solid gray top portions and banded breast and abdomen. Their tails are wide and black with three white stripes.

They are tiny hawks in this group with short, wide wings.

Length 46 to 61 centimeters (18 to 24 inches) 
Weight 391 to 470 grams (13.8 to 16.6 ounces)

Gray Hawks migrate to Central America, Southern Texas, Mexico, and Arizona to breed during the summertime.

Look for Gray hawks in cottonwood and willow woodlands near streams or rivers.

They can be seen flying over wide regions or perched on trees looking for lizards.

8. Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

Northern Harriers are only seen in Arizona in winter, after which they go north for the mating season.

They are listed on 10% of wintertime checklists and arrive in the state during August and October. In the spring, they begin leaving in February and continue until the end of April.

Northern Harriers are between the proportions of a goose and a crow, having long wide wings. They frequently fly in a v-shape, with the apex of their wings taller than their bodies.

Males are gray above and white below, with a white rump spot, and females are brown.

Length 46 to 50 centimeters (18.1 to 19.7 inches)
Weight 300 to 750 grams (10.6 to 26.5 ounces)
Wingspan 102 to 118 centimeters (40.2 to 46.5 inches)

Northern Harriers mate in Alaska, Canada, the northern Great Plains, and the Northeast prior to actually traveling to Mexico,  south to southern states, and Central America for the winter.

Those in the center of the spectrum stay all year.

This short-tailed hawk can be observed skimming low over meadows or grasslands.

Northern Harriers primarily feed on small animals and birds.

They build their nests in thick vegetation like willows, reeds, or brushtails on the ground.

They produce 4 to 5 dull white eggs.

9. Zone-Tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk
Credits – Wikipedia

Zone-tailed Hawks are only observed in Arizona during the spring and early summer when they mate between March and September.

They are generally found in the state’s south and feature on only 3% of the summertime checklists. Zone-tailed Hawks are dark, nearly black hawks with striping on the underside of the flight feathers and white stripes on the tail.

Male

  • Length: 17.7 to 22.1 inches (45 to 56 centimeters)
  • Wingspan: 46.9 to 55.1 inches (119 to 140 centimeters)
  • Weight: 21.4 to 23.5 ounces (607 to 667 grams)

Female

  • Wingspan: 46.9 to 55.1 inches (119 to 140 cm)
  • Weight: 29.8 to 33.0 ounces (845 to 937 grams)

During the nesting season, Zone-tailed Hawks can only be seen in a few states near the border. In the wintertime, they move south into Mexico. Zone-tailed Hawks spend the entire year in South America.

They can be seen flying over desert and scrub as they forage across canyons and cliffs, frequently at high heights. They will also hunt along the coastline.

Zone-tailed Hawks feed on mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. They hunt by actually flying and hiding behind the scenery until it’s too late.

10. Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawks are regarded as erroneous species in Arizona. However, they may be seen in cities such as Tucson and Phoenix.

Red-shouldered Hawks are easily identified by their white and black checkered wings and reddish banding on the chest. They are medium-sized, something between a swan and a crow, with a heavily striped tail.

They create a loud cack-cack-cack-cack call.

Length 43 to 61 centimeters (16.9 to 24.0 inches) 
Wingspan 94 to 111 centimeters (37.0 to 43.7 inches)
Weight 486 to 774 grams (17.1 to 27.3 ounces)
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Red-shouldered Hawks are native to the eastern United States, however, individuals in the Northeast might move south for the cold season. These hawks can also be found on the West Coast.

A river or pond often finds them hunting among moist woodlands. Their prey consists of animals, frogs, and snakes.

Nests are frequently reused in a broad-leaved tree near water every year. They hatch between 2 and 5 white or blue eggs.

11. Short-tailed Hawk

Short-Tailed Hawk
Credits – Wikipedia

Short-tailed Hawks are an unintentional species in Arizona, although they were sighted in Madera Canyon, Mt. Graham, and Mt. Lemmon in 2021.

