11 Different Types of Hawks in Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s ecology is diversified, including bottomland woods, prairies, tundra, grasslands, deserts, and mountains.

The region is home to an extensive assortment of flora and fauna due to its mid-continent location and long east-west boundaries. As a result, it provides some of the greatest chances for bird viewing throughout the central United States.

The state is home to over 355 different bird species. There are roughly 83 permanent inhabitants and 181 nesting species. The remaining birds seem to be either neotropical or temperate migrants.

This document will look at the different varieties of hawks that may be found across Oklahoma’s broad variety of environments.

Hawks are predatory birds having sharp claws, superb vision, and hooked beaks. Many are migratory, while others could be spotted in the state all year.

From the Red Slough in the east to the rocky upland areas of the Wichita Mountains, these raptors inhabit nearly all of the state’s habitats.

Red-Tailed HawkRed-Tailed Hawk
Sharp-Shinned HawkSharp-Shinned Hawk
Cooper's HawkCooper's Hawk
Ferruginous HawkFerruginous Hawk
Swainson’s HawkSwainson’s Hawk
Broad-Winged HawkBroad-Winged Hawk
Northern GoshawkNorthern Goshawk
Red-Shouldered HawkRed-Shouldered Hawk
Zone-tailed HawkZone-tailed Hawk
Common Black HawkCommon Black Hawk
Gray HawkGray Hawk

Types of Hawks in Oklahoma

1. Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

The red-tailed hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, and Cooper’s hawk are all known for preying on hens. Despite being well-deserved for the later kinds of hawks, the earlier red-tailed hawk remains free of these allegations.

Scientific name Buteo jamaicensis
Weight 2 to 4 pounds
Length 18 to 25 inches
Wingspan 45 to 52 inches

The red-tailed hawk has become so widespread across Oklahoma that it is designated as that the state raptor. It’s rather large, with a copper-red head, shoulders, neck, and, obviously, tail.

The ends of its white wings are black, and they continue all the way to the apex of its tail. Whereas the body of the red-tailed hawk appears white, its backside seems to be a basic shade of brown with a coppery color when exposed to light.

This species’ dark variant appears dark brown aside from its greyish wings and tail, each of which is black at the edges.

2. Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

The sharp-shinned hawk has been the tiniest of the North American hawks, with yellow eyes that have become red since it grows.

Their fronts are reddish-brown, and their backs are stormy sea-gray, featuring packed white crescent moons. Their tails are white, having black stripes.

Scientific name Accipiter striatus
Weight 0.5 to 0.6 pounds
Length 10 to 14 inches
Wingspan 20 to 28 inches

This bird dwells in deep woods and nests at the upper tops of trees. When winter arrives, they typically spend the season across North America, although some do move to the South Indies or Central America.

They usually move solo, although they will sometimes form a group of sharpies, red-tailed, or broad-winged hawks.

3. Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s hawk’s size, feathers, and sometimes even eye color are very similar to that of the sharp-shinned bird below. This is the reason the two are often confused.

If you want to identify them as distinct, examine their heads; Cooper’s birds appear larger and less curved. The tail is yet another distinguishing feature, as Cooper’s hawk’s tail appears round at the apex, but the sharp-shinned hawks are much more square.

Scientific name Accipiter cooperii
Weight 1.16 to 1.20 pounds
Length 14.6 to 17.7 inches
Wingspan 24.4 to 35.4 inches


Although both prey birds like deep woods, Cooper’s hawks may be seen in backyards, playgrounds, and even calm streets having scattered trees. Their appearance in your backyard is most likely due to little birds attending your bird feeders.

This species strikes when other species are at their most susceptible: when they are eating. The sharp-shinned hawk is equally cunning, so place cages surrounding feeders to keep larger birds outside from range or uninstall it for a few days or weeks if you detect this predator close.

Don’t panic; the small birds will discover you when you replace them. Always keep your yard clean of rodents and insects to avoid providing more food for predatory birds.

4. Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk

The ferruginous hawk seems to have a long, projecting face with a bright yellow gape that extends all the way to the hawk’s beady eyes.

The plumage on its head and back appears rust-colored, matching the plumage on its feet. It all and rough-legged hawks represent the only two bird subspecies with this feature.

Scientific name Buteo regalis
Length 20 to 26 inches
Weight 3.3 to 3.6 pounds
Wingspan 53 to 60 inches

On the other hand, the hawk’s forehead, tail, and wings are snow-colored. There are numerous brown and black plumes interspersed amid the broad wings of ferruginous hawks, in addition to a touch of black near the points.

A tiny fraction of this species’ population contains dark variants, which are hazel and chocolate colored with the full-on white flight and white tail feathers.

They may be seen flying throughout all seasons, and their nests could be found anywhere from deserts to grasslands and prairies.

5. Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

The body of a Swainson’s hawk is white mottled with quite a brown collar all around the throat. The back and head appear black, whereas the wingspan is white with a graded black there at flying plumage.

Scientific name Buteo swainsoni
Weight 1.8 to 2.5 pounds
Length 18 to 22 inches
Wingspan 47 to 57 inches

Its migration path is unquestionably the longest among hawks. It’s on its way towards Argentina, and it’s certainly not alone. They all soar in flocks of tens to thousands of other hawks.

Swainson’s birds eat rodents, rabbits, and snakes. Furthermore, because grasshoppers are one of their favorite foods, they are sometimes referred to as grasshopper hawks.

6. Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad Winged Hawk

Broad-winged hawks are distinguished by beautiful off-white and brown banded bellies and cream-colored wings flecked with brown spots.

Scientific name Buteo platypterus
Weight 1.0 to 1.2 pound
Length 13.4 to 17.2 inches
Wingspan 32 to 39.6 inches

Their tails, as well as the main and secondary feathers, are completely white with blackish bands. Whenever the hawk is sitting, the black ends of the wings form a rectangular shape.

