12 Birds of Prey in Massachusetts

In this post, we’ll discuss the birds of prey throughout Massachusetts and also the best moments of the year, and places to look for them.

Massachusetts is by far the most populated state in New England, and it also has a sizable bird of prey number to complement.

With the Atlantic Ocean over its eastern shore and lots of inland grasslands, woods, and marshes, it’s no wonder this state is famous for its unique variety of owls, eagles, hawks, and falcons.

Bald EagleBald Eagle
Golden EagleGolden Eagle
Peregrine FalconPeregrine Falcon
Merlin FalconMerlin Falcon
American KestrelAmerican Kestrel
Northern Saw-Whet OwlNorthern Saw-Whet Owl
Short-Eared OwlShort-Eared Owl
Long-Eared OwlLong-Eared Owl
Barred OwlBarred Owl
Snowy OwlSnowy Owl
Rough-Legged HawkRough-Legged Hawk
Broad-Winged HawkBroad-Winged Hawk

Birds of Prey in Massachusetts

1. Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

You’ve probably heard of this bird and national symbol. Bald eagles are easily identified by their distinctive white feathers on their heads and tails, which distinguishes them from many other birds of prey.

Weight 105.8 to 222.2 ounces
Length 27.9 to 37.8 inches
Wingspan 80.3 inches

During the wintertime, non-breeding Bald eagle colonies can be seen in Massachusetts. The greatest areas to search in them are near a body of water.

Because they mostly consume fish, you’ll be more likely to locate them along the ocean, rivers, or lakes. They frequently take fish from those other birds instead of catching their own.

Bald eagles can often be fairly cheerful as well. They’ve been seen flinging twigs in midair and engaging with garbage such as plastic bottles as improvised toys.

2. Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle

Golden eagles are mostly located within the western half of the state, however, they can be seen during the wintertime migrations.

In Massachusetts, look for such eagles in open fields near cliffs, hills, and mountains, as well as near a body of water.

Weight 105.8 to 216.1 ounces
Length 27.6 to 33.1 inches
Wingspan 72.8 to 86.6 inches

They have huge wings and lengthy tails, making them among the biggest birds across North America. Adults usually appear dark brown having golden patches on their necks and heads.

They prey by flying near the land or sitting on a limb or other platform. They hunt tiny mammals with their formidable beaks and claws, but they are also reported to assault bigger species such as bears and coyotes.

However, these assaults are mostly defensive in nature.

3. Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine Falcon

Peregrine falcons are only present throughout the bulk of the state before migration. Conversely, there are certain regions along the ocean, such as Cape Cod, wherein they live throughout the year.

Weight 18.7 to 56.4 ounces
Length 14.2 to 19.3 inches
Wingspan 39.4 to 43.3 inches

They are not just the biggest falcon throughout the country but also the quickest. In fact, they are indeed the fastest creatures on the planet, striking speeds of nearly 200 miles per hour while diving for food. While still going, they maintain a speed of 25 to 34 miles per hour.

You’ll get a higher probability of spotting them around coastlines, perched or nesting on top of skyscrapers, tall buildings, as well as other structures.

4. Merlin Falcon


Merlins are comparable to American kestrels in overall appearance but significantly bigger, wider, and bulkier.

They are also less colorful, typically dark gray or brown, having white striping on their tails and wings.

Weight 5.6 to 8.5 ounces
Length 9.4 to 11.8 inches
Wingspan 20.9 to 26.8 inches

Locating one of these in Massachusetts is challenging because they are unexpected and only appear during migration. They’re frequently perched high in the sky, searching for little birds to feed or rushing approaching their prey.

Merlins, like kestrels, may be highly ferocious due to their small stature. They occasionally join flocks of flycatchers in couples. The first Merlin would strike downward, but once the mourning doves are disoriented, the second Merlin could strike.

5. American Kestrel

American kestrels

The smallest falcon throughout North America is the American kestrel. They remain year-round residents in Massachusetts and may frequently be seen sitting near open spaces on wooden poles and telephone poles.

They have blue-gray heads and patterns, as well as rusty-red backs, tails, and wings, making them among the most colorful falcons.

Length 8.7 to 12.2 inches
Weight 2.8 to 5.8 ounces
Wingspan 20.1 to 24.0 inches

They’re little, about just the weight of a mourning dove, but they’re vicious. They keep flying in the air and wait from above until plunging down and catching small animals and insects. They do, however, occasionally become victims to bigger birds of prey, including snakes.

6. Northern Saw-Whet Owl

Northern Saw-whet Owl

These small, large-headed birds remain year-round residents of Massachusetts, although they are rarely observed. Northern saw-whet owls are approximately the size of an American Robin and therefore are notoriously elusive, rendering them difficult to spot, particularly at night.