Short-tailed Hawks are little hawks that come in both bright and dark colors. Dark morphs are extremely dark brown with lighter flying feathers beneath.

Light variants are white on the inside and brown on the outside. They possess short tails relative to other hawks, as the names indicate.

Length 38 to 43 centimeters (15 to 17 inches)
Weight 362 to 500 grams (0.8 to 1.1 pounds)

They are found in Central, Mexico, and South America, as well as Florida. Short-tailed hawks are difficult to notice because they hunt tiny birds from high in the sky.

12. Common Black Hawk

Common Black Hawk

Numerous Black Hawks are not typical in Arizona, though they can be spotted in the state’s south.

Common Black Hawks possess huge bodies, broad wings, short tails, long legs, and massive wings. Besides a white stripe all across the tail, they are all black.

Weight 930 grams (33 ounces)
Length 43 to 53 inches (17 to 21 inches)

During the summer, they may be seen along the southern border from California to Texas. However, they spend the entire year throughout their habitat in Central America and Mexico.

Despite their name, they are not extremely abundant in the United States, where only approximately 250 pairs are known to exist.

They forage along streams near woodlands for frogs, fish, crabs, and lizards, but they will sometimes hunt birds and small animals.

13. Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawks live in Arizona all year, but they are more common in the cold season as birds come in from northern nesting grounds.

They appeared on 13% of the wintertime checklist provided by bird observers. They are documented in 8% of checklists throughout the summertime.

The Cooper’s Hawk resembles the Sharp-shinned Hawk but is larger, approximately the size of a crow.

They can be difficult to distinguish since they have the same blue-gray back and red-orange chest, as well as dark stripes on the tail.

Unlike the Sharp-shinned Hawk, they have a bigger head extending far beyond the wingspan.

Female

Length 42 to 45 centimeters (16.5 to 17.7 inches)
Wingspan 75 to 90 centimeters (29.5 to 35.4 inches)
Weight 330 to 680 grams (11.6 to 24.0 ounces)

Male

Length 37 to 39 centimeters (14.6 to 15.3 inches)
Wingspan 62 to 90 centimeters (24.4 to 35.4 inches)
Weight 220 to 410 grams (7.8 to 14.5 ounces)

Cooper’s Hawks stay permanent across much of the United States, while a few in the north, including Canada, travel south for the cold season, as far south as Mexico and Honduras.

Look for them on the outskirts of woodlands, although they could also be found at feeders searching for a quick meal.

They eat medium-sized birds and small animals and build their nests in towering trees, frequently on top of an existing nest of a large bird or mistletoe clump.

They produce between 2 and 6 pale blue to bluish-white eggs.

Conclusion

Arizona is among the most diverse landscape collections in the United States. It features low-elevation parts as well as places that climb 4,000 feet above sea level.

The Grand Canyon State has a particular temperature and geography that make it an ideal nesting habitat for a diverse range of birds, including a large number of hawks.

These amazing species can be discovered in any of the 32 Arizonian canyons, mountain ranges, or six national forests.

Whether you like raptors or otherwise, you can’t really help but be captivated by their stunning beauty and larger-than-life behavior.

FAQ

What is Arizona's largest hawk?

Ferruginous hawks are the biggest hawk subspecies in North America. Their feet, however, are fairly little in contrast. Raptors, often known as birds of prey, could be observed all year in Arizona’s northern locations, while those in the south are mainly cold-weather travelers.

Is it beneficial to get a hawk in your backyard?

Birders are frequently disappointed when a hawk enters their backyard, although attracting hawks is the gold standard of yard birding. Since hawks are naturally scarce and raptors need a diverse ecology to flourish, luring hawks is a fantastic accomplishment that demonstrates how bird-friendly a yard can be.

About Lily Aldrin

I am Lily Aldrin and I am an Ornithologist. I have been a passionate bird owner since my teenage years. I have experience with all kinds of birds and founded this blog to share my experience with others.