6 Different Birds of Prey in Maryland

Maryland is the most popular birding destination in the country since it is home to over 450 different kinds of birds. The mid-Atlantic state of Maryland serves as a haven for a wide variety of raptors.

The parks are one of the reasons to find these birds of prey in Maryland. In deep forests, marshes, and plains, you may see a variety of raptors.

The Red-tailed hawk is the most often bird of prey to be found here, which is not surprising given its considerable abundance and range.

In case you seek information on birds of prey in Maryland, then this guide covers them all here.

Sharp-Shinned HawkSharp-Shinned Hawk
Cooper's HawkCooper's Hawk
Northern GoshawkNorthern Goshawk
Red-Shouldered HawkRed-Shouldered Hawk
Broad-Winged HawkBroad-Winged Hawk
Northern HarrierNorthern Harrier

Different Birds of Prey in Maryland

We’ll examine each of the species of birds of prey in depth below.

1. Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

The smallest hawk in Maryland is the Sharp-shinned Hawk. Even though it is a migratory bird, Maryland residents can observe Sharp-shinned Hawks all year long.

Less than 3% of bird sightings in Maryland involve these uncommon species since they are not. They are somewhat bigger than a Jay but smaller than a crow.


They have tiny heads, long tails with a square end, and short, rounded wings, and all four wings are rounded. 

Sharp-shinned Hawk adults have a red-orange breast and a blue-gray back. Their tails are covered with black bands.


Although they fly through broad spaces at the boundaries of woodlands, they are quite elusive and can be observed. The Sharp-shinned Hawk often builds its nests towards the tops of tall fir trees in areas with deep cover.

The nest is one to two feet in diameter and four to six inches in depth. They produce 3 to 8 speckled white or pale blue eggs.

They are incredibly swift and can move quickly through deep forest to capture their prey, which is mostly songbirds, as it flies.


They occasionally can be spotted grabbing small birds near feeders, but if you have issues with them in your backyard, take the feeder down for a few weeks.

Before consuming its food, Sharp-shinned Hawks pull it off a stump or low branch. They often prey on songbirds that are approximately a robin’s size.

2. Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s hawk is another type to be found in Maryland. Due to the wide spaces with minimal trees where the prey dwells, these hawks in Maryland prefer to scavenge near Waterbury.


When hunting, the Cooper’s Hawk hovers low over wide spaces like fields and marshes in search of prey. They lay their eggs on meadows and open forests. They like dive-bombing anything, including birds, chipmunks, tiny rabbits, and squirrels.

Your bird-watching excursions can benefit greatly from Cooper’s hawk, which is present in every region of Maryland. Typically, their mating season lasts from March through July, and they like to build their nests in forested areas.

They will fight with their razor-sharp talons and beak whenever an unknown or possibly dangerous bird or object comes too close to their nest. They will protect themselves ferociously against any perceived threat.

You could still be able to share your backyard with them if it is at least five acres in size and you don’t mind leaving your feeders out all year.

The family will often have adequate food in a space this size. A nesting Cooper’s Hawk will flee if there are any people, dogs, or cats in their area.

The mere sight of someone passing through the yard will be enough to have them dive-bomb savagely at head height, including little children who may be playing outdoors.

3. Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk

This type of Hawk can be found in Maryland, and it is noticed with a black back, light belly, and dark wings. These hawks will build their nests in different kinds of hardwood woods and will frequently sleep in the tree canopy.

They mostly hunt in the air; however, they may occasionally chase their prey on foot. They feed on a highly diverse variety of animals, such as tiny mammals, amphibians, and birds. The individuals will engage in a sky dance as a breeding couple.

They may lay up to 500 eggs per clutch and continue to be monogamous with one another. Even though this bird has been spotted in every part of Maryland, they are not common.

They are in the state outside of the times when they breed, and the majority of their sightings have been in the western parts of the state during the winter.

4. Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

This is another common type of bird of prey in Maryland which is also very ferocious. They have medium-sized bodies, warm-colored breasts, and warm-colored underbellies.

