10 Types of Hawks in Ontario

Twenty-five distinct hawk species make North America home. Each Canadian province may be home to a unique group of hawks at any given time of year due to climatic and dietary differences across locations.

Several species of hawks may be found across Ontario, and we’ll discuss them here. Locations, where you could see them and interesting facts about every species, will be discussed.

Red-tailed HawkRed-tailed Hawk
Ferruginous HawkFerruginous Hawk
Northern HarrierNorthern Harrier
Swainson's HawkSwainson's Hawk
Cooper's HawkCooper's Hawk
Northern GoshawkNorthern Goshawk
Sharp-shinned HawkSharp-shinned Hawk
Rough-legged HawkRough-legged Hawk
Red-Shouldered HawkRed-Shouldered Hawk
Broad-winged HawkBroad-winged Hawk

Types of Hawks in Ontario

1. Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Commonly seen hawks in Ontario include the Red-tailed species. Five percent of birders’ summer checklists and twelve percent of birders’ winter checklists in the state include them.


Red-tailed hawks spend the winter in warmer climes, although they may still be seen often in the southeast of Ontario, close to Ottawa and Toronto.

Red-tailed Hawks, as the name implies, are easily recognizable by their broad, short, and red tail. Their wings are big and rounded, making them seem colossal.

The undersides of most Red-tailed Hawks are white, but their brown backs are typical.


They are also the most visible, as they frequently hunt birds, reptiles, and small animals while circling slowly over broad areas during lengthy automobile rides.

They have even been seen sitting on telephone wires.

The Red-tailed Hawk’s loud, falling, raspy screech is often utilized in media to represent the sound of all raptors.

The Red-tailed Hawk is a year-round inhabitant of Mexico and the United States, but in the winter, it migrates south from the northern Great Plains, Alaska, and Canada.

Nests may be found on the highest branches of trees, perched precariously on the brink of cliffs, and even on the highest floors of buildings and towers.

They produce a clutch of two to three white eggs with brown markings.

2. Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk

The latest confirmed sighting of a Ferruginous Hawk throughout Moosonee dates back to 2019, making this species an accidental invasive across Ontario.


Throughout North America, Ferruginous Hawks are the biggest of the hawk species. They’ve had lengthy wings and big heads.

They are available in both a light and dark morph, and the differences between the two may be striking.

Underneath, on the abdomen, wings, and head, the more frequent light variant Ferruginous Hawks are white.

Their lower legs are deeper in coloration, while their upper bodies and wings are a reddish brown. Baby light morphs often have more brown spots on their bellies and legs.

Dark variants are very uncommon and may be identified by their white flying plumage on the tips of their tail and wings, as well as their brown bellies and undersides.


The vast Western landscape is also home to Ferruginous Hawks, another hawk species.

They have a breeding range that includes Southern Canada and extends as far south as Nevada and Utah.

When winter comes, they go only to the southern United States and Mexico.

It’s possible that certain bird range centers serve as permanent year-round residences.


Ferruginous Hawks are common in lowland areas with shrubs and grassland. Even while migrating, they avoid going across the Rocky Mountains.

The bulk of their food consists of small animals like ground squirrels and prairie dogs within the East and cottontail rabbits and jackrabbits mostly in the West.

Hunting occurs throughout the day, and they do so both in flight and when perched or even on the ground.

They may hatch up to eight eggs in a nest that is up to three feet in height and 3 feet in width.

3. Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

They spend the entire summer breeding across Ontario, where the Northern Harrier is the third most often seen hawk.

From April through October is when you’re most likely to see one of them.


Northern Harriers are in between the sizes of a goose and a crow, and they are slim with long, wide wings.

There is a common v-shaped position in which the tips of the wings are higher than the body.

Females are a brownish color, while males are grey on top and white on the bottom, with a white patch on their rump.


Northern Harriers spend the winter in Mexico, Central America, and the southern United States, but they breed across Canada, Alaska, the Northeast, and the northern Great Plains.

Those that fall in the middle range tend to stick around all year.

Sometimes you’ll see this long-tailed hawk swooping low over a meadow or a marshland.

Small animals and birds make up the majority of a Northern Harrier’s diet. They build their nests on the ground among willows, reeds, or brushtail bushes.

