9 Different Hawks in Pennsylvania (PA)

Many bird species live throughout Pennsylvania, especially raptors like hawks. You could be asking, “ how many species of hawks exist in Pennsylvania if you’re really a Pennsylvania native, a bird lover, or simply interested.

The state has vast natural regions for hawks may nest, reproduce, and hunt openly.

It’s fascinating to watch hawks linger in the skies, particularly if you have to see one dive for prey. If you seek in the correct places, you can always locate at minimum one hawk in the region.

Additionally, some state and national forests in Pennsylvania are ideal for birding.

In Pennsylvania, there are nine different species of hawks.

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

Different Species of Hawks in Pennsylvania

1. Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

In Pennsylvania, red-tailed hawks species are ubiquitous. They are frequently seen in lofty perches, searching to find prey in wide places near major highways.

They can locate a rodent from about 30 meters away when flying and hovering in the air. The nickname of these hawks comes due to their brick-red tail.

Red-tailed hawks eat rats, rabbits, lizards, and other small mammals. The red-tailed hawk pounces at tremendous speed when it spots prey and captures it with its claws.


They are frequently seen soaring over or sitting alongside the road on treetops or lofty light poles. The Red-tailed Hawk can acclimatize to a wide range of environments that is not fearful of humanity, particularly in comparison to certain other birds.

Red-tailed hawks are nocturnal nesters who favor deep hardwood woods away from various attackers such as people, great-horned owls, and bobcats.

The female red-tailed hawk produces one to five pale, brown-spotted eggs. Both male and female red-tailed hawks incubate the eggs. When the youngsters are about 6 weeks old, they depart the nest.

2. Broad-winged Hawk

Broad Winged Hawk

Broad-winged hawks are uncommon in Pennsylvania. They continue to reproduce throughout the state prior to actually flying to South America in a whirling flock termed “kettles.”

These hawks live in the darkest parts of the woodlands, rendering them difficult to spot throughout the breeding season. They are afraid of nesting near human homes.


Broad-winged raptors are tiny and stocky. Adults have quite a whitish belly, a dark gray and black tail, and a dark brown back. They do have large wings, as their title implies. Younger broad-winged hawks have a whiter chest and abdomen than their adults.


The food of broad-winged hawks fluctuates with the seasons. Crabs, shrews, snakes, voles, lizards, frogs, and other small birds are among the foods they consume. These hawks, though, are vulnerable to attack by black bears, great-horned owls, raccoons, and porcupines.

The day before the nesting season, both females and males build nests. The female produces 1 to 4 eggs that are white, blue, or pale cream in color. The female is also willing to care for the eggs unless they lay eggs, which takes approximately a month.

Broad-winged Hawks reach weight from 9.3 to 19.8 ounces, a length from 13.4 to 17.3 in, and wingspan from 31.9 to 39.4 in.

3. Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk

Northern goshawks can be located in Pennsylvania’s more isolated, elevated woodlands. Because they are fairly covert birds, they might be difficult to locate inside the state.

They are dark grey and have a long tail and large wings.

Northern goshawks are larger and much more ferocious than other types of hawks, such as sharp-shinned hawks. Snowshoe hares, rabbits, squirrels, crows, and other small animals make up their diet.

They fly low through into the forest looking for food or linger silently in trees sitting and understanding for prey.


Nests of northern goshawks are built in the crotches of trees and shrubs in diverse woods. Females deposit 2 to 4 bluish-white eggs. Males supply nourishment while the female reproduces the eggs, which might also lay eggs after 32 to 38 days.

They also have vivid red eyeballs with prominent white stripes above them, giving the impression that the bird has brows. This breed of the hawk was widely adopted as a symbol of power, more notably by Attila the Hun, who exploited the bird’s picture for this purpose.


The Northern Goshawk’s weight ranges from 22.3 to 48.1 oz, its length ranges around 20.9 to 25.2 in, and its wingspan ranges between 40.5 to 46.1 in.

4. Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough-legged hawks seem to be medium-sized raptors with broad wings. They are commonly seen on wide farms and wetlands.

They are dark brown having striking patterns and black tail endings. When hunting, these hawks frequently fly against the air.

Voles, shrews, mice, rabbits, and ground squirrels are common prey for rough-legged hawks. Raptors including huge falcons and eagles, prey on rough-legged hawks over all generations.


These hawks enjoy nesting in the Arctic and move to much more open places in the wintertime. They are plainly noticeable in Pennsylvania throughout the winter season when they are buzzing around in prairies, deserts, or open areas. Females deposit three to five pale-bluish white eggs.

There are several color variants in this bird’s feathers, most notably dark and light variants. The underparts of mature light morphs are white, and the upperparts are gray-brown. Dark morphs, on the other hand, can have dark brown all across entire bodies.


Rough-legged Hawks range in weight from 25.2 to 49.4 oz, length from 18.5 to 20.5 in, and wingspan from 52.0 to 54.3 in.

5. Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Over the year, huge flocks of Swainson’s hawks can be seen in Pennsylvania. Swainson’s hawks, unlike many other hawks, are exceptionally gregarious birds of prey that pass a significant amount of time sitting in fence posts, solitary trees, and utility wires/poles close to human residences.

Whereas during fall, they travel to Argentine wintering sites. It’s among the longest migrations birds, with breathtaking sights of large numbers of Swainson’s hawks flying high above.


Swainson’s hawks eat mostly grasshoppers, crickets, and other creatures they catch in the air or find on the land. They do not consume other birds and instead coexist peacefully.

Swainson’s hawks spend the summer seasons in the meadows prior to moving in the autumn. Females hatch 1 to 5 eggs, which need approximately 34 to 35 days to hatch.

6. Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered hawks can be seen throughout the year in Pennsylvania, flying above swamp woods and riverine habitats. They are generally related to water and tall trees. They mostly feed on frogs, mice, and snakes.

Red-shouldered hawks exhibit crimson striping on their chests and a heavily striped tail. They possess dark-white patterned wings as well. Red-shouldered hawks appear white below and brown above top when they are young.


Red-shouldered hawk nests are frequently reused in evergreen woods near wetlands and rivers. Females hatch two to five pale or blue eggs.

They produce a loud “kee-ah” voice; listening to a video about it before heading out, you can identify it.


If you spot one of these in flight, search for the distinctive crescent patterning on the underwing ends. The Red-Shouldered Hawk’s length ranges from 16.9 to 24.0 in, its weight ranges from 17.1 to 27.3 oz, and its wingspan ranges from 37.0 to 43.7 in.

7. Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned hawks were also long-tailed, tiny hawks have round wings. Over the year, they can be seen in Pennsylvania. They have little heads that really can extend further than the boundaries of their wings.

Sharp-shinned hawks appear grayish-blue on top and red-orange on the chests as adults. Such as adults, their young appear brown, having thick black stripes over their tail feathers.

Food & Habitat

Sharp-shinned hawks feed primarily on big insects, rodents, frogs, squirrels, lizards, bats, snakes, and small birds. They dash through the dark trees, hoping to catch prey off guard. They might just as well strike from lower places.

Sharp-shinned hawks mate and dwell in the darkest woodlands. They only emerge throughout migrations and to forage for food near forest boundaries. Females produce 3 to 8 white or pale-blue speckled eggs.


The Sharp-shinned hawk’s weight ranges from 3.1 to 7.7 oz, length ranges from 9.4 to 13.4 in, and its wingspan ranges from 16.9 to 22.1 in.

8. Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

Northern harriers are thin, long-tailed hawks that can be spotted throughout the year in Pennsylvania. They have quite a sharply curved beak and a flattened face, the same as an owl.

They frequently fly around looking for prey, extending their wings in a V form.

Northern harrier males appear gray on top and white on the bottom, with a distinctive black-banded tail. The underparts of females are pale with brownish dots. Young individuals are brown having black tail ends.

Food & Habitat

Northern harriers mostly hunt tiny birds and animals, although they may also catch larger prey such as ducks and rabbits. They reproduce and reside in open areas like the Arctic tundra, marshes, and prairie grasslands. Females deposit anything from 4 to 5 pale white eggs.

Male adult Northern Harriers possess light grayish-brown plumage all over their bodies, with white underparts. Female adults have primarily light brown plumage.


Northern Harriers weigh from 10.6 to 26.5 oz, range in length from 18.1 to 19.7 in, and wingspan from 40.2 to 46.5 in.

9. Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Cooper’s hawks are typical forest hawks that might have been observed in Pennsylvania all year. They are by far the most skilled flyers, never missing a prey opportunity. They are identical to sharp-shinned hawks, and both birds are frequently seen at bird feeders in search of an easy catch.


Cooper’s hawks mostly consume bats, mice, squirrels, and medium-sized birds. They follow the target via deep cover and strike with a quick, powerful flight.

These hawks make their nest in a variety of tree types, including beech, oak, pine, spruce, and others. Females hatch between 2 and 6 purplish to bluish-white eggs.

Cooper’s Hawks are notorious for their stealth and secrecy. As a result, the greatest time to go hunting for them is throughout their migratory seasons, when they migrate in large groups.


Cooper’s Hawks weight from 7.8 to 24.0 oz, range in length from 14.6 to 17.7 in, and wingspan from 24.4 to 35.4 in.

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


Surprisingly, there is a vast range of hawks in Pennsylvania. Enough to have some keen bird enthusiasts occupied for some time. You will have a fantastic time whether you spot the typical Red hawk or the secretive Sharp-shinned hawk.

There is no better moment to start searching than now.

Hawks are a lovely part of the natural world; seeing one of these, in reality, is breathtaking, and Pennsylvania is an excellent spot to seek them.


Can Cooper's hawks be spotted in Pennsylvania?

Cooper’s hawk has been a medium-sized accipiter that lives across Pennsylvania and is most probably to be seen in the city.

Adults resemble giant sharp-shinned hawks in overall appearance, with red eyes, a blue-gray back, and a reddish chest, but Cooper’s possess curved tails while sharp-shins feature square-tipped tails.

What distinguishes a hawk from an eagle?

Their size is among the most striking distinctions. Eagles are substantially bigger and also have greater wingspans, unlike hawks.

Hawks have a vague resemblance, however, if you look really closely, you will discover that their wings are now more flattened, they possess short, wide, rounded tails, and they also have a stocky body.

What species of a hawk has brown and white feathers?

Its food is diverse and flexible, including insects, small birds, mongooses, and sometimes even shellfish. Its coloration can vary from dark to medium brown-white with gray mottled skin, particularly on its undersides and wing plumes.

What do hawks in Pennsylvania eat?

Because these enormous hawks prey mostly on animals, they should not worry about birds visiting your feeders. Mice, voles, rats, ground squirrels, and rabbits are their most usual prey. However, you might observe them devouring snakes, carrion, or larger birds (starlings, pheasants, blackbirds).

Do hawks consume birds?

When birders discover that hawks consume other birds and might even be hunting cherished backyard songbirds, the majesty of a flying hawk fades. Most birders would rather safeguard their backyard songbirds from hawks than assist in a predator’s diet.

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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