8 Different Species of Hawks in Minnesota

Minnesota, also known as the Valley of 10,000 Lakes (11,842 to be accurate), is an excellent mating and breeding area for hawks. Hawks have lots of freedom to fly and hone in on hunting prey on the bottom level, thanks to a diversified environment that includes open terrain, aquatic places, and woods.

Whereas most hawks fly about a certain state, they may be seen all year. If you’re looking for a certain species, you should know what hawks may be spotted across Minnesota.

The Valley of 10,000 Lakes is home to eight hawk breeds such as the Ferruginous hawk, Cooper’s hawk, the Northern Harrier, the Rough-Legged hawk, the Northern Goshawk, the Red-Tailed hawk, the Red-Shouldered hawk, and the Broad-Winged hawk.

Each hawk loves to reside in or around broad open places because it makes hunting simpler and much more productive.

Continue reading to discover further about Minnesota’s ten hawk breeds!

The following list of hawks species was constructed from historical sighting accounts from multiple sources. Although some of the birds mentioned are scarce and difficult to identify, we’ve added them since they might be spotted throughout Minnesota.

Broad-Winged HawkBroad-Winged Hawk
Cooper’s HawkCooper’s Hawk
Ferruginous HawkFerruginous Hawk
Northern GoshawkNorthern Goshawk
Northern HarrierNorthern Harrier
Red-Shouldered HawkRed-Shouldered Hawk
Red-Tailed HawkRed-Tailed Hawk
Rough-Legged HawkRough-Legged Hawk

Different Species of Hawks in Minnesota

1. Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad Winged Hawk

The Broad-Winged Hawk is often a medium-sized bird that is strong and small, allowing it to quickly adapt to woodland environments. Their feathers are reddish-brown, having white and black bands on their tails.

Scientific Name Buteo platypterus
Length 450 gm (16 ounces)
Wingspan 84 cm (33 inches) 
Weight 34 to 44 cm (13.5 to 17.5 inches)

These birds devote the majority of their life away from populated areas, perched upon tree canopies. You may listen to their powerful whistling cry throughout the summertime, and they move to the southern part of the state during September, although they may be seen from April until mid-October.

The Broad Winged Hawk perches on nearby trees, ready to strike and grab a toad, frog, or small animal.

2. Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawks are considered among the medium-sized hawks throughout Minnesota, and females seem to be substantially bigger as compared to the males.

This hawk appears similar to the Sharp-Shinned hawk in overall look, having blue-gray plumage on its wings and back, rufous breast, brown patterned underbellies, and a little black cap.

The size disparity between both species.

Scientific Name Accipiter cooperii
Length 35 to 50 cm (14 to 20 inches)
Wingspan 62 to 90 cm (24 to 36 inches)
Weight 220 to 680 gm (8 to 24 ounces)

Cooper’s Hawk can be seen all year along the edges of meadows, around backyards, green woods, and forests.

The best time to watch them is in October when they begin to migrate all around the state.

These hawks feed on small animals and birds such as jays, robins, and flickers.

3. Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk

The Ferruginous rather than Light Morph hawk does have a whitetail, rusty plumed legs, as well as a white stomach, and also broad curved pointy wings, and a large head aesthetic appeal since soaring.

Rarer Dark Morph hawks have dark reddish chocolate fur outposts that shape white outer wing plates. Their shape tends to fall between a goose and a crow.

Scientific Name Buteo regalis
Length 56-69 cm (22 to 27 inches)
Wingspan 133 to 142 cm (52 to 55 inches)
Weight 977 to 2074 g (34.5 to 73.2 ounces)

This hawk can be found near grasslands, forest borders, brush, across scrubland, and other open fields. While they are uncommon across Minnesota, you might spot one between May and October.

Small to medium-sized animals such as rats, gophers, mice, juvenile jackrabbits, and squirrels, and also birds, big insects, and snakes make up the majority of their diet.

4. Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk

The Northern Goshawk, such as the Red-Tailed Hawk, is among the huge hawk type with the appearance of a goose. The female, like many other hawk subspecies, is bigger than the male.

The Northern Goshawk is easily distinguished by its bright red eyes and dark-colored head.

The average adult has a slate-grey back and a light grey or white-bluish underside. These birds are skilled at guarding their eggs and young from intruders, and they have been trained to attack individuals who go too close.

As a result, it is advisable to see these gorgeous birds from a distance.

