12 Types of Hawks in New Mexico

Howdy, fellow bird enthusiasts! As a wildlife enthusiast and avid birdwatcher in the Land of Enchantment, I’ve been fortunate to observe the diverse and majestic hawks that call New Mexico home.

From soaring in the wide-open skies to perching on the tallest branches, these birds of prey never fail to captivate with their beauty and hunting prowess.

In this article, we’ll explore the fascinating world of hawks and discover 12 different species that can be found in the breathtaking landscapes of New Mexico.

So, grab your binoculars, and let’s embark on an exciting journey to learn about the incredible variety of hawks that grace our southwestern skies!

Harris's HawkHarris's Hawk
Common Black HawkCommon Black Hawk
Ferruginous HawkFerruginous Hawk
Northern HarrierNorthern Harrier
Zone-tailed Hawk Zone-Tailed Hawk
Sharp-shinned HawkSharp-shinned Hawk
Northern GoshawkNorthern Goshawk
Gray HawkGray Hawk
Swainson's HawkSwainson’s Hawk
Cooper's HawkCooper’s Hawk
Short-Tailed Hawk Short-tailed Hawk
White-tailed Hawk White-tailed Hawk

Types of Hawks in New Mexico

1. Harris’s Hawk

Harris's Hawk

A persistent population of Harris’s Hawks may be found in the far southeast part of New Mexico.

Their natural environment consists of desert lowlands and mesquite brushlands.

Because of the increased availability of water and food, they have also started to grow more frequently in urban and suburban settings.

The Harris’s Hawk hunts in large numbers rather than acting as lone predators.

They often hunt in parties with at least two and as many as seven.

It is more likely for a group of hawks with more than 2 members to survive than a solitary bird.

The Harris’s Hawks have also been known to deliver food to wounded members of their group who were once a member of their flock.

2. Common Black Hawk

Common Black Hawk

The Common Black Hawk is distinguished by its short tails, wide wings, large bodies, and long legs.

They are all black, with the exception of a white line that runs across the tail.

They are more likely to be seen near the southern border across California to Texas during the summer season.

On the other hand, they often continue to call their range across Central America and Mexico home throughout the year.

Even though they are referred to as “common,” they are really not particularly widespread in the United States.

It is estimated that there are approximately 250 pairs present.

They hunt in streams close to forests, searching for fish, crabs, lizards, and frogs, but they’ll also hunt small animals and birds if the opportunity comes up.

3. Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk

The Ferruginous Hawk is the biggest hawk in the Americas.

In addition to their huge wings, they also have oversized heads.

They have a dark morph and a bright morph, and the difference between them is striking.

The undersides of the wings, abdomen, and head of the more common Ferruginous Hawks variant are white.

Their lower legs are darker in color, while their wings and upper bodies are red-brown.

Brown marking is more prevalent on the legs and bellies of immature light morphs.

Dark morphs are very rare and may be recognized by their whitish flying feathers on their wings and tails, as well as their brown undersides and bellies.

Besides red-tailed hawks, ferruginous hawks may be seen soaring over the Western landscape.

They have a wide range, breeding from southern Canada to the southern states of Utah and Nevada.

They travel just very short distances to warmer climates in Mexico and the southern United States throughout the winter.

In the midst of their range, certain birds might spend the whole year as permanent residents.

Ferruginous Hawks are common in the low country’s grassland and shrublands.

Even while migrating, they do not prefer going across the Rockies.

The bulk of their food consists of small animals, such as ground prairie dogs and squirrels across the East and jackrabbits and cottontail rabbits in the West.

They hunt throughout the day, both in the air and from perches or even the ground.

They may lay a maximum of eight eggs at a time, and their nests can be as big as four feet in height and width.

4. Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

Northern Harriers may be mistaken for either a goose or a crow in size, being long and lean with wide, narrow wings.

When in flight, their wings often form a v shape, with the tips rising above their bodies.

Males are mostly white and grey with a white rear spot, whereas females are brown.

Breeding in the Northeast, the northern Great Plains, Alaska, and Canada, the Northern Harrier, then traveling south to spend their winter across Central America, the United States, and Mexico.

Mid-range birds stick throughout the year.

You may have noticed this long-tailed hawk soaring low over a grassy field or a wetland.

Birds and small animals make up most of a Northern Harrier’s diet.

They make their nests mostly on the ground, usually between brushtails, reeds, or willows.

They produce a clutch of five to six inconspicuous white eggs.

5. Zone-Tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk
Credits – Wikipedia

Zone-tailed Hawks are sometimes spotted in New Mexico from April to September, although they are otherwise uncommon.

Locations like the Gila and Lincoln national forests are home to these trees.

Zone-tailed Hawks are almost black in color, with white bands running across their tail and barring on the underside of their flight feathers.