Broad-winged hawks, notably Swainson’s hawks, are long-distance migratory. They spend the winter months throughout the jungles of southern Brazil and Mexico.

7. Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk

Northern goshawks possess distinct feathers that make them simple to identify…if you’re fortunate enough to spot them in the first place!

These solitary birds reside deeply within forest areas and, therefore will attack any individual or animal who approaches their nest. They stay away from people, so the chances of seeing one are minimal.

Scientific name Buteo lagopus
Weight 2 to 2.2 pounds
Length 18.5 to 20.5 inches
Wingspan 52 to 54 inches

If you come across one of these birds, you’ll recognize it based on its bold crimson eyes and grey back and head. The grey head features two white streaks over the brows, making it an edgier and much more unique appearance.

The front of the hawk appears white, having black horizontal lines across the chest and shoulders, while the flight plumes and tails are light greys having thin black bands.

These accipiter hawks are mottled with brown as youngsters and also have characteristic light brows.

8. Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Look for the red-shouldered hawk, which has a golden breast marked with small red crescents and white wings, back, and tails striped with brown — nearly black — plumage.

Red-shouldered hawks typically move alone, although they will occasionally form small clusters for companionship. They seldom migrate vast distances, but some may venture as far as Mexico.

They’ll most probably spend the winter months mostly in the southeastern United States.

Scientific name Buteo Lineatus
Weight 1 to 1.7 pounds
Length 17 to 24 inches
Wingspan 37 to 43.7 inches

Mostly during the rest of the year, they may be found flying over the forests, rivers, and swamps throughout eastern Oklahoma. They often live near farm fields, so keep a look out if you encounter them in one of such regions.

They do not even fly out as frequently as other species, preferring to sit on nearby trees, so keep your eye on the sky. They also repeatedly return to their nests and territories each year, so if you come across a red-shouldered hawk once, you’ll almost certainly see it again.

9. Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk
Credits – Wikipedia

Zone-tailed Hawks are classified as an incidental species within Oklahoma and are only to be found throughout the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

Zone-tailed Hawks appear dark; nearly black hawks have a barring on the underbelly of the flight feathers and white stripes across the tail.

Zone-tailed Hawks can only be spotted in a few regions near the border during the nesting season. In the winter, they move south towards Mexico. Zone-tailed Hawks spend the whole year across South America.

Male Zone-tailed Hawk

Weight 21.4 to 23.6 oz
Length 17.6 to 22.3 inches
Wingspan 46.8 to 55.1 inches

Female Zone-tailed Hawk

Wingspan 46.8 to 55.2 inches 
Weight 29.8 to 33.1 ounces

They can be seen flying across scrub and desert as they forage along cliffs and canyons, frequently at high heights. They may also hunt along the coast.


Zone-tailed Hawks feed on reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. They hunt by flying overhead and hiding behind the scenery until it is too late.

10. Common Black Hawk

Common Black Hawk

Common Black Hawks have been regarded as incidental species throughout Oklahoma, with just a pair of observations inside the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge during 2021.

Common Black Hawks possess broad wings, huge bodies, long legs, short tails, and massive wings. Aside from a white stripe all across the tail, they are all black.

Weight 33 to 34 ounces
Length 17 to 21 inches

They may be observed at the southern border of California and Texas throughout the summer season. However, they remain the full year in their natural habitat in Central America and Mexico.

Despite their title, they really aren’t particularly common in the United States, where only about 250 pairs are believed to be present.

They graze for fish, crabs, lizards, and frogs along rivers near woods, although they will occasionally chase small animals and birds.

11. Gray Hawk

Gray Hawk

Gray Hawks are extremely uncommon throughout Oklahoma, although they are recognized mostly on the Oklahoma Ornithological Society’s authorized list as species sighted in the state and backed via written data.

Gray Hawks appear light gray having a solid gray top side and banded abdomen and breasts. Their tails are large and black with three white stripes. They are tiny hawks throughout this species with wide, short wings.

Weight 13.9 to 16.7 ounces
Length 18.1 to 24.0 inches

Gray Hawks travel to Mexico, Central America, Arizona, and Southern Texas to mate during the summertime. 

Search for Gray hawks around willow woodlands and cottonwood near streams and rivers. They can be seen flying lower in the open area or sitting on trees looking for lizards.


Identifying hawks is enjoyable, albeit it may be challenging. Look for the distinguishing features in each. In other words, you may inspect the claws to determine if they’re feathered or not.

When the hawk sits, examine the tail to determine if it is rounder or even more rectangular. Consider the size; certain hawks, such as the Sharpie and Cooper’s hawks, are noticeably tiny. Look attentively at the hues of the plumage. It does not take a hawk’s vision to tell them apart.


What kind of hawk is by far the most prevalent within Oklahoma?

Red-tailed Hawks represent the most common hawks across North America and may be seen in Oklahoma all year.

They have huge buteo proportions, with rounded, long wings as well as a little, fan-shaped tail. Like numerous other hawks, red-tailed hawks possess darker brown upperparts and creamy underparts.

What do hawks in Oklahoma eat?

Because these enormous hawks prey mostly on animals, they must not worry about other birds that visit your feeders.

Mice, rats, rabbits, voles, and ground squirrels are their most frequent prey. However, you may observe them devouring carrion, snakes, or larger birds (blackbirds, pheasants, starlings).

Do hawks consume squirrels?

Most hawks, on the other hand, are voracious predators who eat everything they can get their hands on. Snakes, mice, squirrels, rabbits, lizards, and any other form of smaller animals that can be found are examples of these little creatures.

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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