Scientific Name Accipiter gentilis
Length 41 to 69 cm (16 to 27 inches)
Wingspan 89 to 127 cm (35 to 50 inches)
Weight 630 to 1400 gm (22 to 50 ounces)

Whereas these birds may be seen throughout the year, the ideal time to view them is always in later fall and early winters, when they travel from their nesting grounds.

Their food, like that of almost all other hawks, consists of several animals, insects, snakes, rodents, and medium-sized birds.

5. Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

The Northern Harrier hawk would be easily identified by its owlish face, whitetail patch, and V-shape during soaring. In a nutshell, they are among the most magnificent of all bird species.

These lovely birds may be found in northern and central Minnesota throughout the mating season, as well as in the southwestern half of the state throughout the year.

Scientific name Circus hudsonius
Length 18 to 19 inches
Weight 10 to 26 ounces
Wingspan 40 to 46 inches

This species will most usually be seen flying through marshes, fields, and other large open places in search of small animals. Other hawks use their keen eyesight to capture prey, while the Northern Harrier uses its hearing.

6. Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

The Red-Shouldered Hawk is a member of huge Minnesota (and global) hawk family. These hawks possess red shoulders that stand out when sitting, white feathers around their stomachs, dark brown and white striped wings, a patterned reddish breast, and a heavily striped tail.

Red-Shouldered hawks like open canopies in order to maximize hunting efficiency. Their nests are found in forests near wetlands and rivers. Man-made forest removal is the most serious hazard to this species.

Scientific Name Buteo lineatus
Length 38 to 48 cm (15 to 19 inches)
Wingspan 96 to 107 cm (38 to 42 inches)
Weight 500 to 860 gm (1.1 to 1.9 pounds)

Even though this hawk may be seen in Minnesota throughout the year, the ideal time to watch it is from March through October, notably late October.

This hawk species mostly prey on small animals, although it has also been observed eating amphibians, lizards, and snakes.

7. Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

The Red-Tailed Hawk is perhaps the most frequent hawk breed throughout Minnesota. This is among the most frequent hawks throughout the United States and the second largest in North America, with around 2 million nests.

These hawks possess red tails as well as white plumage abdomens, having feather hues varying from white to black, as the title suggests. They may be seen flying high in the sky, seeking prey in the morning hours and during the day.

Scientific Name Buteo jamaicensis
Length 45 to 65 cm (18 to 26 inches)
Wingspan 110 to 140 cm (43 to 55 inches)
Weight 700 to 1600 gm (1.5 to 3.5 pounds)

Red-tailed hawks may be found in a variety of habitats throughout Minnesota, including cities, fields, forests, roadsides, parks, suburbs, woodlands, and above tree lines.

Their most frequent nesting area is in Central Minnesota, where they may be seen all year. Their food consists of reptiles, small mammals, and birds.

8. Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough-Legged Hawk

While flying, these medium-sized Rough-Legged hawk has a vivid plumage patterning that is unusual and stunning. Their tails and heads are light, having black feathers on their stomachs.

These birds possess feather-covered feet that warm them up in chilly environments. Because they reproduce and reside on the Arctic tundra throughout the summertime, the ideal time to observe them is between September and June.

Scientific Name Buteo lagopus
Length 46 to 59 cm (18.5 to 23.5 inches)
Wingspan 132 to 138 cm (52 to 54 inches)
Weight 715 to 1400 gm (25 to 49 ounces)

During these months, go to open locations such as meadows and cliffsides to obtain the finest picture of their everyday lives.

They build cliffside nests out of wood and animal bones. Their food consists primarily of tiny rodents such as mice, shrews, and voles.

Check out this article on the Types of Hawks in Georgia or Types of Hawks in Ohio.


Several Minnesota people love watching birds as a relaxing pastime that brings birds and their magnificence closer to them. This is a hobby that is gaining popularity.

Minnesota has a broad diversity of bird species and numerous spectacular birding areas, making it a pleasant refuge for seeing various birds.

Nonetheless, I hope this essay assists you in understanding better the uniqueness of each bird species, making bird gazing a much more fun and enlightening event for you.

As time passes, you’ll learn that bird recognition isn’t as tough as you believe.


What Is Minnesota's Biggest Hawk?

The ferruginous hawk is indeed the largest buteo hawk found throughout Minnesota. It does have a huge head, long, slender, and pointy wings that measure 53 to 56 in, and normal size of 20 to 25 in.

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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