10 Different Species of Hawks in Iowa

Hawks have excellent vision, are excellent hunters, and are extremely clever. They are also thought to be among the smartest species of birds.

There are about 16 different types of species of hawks in the United States. However, in this post, we’ll look at the ten different hawk species present in Iowa.

Iowa devotes a significant amount of time and resources to wildlife protection and rehabilitation activities, ensuring the safety and well-being of these majestic creatures and other species.

This makes Iowa an ideal habitat for hawks and birds of all types.

Let’s get started and take a look at some of these raptors in Iowa!

Red-Shouldered HawkRed-Shouldered Hawk
Ferruginous HawkFerruginous Hawk
Cooper's HawkCooper's Hawk
Northern HarrierNorthern Harrier
Red-Tailed HawkRed-Tailed Hawk
Sharp-Shinned HawkSharp-Shinned Hawk
Broad-Winged HawkBroad-Winged Hawk
Rough-Legged HawkRough-Legged Hawk
Swainson’s HawkSwainson’s Hawk
Northern GoshawkNorthern Goshawk

Different Species of Hawks in Iowa

1. Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Among the most prevalent types of hawks there in U. S. seems to be the red-shouldered hawk. As a result, it’s not surprising that it’s also available in Iowa.

Red-shouldered hawks are recognized for living a long time. They may survive for an estimate of 15 to 19 years. Moreover, a few have been discovered and are thought to be as ancient as 26!

These raptors are classified as generalists. This implies that they eat a wide range of prey, from rodents to reptiles. They also eat crayfish as well as other animals.

Scientific name Buteo lineatus
Wingspan 37.0 to 43.7 inches 
Weight 17.1 to 27.3 ounces
Length 16.9 to 24.0 inches

The red-shouldered hawk would also be a fast flier, attaining peak speeds of 34 miles per hour. Several mopeds can only attain speeds of up to miles per hour.

The red-shouldered hawk must not be confused with the red-tailed hawk, another widespread bird in North America. Their compact size, thinner wings, and quicker wingbeats distinguish them.

The underbelly of red-shouldered hawks is similarly rust-colored.

2. Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous hawks have brown and white feathers and large wings. Their undersides are almost entirely white, making them simpler and more efficient in the sky.

The ferruginous hawk, like the rough-legged hawk, has feathery legs.

Length 22.1 – 27.2 inches
Weight 34.5 – 73.2 ounces
Wingspan 52.4 – 55.9 inches

Despite their presence in Iowa, ferruginous hawks are one of the rarest birds. This is due to their endangered status.

According to some research, there may be as few as 4,000 breeding pairs surviving in the wild. This is because degradation and chemical contamination reduce their habitats and resources.

3. Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s hawks are medium-sized raptors of prey endemic to North America that may be spotted practically anywhere on the continent.

Cooper’s hawk is among hawk species living in the Accipiter family. Because of their quickness and striking abilities, birds in this category are regarded as real hawks.

Cooper’s hawks, especially, like displaying these characteristics by pursuing huge, challenging prey. While they usually hunt alone, they will sometimes team together to grab prey.

Scientific name Accipiter cooperii
Wingspan 24.4 to 35.4 inches
Length 14.6 to 17.7 inches
Weight 7.8 to 24.0 ounces

Although Cooper’s hawks may consume up to 300 distinct animals, they primarily consume vertebrates (animals with spines). Other birds are among their preferred prey, which they pursue skilfully in mid-air.

If you’re unfamiliar with this hawk, it could be due to its namesake! Cooper’s hawk goes by several names and labels, such as large blue darter, quail hawk, fast hawk, flying cross, striker, chicken hawk, and hen hawk.

4. Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

The northern harrier, often known as the hen harrier, seems to be a small and medium-sized North American bird of prey.

Northern harriers are prevalent in Iowa, however, they might be hard to spot in the wintertime. As the temperature decreases, they leave the plains and marshland for warmer climes like so many other animals and birds.

This is most common in the United States’ southernmost states, although it might also happen in Central America and Mexico.

Scientific name Circus hudsonius
Wingspan 40.2 to 46.5 inches 
Weight 10.6 to 26.5 ounces 
Length 18.1 to 19.7 inches

The northern harrier’s face is also one of the distinguishing characteristics. This hawk in Iowa does have a flat face, unlike the other hawks, which have a unique, pointed facial form.

As a result, it frequently looks like an owl. However, the form of its face was not by chance; it’s really meant to assist it actually hearing better during hunting!

Northern harriers feed nearly completely on small animals like squirrels and rats. They might, however, sometimes go out to hunt small birds as well as insects, amphibians, and reptiles.

5. Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed hawks are one of the most frequent predatory birds throughout North America. They may really be located practically anywhere in the United States.

Therefore, these wonderful birds must be identified with caution since they look like red-shouldered hawks.

Red-tailed hawks can always be captured for falconry, a sort of hunting activity that uses birds of prey throughout the United States.

However, strict laws govern how and when falconry birds are captured. As a result, the number is preserved, and we will be able to fully enjoy beautiful birds for years and years to come.

Scientific name Buteo jamaicensis
Wingspan 44.9 to 52.4 inches 
Weight 24.3 oz to 51.5 ounces
Length 17.7 to 25.6 inches

Small animals are the primary source of food for red-tailed hawks. Squirrels and mice are examples of this. When animals are sparse, they, like other species of hawks in Iowa, might switch on insects, frogs, and reptiles.

There are about 14 subspecies of red-tailed hawks known worldwide, with many of those in the United States.

6. Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned hawks are North America’s tiniest hawks. North, Central, and South America are home to ten subspecies. However, the majority are located in the United States.