Length 7.1 to 8.3 inches
Weight 2.3 to 5.3 ounces
Wingspan 16.5 to 18.9 inches

Their name is supposed to derive from the noise a saw produces when sharpening on a whetting stone.

From January through May, if you actually listen on peaceful evenings, you could just notice their brief, high-pitched toot-toot-toot scream.

7. Short-Eared Owl

Short-Eared Owl

Short-eared owls, similar to Long-eared owls, are typically seen in the wintertime. In Massachusetts, mainly non-breeding species may be detected. They prefer to remain near the ground as well as on short tree branches in open settings like the meadows.

Length 13.4 to 16.9 inches
Weight 7.3 to 16.8 ounces
Wingspan 33.5 to 40.5 inches

They are most visible around dawn and dusk, but they may sometimes be seen throughout the day. Keep an eye out for their whitish features having golden eyes that are highlighted in black.

When they soar, they flap with precise, rigid rhythms, giving the impression that their flying is beautiful and simple.

8. Long-Eared Owl

Long-eared Owl

Non-breeding solely Massachusetts has numbers of long-eared owls. They are tough to notice due to their reclusive nature and outstanding camouflage. They hide in deep woodlands throughout the day and hunt in wide places at night.

Length 13.8 to 15.8 inches
Weight 7.8 to 15.3 ounces
Wingspan 35.4 to 39.4 inches

Hearing for their sounds, like with other owls, seems to be the easiest method to find them. Look for their loud, powerful hoots and screaming sounds during the spring and summer nights.

During the wintertime, they roost in big groups, providing you with a fantastic chance to see them.

9. Barred Owl

Barred Owl

Barred Owls can be seen throughout the year in dense coniferous and deciduous woods. They perch on tree branches and holes throughout the day and forage during the night. Their feathers are speckled brown and white, and their eyes are black.

Weight 16.6 to 37.0 ounces
Length 16.9 to 19.7 inches
Wingspan 39.0 to 43.3 inches

The easiest approach to locate them is to listen to their nighttime sounds. You can tell them apart by their different sounds, which appear as if they’re saying, “who prepares for you?” If you heard their scream, try copying it back – whether you’re fortunate, they could approach to look you out.

The great horned owl is among their most dangerous foes. Both species prefer to congregate in the same regions, and barred owls might relocate to other sections of their region if a great-horned owl is around.

10. Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl

Snowy owls are only seen across Massachusetts during the wintertime when they travel; otherwise, they nest far north inside the arctic. If you come across one, you will immediately recognize it.

Weight 56.4 to 104.1 ounces
Length 20.5 to 27.9 inches
Wingspan 49.6 to 57.1 inches

They have broad, rounded heads and hefty, thick plumage bodies, making them bigger than Great Horned owls. Their gorgeous white feathers with black mottling distinguish them from those other owls.

In addition, unlike the other owls, they could be seen perched on or near the ground in broad settings. They will occasionally perch atop rises and dunes along the coast of water sources such as lakes and seas.

11. Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough-Legged Hawk

Only the non-breeding species of Rough-legged hawks may be found throughout Massachusetts during the wintertime.

These hawks spend the summer on the northern tundra, foraging and rearing their young until flying south to avoid the winter.

Weight 25.2 to 49.4 ounces
Length 18.5 to 20.5 inches
Wingspan 52.0 to 54.3 inches

During hunting, they frequently fly up to face the breeze, flying low and examining the field for prey. They have the same buteo form as the Red-tailed hawk, but now with longer, narrower wings. Rough-legged hawks have dark-brown markings, although there are also light and shadow variants.

12. Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad Winged Hawk

Broad-winged hawks are only spotted in Massachusetts, even during nesting season, which lasts from April through August.

Whether you’re fortunate, you’ll see them during their autumn migrations, when big flocks of thousands move towards South America.

Weight 9.3 to 19.8 ounces
Length 13.4 to 17.3 inches
Wingspan 31.9 to 39.4 inches

These hawks are tiny, having stocky bodies with huge, crimson heads. They possess identical striping to the red-shouldered hawk, except they are brown instead of red.

You might be able to locate one by hearing for its loud, single-pitched whistle while hunting.


That’s all, folks: 12 among Massachusetts’s most eye-catching birds of prey! If you would like to go bird-watching in the region, the species listed above are a good place to start.

The majority may be found year-round in deep woods, wood lots, and grasslands. If you’re fortunate, you could even locate some in populated areas.


What is the largest hawk in the state of Massachusetts?

The Rough-legged Hawk has been the biggest hawk across Massachusetts, as well as the Sharp-shinned Hawk is the shortest. The Red-tailed Hawk is by far the most frequent hawk throughout Massachusetts.

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.

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