On level ground, a steep cliff, a narrow ledge, or the edge of a woodland, rough-legged hawks make their nests. Conifers and deciduous trees may occasionally serve as nesting locations. A female lays 3–4 brown-spotted, light bluish-white eggs. Eggs typically hatch after 33 days.

The eggs are bluish-white and are laid by females in batches of 3 to 5. They hatch after 31 days. Males feed the eggs during the whole incubation period, whereas females incubate the eggs.

Habitat & Food

These hawks always build their nests in heavily wooded locations, frequently adjacent to marshes or swamps. They typically eat small animals and circle about in quest of food. Chipmunks, tiny birds, snakes, voles, toads, frogs, mice, and huge insects make up their diet.

On hay bales, fence posts, and utility poles, they perch to hunt. Once they have located their target, they quickly swoop down to capture it.

They are very protective of their territory and will attack any animal that comes too close to their nests, including Great Horned Owls, Crows, and even people.

During the mating season, this aggressive behavior becomes more pronounced. This species’ males perform a mating ritual known as a “sky dance” that consists of a series of dives.

5. Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad Winged Hawk

Another type, broad-winged hawks, breeds in Maryland, and they are commonly found in the parks and surrounding areas.


These hawks hunt from a perch frequently near a body of water or a forest edge, where they consume small animals, frogs, snakes, and even juvenile turtles. They have barred breasts, short, square tails, and reddish-brown heads. 

The wide, rounded form of these hawks’ wings gives them their common name. They are most frequently recognized in flight in this way.

These hawks will stay in any woods if required, although they prefer to do so near bodies of water. You won’t find broad-winged hawks in city parks since they like to remain as far away from human activities and landscapes as possible. 

All of these hawks are monogamous throughout the mating seasons, however, some may mate with a new person every year, while others will establish long-term breeding partnerships.

Breeding partners will only communicate with one another during their respective breeding seasons, even if they remain together for a number of years. 

They only appear at the times when they breed. They have been seen several times, although the northwestern parts of the state are where they have been seen most regularly.

6. Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

Maryland is home to the long-tailed, slender northern harrier, which is seen all year long. Males have brown wingtips and pale underwing tips in addition to a gray top.

Females have black tail bands and a brown upper body. Prairies, marshes, and broad fields are where you may find these raptors. Small birds, voles, mice, rats, lizards, toads, frogs, and other animals make up their diet.

They consume carrion, especially during the winter. When hunting, they hover low over wide-open spaces. While listening and looking for prey, they make many circles around the area.

The wetlands are home to northern harrier nests. Males provide the nesting materials, and females construct the nests. The 4-6 light bluish-white eggs laid by females require around 30-32 days to hatch.

Check out this article on Birds of Prey in Wisconsin.


This discussion explains all the details about birds of prey in Maryland, and we have shared the species of hawks that are commonly found here.

In case you want more details, see the FAQ below.


Maryland has Cooper's hawks, right?

In Maryland, Cooper’s Hawks are frequently seen in fields or in wooded areas near them. These raptors are renowned for their dexterity in the air.

Are falcons present in Maryland?

In Maryland, peregrine falcons are still considered to be scarce. There were 18 verified nesting pairs recorded between 2002 and 2006.

What hawk is the largest in Maryland?

Hawks are raptors that hunt and consume tiny animals, frogs, snakes, and birds. The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a kind of smallest hawk in Maryland, and the Rough-legged Hawk is the state’s biggest hawk.

Does Maryland have red-shouldered hawks?

In the region of Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC, red-shouldered hawks are the most colorful and vocal birds.

Although they are hawks that prefer the woodlands and margins of forests, they are regularly spotted sitting on power lines beside roadways in a variety of settings, including farms and urban suburbs.

Last Updated on March 22, 2023 by Lily Aldrin

About Lily Aldrin

I am Lily Aldrin. I attended Cornell University, where I obtained my degree to become an Ornithologist so I could pursue my love of these magnificent creatures in and out of their natural habitats.

Leave a Comment