It’s common for them to lay between four to five dull white eggs.

4. Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Some Swainson’s Hawks were seen across Ontario in 2021, despite the fact that this species is only found throughout Ontario by chance.


Long-winged, with short tails and truncate wingtips, Swainson’s Hawks are a kind of hawk. Most of their bodies are a speckled brown or grey color, while their abdomen and chests are a lighter shade of brown or red.

Black flight plumage on the bottom margins and tips of the wings stand out clearly against the white top half of the wing while the bird is in flight (called the linings).


When summer ends, hundreds upon thousands of Swainson’s Hawks migrate to South America from the wide terrain of the West and the Great Plains.

In the West, birds breed from the Pacific towards the Midwest, including Alaska and British Columbia.

These raptors are best seen in the months of May and September when they are on their annual transcontinental migration and are known for putting on magnificent daytime displays involving hundreds of thousands of birds.

Habitat & Food

To increase their visibility in the flat areas where they hunt, Swainson’s Hawks sitting on power lines or fences before swooping down on unsuspecting mice below.

If there aren’t any good vantage spots, they’ll likely be foraging for insects on the grassland or fields below.

They aren’t picky eaters and will eat just about everything, including lizards and snakes, mice, insects, bats, dragonflies, and rabbits, in locations where Burrowing Owls are common.

Swainson’s Hawks find few suitable tree nesting locations in the open country, so they settle for trees close to fields, low mesquite shrubs, and even power poles.

Nests are huge assemblages of branches and twigs, measuring up to 2 feet in width and as much as 1 foot in height.

Stuffed with softer materials like dung, wool, bark, and grass, the nest, provides a comfortable sleeping environment for the nest’s inhabitants.

5. Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

After spending the summer mating in southern Ontario, Cooper Hawks fly north for the winter.

Cooper’s Hawks are the second most often observed hawk across Ontario, appearing on 3% of winter checklists, mostly in the south of the province.


The Cooper’s Hawk is around the size of a crow, although it looks remarkably identical to the Sharp-shinned Hawk. Due to the fact that they all share the same red-orange breast, blue-gray back, and black banded tail, distinguishing between them may be difficult.

In contrast to the Sharp-shinned Hawk, which has a smaller head that stays close to its body, this species’ head is much bigger and extends far beyond its wings.

Some Cooper’s Hawks move south to Mexico and Honduras during the winter from their northern range, which includes Canada.


Keep an eye out for them around the periphery of woodlands, or you can spot them at feeders.

They nest high in trees, usually on top of an abandoned huge bird’s nest or a cluster of mistletoe, and subsist on birds and small animals of a similar size.

They lay eggs that range in color from very light blue to bluish-white, usually between 2 to 6.

6. Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk

Even though they are uncommon, Northern Goshawks may be seen in Ontario, particularly in the province’s parks. Not typically migratory; however, juveniles might go south for the winter.

Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks have a larger and more aggressive cousin in the Northern Goshawk.

A white stripe runs across their yellow eyes, and their body is mostly grey.

Their wings are small and wide, and their tail is lengthy.


Mountainous Canada and the western United States are home to Northern Goshawks. It is possible that some younger birds might migrate to the central United States for the winter.


Large woodlands are where they make their homes, making them difficult to locate, and the fact that they are secretive and even dangerous if approached too closely to their nests only makes things more difficult.

Large, predominantly coniferous, or mixed-forest areas are the preferred habitat for Northern Goshawks.

They sit in trees and look for smaller animals and birds to eat.

7. Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Mating season for Sharp-shinned Hawks in Ontario occurs from August until April. The majority of the province sees them leave for warmer climates in the winter, although they may still be seen in the south.


Adult Small in size, the Sharp-shinned Hawk, has a bluish-gray upper body and a crimson-orange underbelly. Their tails are marked with black bands.

As a general rule, girls are bigger than men by about a third.

Their long tails finish in squares, and they have tiny heads and short, rounded wings.

The sharp-shinned hawk migrates south from its breeding grounds in the northern United States and Canada.

Those birds in the Appalachians and the Rocky Mountains could stick around all year.

Habitat & Food

In spite of their reclusive nature, sharp-shinned hawks may sometimes be seen flying through clearings along woodland boundaries.