Another kind of Hawk that is seldom seen outside of its mating range is the Zone-tailed Hawk, which is restricted to a small number of border states.

In search of warmer weather, they go to Mexico.

These raptors spend the whole year across South America.

They fly over the scrubland and desert, and they forage along canyon sides and rock faces at great altitudes.

Hunting in the lowlands along the shore is also a possibility.

The food of a zone-tailed hawk consists of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

When hunting, they use the terrain as a screen and fly at low altitudes to avoid detection.

6. Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Since some Sharp-shinned Hawks overwinter New Mexico, the best time to observe one is during the winter months of September through May.

Adult Sharp-shinned Hawk has a bluish-gray upper body and a rusty-orange underbelly.

They’re easily identifiable by the several black bars across their tails.

Females tend to be a little bigger than males by around a third.

They possess tiny, spherical heads in comparison to the length of their tails, which are shaped like a square.

During the winter, sharp-shinned hawks, which nest across Canada and a few northern U.S. states, travel south.

Those birds might spend the whole year across the Western and Appalachians Mountains.

Sharp-shinned Hawks are elusive birds that may sometimes be spotted as they soar over clearings near woodland boundaries.

They are quick and agile, able to dart through the underbrush to capture their avian prey in midair.

They are often seen at bird feeders, where they may be observed capturing tiny birds.

If you’re having difficulties with them in your yard, try doing without a feeder for a while.

Sharp-shinned Hawks catch and then consume their meal by snatching it from a stump or low limb.

Robin-sized songbirds are a common meal for them.

The Sharp-shinned Hawk typically builds its nest on the top of a tall tree in a thick forest.

The circumference of the nest is between one and two feet and its depth ranges from four to six inches.

They usually produce anywhere from three to eight speckled white or light blue eggs.

7. Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawks are very uncommon in the state of New Mexico, however, they have been seen in the Valles Caldera National Preserve, the Cibola National Forest, and the Gila National Forest.

In comparison to its smaller and less aggressive relatives, the Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks, Northern Goshawks are a formidable foe.

Their short, long tail and wide wings make up for their lack of length in the wing area, and their grey coloring is complemented by the white stripe that runs across their yellow eyes.

Northern Goshawks are native to the western mountains of Canada and the United States.

In search of warmer weather, some of the younger birds might fly to the central United States for the winter.

Being exceedingly secretive and sometimes violent if you go too near a nesting area, they are difficult to see in the wild.

Large tracts of primarily coniferous or mixed woods are the preferred habitat for Northern Goshawks.

They keep an eye out for their prey from above, which consists of birds and rodents of a small size.

8. Gray Hawk

Gray Hawk

Gray Hawks are very uncommon across New Mexico, however, there have been sightings in the southwest region of the state during the previous decade.

A Gray Hawk’s upper body and wings are a uniform grey, but its breast and abdomen have dark barring.

Long and patterned with three white bars on a black background, their tails are distinctive.

They’re smaller than other hawks in the family and possess short, wide wings.

Migration and summertime breeding across Mexico, Central America, Arizona, and Southern Texas is a common occurrence for Gray Hawks.

Cottonwood and willow groves near flowing water are good places to search for Gray hawks.

They fly over grassy regions and wait patiently for lizards from branch perches.

9. Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Despite their long, narrow wings, Swainson’s Hawks have short, rounded tails.

They have a brown or grey back with white spots, a white belly, and red or brown breasts.

While in flight, the contrast between the black flight feathers along the wing’s underside and the white upper half is striking.

During the summer, Swainson’s Hawks may be seen soaring over the Great Plains and other open areas of the West.

During the winter, however, they migrate south to spend the colder months with their tens of thousands of fellow birds.

In the West, they breed from the Pacific toward the Midwest, including British Columbia and Alaska.

The ideal times to observe these hawks are between May to September when they make their long-distance migration and put on their legendary daytime displays, which may include ten of thousands of birds.

To better locate their prey in the comparatively flat regions where they live, Swainson’s Hawks sit on any high spots, such as power poles or fences.

If there aren’t any good vantage points, they’ll likely be searching for insects on the ground among meadows and grassland.

They aren’t picky consumers and will eat everything, from snakes and lizards to mice, bats, rabbits, dragonflies, and insects.

Swainson’s Hawks utilize any available trees near pastures or low mesquite shrubs and power poles as nesting sites since such places are rare in the open country.

Nests are huge assemblages of twigs and branches, measuring about 2.5 feet in width and about 1.2 feet in height.

Bark, dung, grass, and wool are among the softer materials used to line the interior of the nest.

10. Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s Hawks spend the whole year across New Mexico, where they are the third most commonly sighted hawk year-round.

The Cooper’s Hawk is approximately the size of a crow, although it looks remarkably similar to the Sharp-shinned Hawk.