Sharp-shinned hawks, unlike the other varieties of hawks throughout Iowa, live in woodlands instead of farms and plains. This is due to the way they hunt.

Due to various their diminutive stature, they depend on surprise to secure their subsequent food. They frequently conceal in the dense undergrowth of the woods and soar out to startle their prey.

Scientific name Accipiter Striatus
Weight 3.1 to 7.7 ounces
Length 9.4 to 13.4 inches
Wingspan 16.9 to 22.1 inches

Another unexpected truth regarding sharp-shinned hawks is just what they eat. Considering their diminutive size, they prefer to prey on other smaller birds. This implies they’re frequently spotted around bird feeders — not to consume the bird seed you set out, but to chase the birds who do.

While these hawks favor small birds, they would also eat reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and insects when necessary. They’ve even been caught with bats!

7. Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad Winged Hawk

Broad-winged hawks are medium-sized raptors with stocky bodies and broad heads. During the summertime, they may be spotted in Iowa and other regions of the United States, but they migrate south in the wintertime.

Some even travel as far south as Brazil to avoid the cold.

Broad-winged hawks, like so many other hawks, may be found in woods and forests. Though they may maintain a region with certain other birds of prey, such as red-tailed and red-shouldered hawks, they will make their homes in separate locations.

This aids in the prevention of territorialism and rivalry.

Scientific Name Buteo Platypterus
Wingspan 31.9 to 39.4 inches 
Weight 9.3 to 19.8 ounces 
Length 13.4 to 17.3 inches

Broad-winged hawks have quite a varied diet as well. They will consume small animals such as squirrels and mice, which are preferred by other birds of prey. They will, though, consume centipedes, crayfish, frogs and toads, and even turtles.

These Iowa hawks are easily distinguished by their stocky physique and white underside. They can be located in the United States throughout the summertime but not west of the Mountain Range. They are frequently seen in woodland clearings.

8. Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough-Legged Hawk

Since it belongs to the Buteo genus, the rough-legged hawk is sometimes referred to as the rough-legged buzzard. However, during summertime, it may be spotted in the cooler parts of Russia, Europe, and North America.

Rough-legged hawks are among the most uncommon hawks in Iowa. This is due to the fact that they are often only observed in this region of the United States throughout the migration.

They spend the summer season and mating periods in the Arctic but move south in the wintertime.

Scientific name Buteo lagopus
Wingspan 52.0 to 54.3 inches  
Weight 25.2 to 49.4 ounces
Length 18.5 to 20.5 inches

Rough-legged hawks are also one of the bigger hawk species seen in Iowa. Because of their huge size, they can survive in tougher environments.

The epithet “rough-legged” refers to their feathered legs that provide additional protection. The ferruginous hawk is now the only hawk in Iowa with this trait.

9. Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s hawks are huge hawks that may be found in both South and North America. They are also known as locust hawks and grasshopper hawks.

This is due to their priority for grasshoppers that they will devour anytime they find them. They will, therefore, consume reptiles and animals, particularly rabbits.

Swainson’s hawks are one of the longest-lived hawks, often surviving for almost 30 years. At the same time, they are one of the more prevalent varieties of hawks in Iowa in the summertime. 

They can move as far south as Argentina in the cold season. They are also monogamous, which means they have only a single partner. As a result, they travel to the north in the spring season, and most of these hawks nest in the very same locations.

Scientific name Buteo swainsoni
Wingspan 45 to 55 inches 
Weight 24.4 to 48.2 ounces
Length 18.9 to 22.1 inches

Swainson’s hawks are also the raptors that travel the most distances every year since they can fly together all the way to Argentina. They may travel up to 15,000 kilometers in just eight years. This is the equivalent of nearly six trips from one coast to another in the United States!

10. Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk

The northern goshawk is just a medium-sized bird native to northern Eurasia and North America.

The northern goshawk, such as the sharp-shinned hawk as well as Cooper’s hawk, belongs to the Accipiter family. As a consequence, it truly is a hawk.

Northern goshawks are similar to several other varieties of hawks found in Iowa. Another of the greatest ways to recognize them would be by their distinctive stripes and patterns.

Northern goshawk juveniles may be distinguished from Cooper’s hawks by their forehead markings.

They also have a distinct sound that they produce when in trouble or during a hunt.

Scientific name Accipiter Gentilis
Wingspan 40.5 to 46.1 inches
Weight 22.3 to 48.1 ounces 
Length 20.9 to 25.2 inches

Northern goshawks mostly consume other birds, even though they may also consume mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. It’s much more frequent to see them hunting smaller birds, but they’ve also been observed eating medium birds like crows.

During the non-breeding period, Northern Goshawks may be seen in Iowa. Nearer to the northern boundary, though, you’ll have such a higher chance of sighting them.

These hawks will not make things easy for you. Northern Goshawks like deep woodland habitats.

They have been reported to attack individuals who approach their nests too closely. Be cautious when looking for such raptors. You’ll have to be calm if you want to see these great fighters.

Check out this article on the Types of Hawks in Minnesota.


We provide complete information about every hawk throughout Iowa. We wish our review has demonstrated that the hawk species observed throughout this state are not to be overlooked.

Set out to explore the hawks’ favorite spots and have your cameras set to snap amazing photos, and you’re sure to have a good time and sight a few species!


Are Cooper's hawks present in Iowa?

Cooper’s hawks are among 3 accipiter species found in Iowa. (the word Accipiter is derived from the Latin word for “hawk,” and these are mostly forest raptors.) The Cooper’s hawk feeds largely on other birds.

Is an osprey found in Iowa?

Ospreys have been reintroduced to Iowa as breeding birds, thanks to restoration organizations. And they’re at the apex of the marine food chain. They are an excellent sign of a healthy habitat.

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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