Their agility allows them to swiftly traverse thick forests in pursuit of their avian prey.

You could see them at bird feeders, where they prey on smaller birds; if they’re a problem in your garden, however, you might want to take down the feeder for a while.

To prepare their meal, Sharp-shinned Hawks perch on a stump or a low limb and pick their food with their talons. They often consume small songbirds, such as robins.

The Sharp-shinned Hawk often builds its nest towards the top of a large, densely forested fir tree.

The diameter of the nest is between one to two feet, and it is between four to six inches deep. They produce a clutch of three to eight speckled white or light blue eggs.

8. Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-Legged Hawk

The southern part of Ontario, around Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal, is where you’re most likely to come across a Rough-legged Hawk this winter, from October to early April.

Third most common winter hawk, seen on 2% of checklists.

Rough-legged Hawks get their name from the feathers on their legs, which also serve to insulate them in the freezing north. You may compare their size to that of a goose or a crow; they’re quite big hawks. 

There are both light and dark variations of this species, distinguished by the presence or absence of black spots at the wing’s bend, tail’s end, and belly. When compared to other hawks, their large, thin wingspan stands out.


After breeding across northern Canada and Alaska, Rough-legged Hawks fly south to spend the winter in the United States.

The most common places to see them are in the sky over wide fields and marshland or sitting on a pole.

Rough-legged Hawks mostly feed on small mammals like lemmings and voles. West Virginian winters are spent feasting on tiny animals, including mice, ground squirrels, voles, and more.

They build their nests on the brink of a cliff, and each clutch contains three to five bluish-white eggs.

9. Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Though uncommon statewide, Red-shouldered Hawks may be seen in the southeast region of Ontario from March through November.

The wings of a Red-shouldered Hawk are checked with white and black, and the chest is barred with a rusty red. They are around the proportions of a crow but larger than a duck and have a swan-like bill and a highly banded tail.

Their call sounds like a booming caack-caack-caack.

Although Red-shouldered Hawks are year-round residents in the eastern United States, some in the Northeast may go southward for the winter. Additionally, these hawks call the West Coast home.


They often hunt near water, so look for them in a stream or pond. They eat mostly animals but may sometimes occasionally snack on snakes and frogs.

In many cases, nests are recycled from year to year in the same broad-leaved tree close to a water source. Two to five eggs, white or blue, are laid in each clutch.

10. Broad-winged Hawk

Broad Winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawks are also the second most often seen hawk across Ontario, appearing on 2% of checklists throughout the summer.

They breed from the end of April until the beginning of October and then migrate south for the winter season.

The Broad-winged Hawk may be compared in size to a goose or a crow. Their heads are a reddish brown, their chests are barred, and their short, square tails are striped narrowly.


After breeding in Canada and the eastern United States, Broad-winged Hawks migrate south to South and Central America in a massive kettle.

Therefore, the autumn migration is frequently the best time to watch them.

These hawks feed on snakes, frogs, small animals, and even juvenile turtles, all of which they catch when perched on the edge of a forest or body of water.

The Broad-winged Hawk will utilize an existing nest (typically that of a crow or squirrel) to incubate it’s two to three white eggs.

Check out this article on the Types of Hawks in New Mexico.


The prey items of these birds of prey include other birds, small animals, snakes, and frogs. They are equipped with UV vision, which aids them in their pursuit of food.

Other hawk species exist, but the ones I’ve included above are among the most common and well-known.

Illegal hunting, the use of pesticides in farming, and the deterioration of their natural habitats all contributed to the dwindling numbers of some of these species.

The bulk of these threats, however, seems to be stabilizing, and their severity ratings have been lowered accordingly.


In Ontario, what kind of bird of prey is the largest?

A huge and powerful bird of prey, the Golden Eagle, may be found in Ontario. The golden brown feathers that give this species its name are only seen on the bird’s head, neck, and upper wings; the remainder of its body is dark brown.

In Ontario, what type of falcons can you find?

It’s true that Peregrine Falcons are now nesting in around Toronto and other southern Ontario cities, but the vast bulk of the province’s breeding population is concentrated in the region surrounding Lake Superior in the northwest.

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.

Leave a Comment