They all seem similar, with a red-orange chest, black bands, and a bluish-gray back on the tail, making it difficult to tell them apart.

As opposed to the Sharp-shinned Hawk, which has a relatively small head in relation to its enormous wings, these birds’ heads are much bigger.

Some Cooper’s Hawks move south toward Honduras and Mexico during the winter from their north range, including Canada.

It’s common to find them near the area of woodlands, but you could also spot them at feeders.

They nest in high trees, mostly on top of an abandoned big bird nest or a cluster of mistletoe, and exist on small animals and birds of a similar size.

They hatch about two to six light blue to whitish-blue eggs.

11. Short-tailed Hawk

Short-Tailed Hawk
Credits – Wikipedia

This New Mexico endemic raptor was last seen near Willow Creek in 2018.

A short-tailed hawk is a little hawk that may range in color from light to black.

Both the light and dark variants have brown plumage on their wings and backs, however, the dark morphs’ flying feathers are much darker than the light morphs’.

It’s obvious from the name that these hawks do not possess the long tails of others of their kind.

You may find them all across the Latin American and Caribbean regions, as well as in Florida.

To catch their prey, short-tailed hawks must soar high into the air, making them difficult to notice.

12. White-tailed Hawk

White-tailed Hawk
Credits – Wikipedia

White-tailed Hawks are a presumed incidental species in New Mexico, with just one confirmed sighting near San Miguel in 2017.

It’s easy to spot a White-tailed Hawk in a crowd because of its striking combination of black upperparts and white underparts, red wingtips, and shoulders.

In addition, their tails are distinctive, having white on both the top and bottom and a black band down the border.

White-tailed Hawks don’t migrate, and although they are most numerous in South America, there have been sightings of these birds as far north as Texas.

White-tailed Hawks often prefer savannas and grasslands for hunting.

Their food consists mostly of lizards, rabbits, rodents, and many types of birds.

After fires, when other animals are fleeing, they may be easily seen since they are feasting on the fleeing prey.

Some immature birds have an all-black morph, whereas others have white spots on their bellies and chests.

Females tend to be bigger than their male counterparts.


In conclusion, New Mexico is a haven for hawk enthusiasts, offering a rich diversity of these awe-inspiring birds of prey.

From the iconic Ferruginous Hawk and the elusive Northern Goshawk to the regal White-tailed Hawk and the speedy Cooper’s Hawk, the state boasts a wide array of hawk species that inhabit its mountains, deserts, and forests.

Exploring the unique characteristics, behaviors, and habitats of these 12 types of hawks found in New Mexico has been a thrilling journey into the fascinating world of avian predators.

Whether you’re a seasoned birder or a nature lover seeking to appreciate the beauty of the wild, observing hawks in their natural habitat is an experience that is sure to leave you in awe of their majesty and grace.

So, grab your field guide, venture into the great outdoors, and keep your eyes peeled for these incredible raptors as you explore the stunning landscapes of New Mexico. Happy birdwatching!


Where can I spot hawks in New Mexico?

Hawks in New Mexico can be found in a variety of habitats, including mountains, deserts, and forests. Look for them soaring high in the skies or perched on tall trees or utility poles.

Are all hawks in New Mexico migratory?

No, not all hawks in New Mexico are migratory. While some species, such as the Swainson’s Hawk and the Rough-legged Hawk, are migratory and travel to New Mexico during certain seasons, others like the Red-tailed Hawk are year-round residents.

What is the largest species of hawk in New Mexico?

The Ferruginous Hawk is the largest species of hawk found in New Mexico, known for its impressive size and striking appearance. It is typically found in grasslands and shrublands of the state.

Do hawks in New Mexico prey on livestock or pets?

While hawks primarily feed on small mammals, birds, and reptiles, they may occasionally prey on livestock or pets. However, such incidents are rare and hawks generally pose no significant threat to humans or domestic animals.

How can I identify hawks in New Mexico?

Identifying hawks in New Mexico can be done by observing their size, shape, coloration, and behavior. Field guides and online resources can be helpful in identifying specific species based on their physical characteristics.

Are hawks protected in New Mexico?

Yes, hawks are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which makes it illegal to harm or harass them. It is important to observe hawks from a safe distance and avoid disturbing their natural behaviors or habitats.

Can I attract hawks to my backyard in New Mexico?

While hawks are wild birds and their presence cannot be guaranteed, you may attract them to your backyard by providing suitable habitat, such as tall trees for perching, open spaces for hunting, and bird feeders to attract smaller birds, which may in turn attract hawks.

Are hawks beneficial for the ecosystem in New Mexico?

Yes, hawks play a vital role in the ecosystem as top predators, helping to regulate populations of their prey species and maintaining ecological balance. They are important indicators of ecosystem health and contribute to the overall biodiversity of New Mexico’s natural landscapes.

Last Updated on April 24, 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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