9 Different Species of Hawks in Georgia

Georgia is a beautiful state with diverse natural settings that attracts a broad assortment of species, including black bears, coyotes, and foxes, as well as alligators, sea turtles, and rattlesnakes.

But, let us be honest, Georgia has a diverse bird population. As of July 2019, the Checklist and Records Committees of the Georgia Ornithological Society (GOSRC) identified 425 bird species, with a few more species classified as preliminary.

Georgia is home to a variety of hawks, particular species in its woods, highlands, and wildlife refuges.

The hawk species found in Georgia are discussed further below.

Rough-Legged HawkRough-Legged Hawk
Swainson's HawkSwainson's Hawk
Sharp-shinned HawkSharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's HawkCooper's Hawk
Northern GoshawkNorthern Goshawk
Red-Shouldered HawkRed-Shouldered Hawk
Short-Tailed HawkShort-Tailed Hawk
Broad-Winged HawkBroad-Winged Hawk
Northern HarrierNorthern Harrier

Different Species of Hawks in Georgia

1. Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough-legged hawks are huge birds having broad, long wings that are somewhat shorter and far less bulky than red-tailed hawks. The tail is also longer than elsewhere buteos, as well as the wingtips are frequently swept back from the wrists, providing the wing an M shape.

These dark-brown hawks have striking markings and come in both light and dark variants. Light variants have light underwings with black patches, while dark variants have primarily dark brown underwings having pale trailing margins.

Rough-legged hawks inhabit the arctic and move to wide environments in the United States during the wintertime, such as deserts, prairies, fields, and airports.

2. Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s hawks have broad wings and short tails, making them larger than Cooper’s hawks. Their winders, on the other hand, are sleeker and longer and are normally carried in a shallow V-shape while flying.

Swainson’s hawks differ in coloration, but the majority have a black or reddish-brown chest, a pale abdomen, and brown or gray upper parts. Their underwings have a striking white inner lining that stands out against the blackish flight feathers.

Outside of the mating season, these birds of prey have always been encountered in flocks. Summertime is spent in the wide-open regions of the American West, and they may be found in Georgia’s grassland and sage plains.

3. Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawks are indeed the smallest of Georgia’s two bird hawk types. They pack a lot of punch into a body the size of a Mourning Dove or a Blue Jay. They graze almost entirely on birds smaller than themselves.

Even skilled birdwatchers might be confused by the minute appearance changes that identify the two different species. The Cooper’s Hawk has a larger head and seems more sleek and stocky than that of the “Sharpie.” Then there are its own featherless, bright orange legs, which give rise to its title.

The tail seems to be crucial to identity when viewed during flying: The Sharp-shinned Hawk’s tail is long and split perpendicularly at the tip, but the Copper’s Hawk’s tail is curved.

Note: Birdwatchers should understand that “C” is for Cooper.

Females are noticeably bigger than males, although all adults possess slaty blue-gray top feathers and have short, parallel red-orange stripes on the breast. Sharp-shinned hawks in their infancy are brown, having vertical stripes on their white undersides.

Sharp-shinned hawks hatch in wooded areas, and during the non-breeding period, they choose woodland margins. These hawks prey on small animals and birds.

The Altamaha Wildlife Management Area, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, and Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge are one of the greatest areas to see this hawk.

4. Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawks are the bigger of Georgia’s two different species of bird hawks. They are around the sizes of crows and may be seen across both urban areas and wooded areas.

The cinnamon-barred bands of an otherwise white chest contrasted with a steely blue-gray crown, back, and tail, making them easily identifiable.

In-flight, a sequence of broad, black stripes may also be seen on the tail and underneath the wings. Juvenile birds have recurring themes in their feathers at first, although they are primarily brown.

Although not as rapid as a Peregrine Falcon, the Cooper’s Hawk is quick enough just to catch the birds that comprise the majority of its food. However, this will also hunt smaller animals, insects, reptiles, and amphibians.

Cooper’s Hawks was named after naturalist William Cooper, who had first examined specimens of the species in 1828.

They occasionally migrate, although only for a small distance in comparison to other hawks. Despite being less frequent than Sharp-shinned hawks, they are year-round inhabitants of Georgia.

They can be seen gliding throughout woodlands and hunting suburban birdfeeders anywhere at any time of year.

5. Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk

Northern goshawks are the biggest of something like the accipiters, as well as enormous hawks. Males are somewhat larger than female Cooper’s hawks, although females could grow to be as big as red-tailed hawks.

These hawks have long tails and large, curved wings. Adults possess dark slate gray top feathers and pale gray-streaked underparts, with a large white band over the eye.

Premature goshawks possess narrow black stripes on their tails, which are brown and streaky. Northern goshawks are opportunistic predators who fly with just a few modest wingbeats and brief glides.

They prefer coniferous woods, but they might be found in deciduous rainforests.

6. Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered hawks enjoy the southern states’ forested marshes and temperate climate. The majority of the birds observed in Georgia are lifelong inhabitants. 

While there are some that hatch in the Northeast and winter in Florida. It’s a bird species that prefer dense forests and waterways, and its characteristic call, which sounds like an intensified Blue Jay, is a typical sound in the forest.

When they fly and open their wings wide, their scarlet shoulders are visible. Their abdomen is similarly red, and their wings have dark brown and white markings on them. Its heavily striped tail may be seen from afar.

They enjoy tall trees, such as Tulip Pine, as well as water. Due to the somewhat woodland habitat, they may even be found in suburban areas.

Red-shouldered Hawks prefer to hunt from perches rather than flying. In their southeast area, in which the birds are still very widespread, they eat a broad range of food, especially crayfish.

Unfortunately, their population numbers haven’t yet kept pace with those of other birds of prey. 

In comparison, the Red-tailed Hawk has been modified for urban environments. The fragmentation of natural forests has put a strain on the Red-shouldered Hawk population, which would be approximated to number around 100,000 individuals globally.

7. Short-Tailed Hawk

Short-Tailed Hawk
Credits – Wikipedia

The female short-tailed hawk looks bigger than the male, although, in the field, both sexes appear equivalent.

The wings of the short-tailed bird are rather wide for its size, yet when perched, they approach the tailed end, giving the illusion of an exceptionally short tail, thus the crow-sized bird’s name. Their tail size, on the other hand, is typical for the species.

There are no intermediaries between the light and dark morphs of these hawks. The pale morph does have a very dark blackish-brown head and white, unmarked underparts. The dark morph is mostly blackish-brown in color.

Short-tailed hawks mate mostly in tall, deep woods near the water. Although they also live in coastal regions, woodlands, and wooded edges when they are not mating.

8. Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad Winged Hawk

Tiny raptors with big heads, bulky bodies, and short rounded/squared tails.  Adults have barred underparts, a reddish-brown head, and a tail with wide black and white stripes.

This species’ juveniles are brighter brown in color, with extensive striping on the edges of the chest and thin stripes on the tail.

Small animals are primarily hunted by this hawk species from perches beneath the forest canopy. The cry of the broad-winged bird is a sharp whistling on a single pitch, which a genuine bird enthusiast would identify.

Brasstown Bald is among the greatest spots in Georgia to see broad-winged hawks since they spend so much time inside the forest canopy.

9. Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

Small brown streaks of feathers are strewn all across the white belly of this hawk. The feathers on their wings have a light grey color.

During breeding seasons, males of this genus normally pair with either one or two females. Both sexes are aggressive and ferocious, chasing away other harriers of the same sex.

These birds are often spotted in low-vegetation regions, such as meadows or wetlands. Northern Harriers hunt primarily by sound, and their favorite prey is tiny animals such as mice.

Northern Harriers may be distributed across Georgia, however, they can only be seen beyond their mating period. The majority of occurrences of this bird have already been reported in the state’s northern areas.

They are believed to be most widespread in Georgia’s southeast.

Check this article for Types of Owls in Georgia and Types of Hawks in Oklahoma.


With several unique hawks to view in Georgia, it’s no surprise that this state is a birdwatcher’s paradise.

If you’re a citizen or tourist to Georgia, bring a decent field guide as well as a small telescope with you and see whether you can spot one of the hawk species that inhabit the southern United States.


Is there a raptor population in Georgia?

Approximately 25 raptor species may be observed in Georgia at any given time, with nearly half of the species remaining year-round. Several, like the Broad-winged Hawk and Swallow-tailed Kite, travel to Georgia with their offspring from Central and South America.

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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