Texas Hawks: 7 Different Species of Hawks in Texas

Have you ever wondered why there are so many different kinds of birds flying around in Texas, especially during the winter?

Due to its huge size and position close north of Mexico, Texas is home to a variety of migrating birds, both year-round and seasonal. Different kinds of hawks are among the most frequent birds seen in various parts of Texas.

This post describes distinct hawks that can be found in Texas, as well as their features and where they can be found.

Some are year-round Texans who live all over the state, while others are seasonal visitors who only visit certain times of the state during the winter.

The Northern GoshawkThe Northern Goshawk
Gray HawksGray Hawks
Harris’s HawksHarris’s Hawks
Zone-tailed HawkZone-tailed Hawk
The Ferruginous HawkThe Ferruginous Hawk
Swainson’s HawksSwainson’s Hawks
Broad-winged hawksBroad-winged hawks

Different Species of Hawks in Texas

1. The Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk

The Northern Goshawk is a raptor that lives in northern Canada. The Northern Goshawk is a predator of housing neighborhoods and back gardens that is larger, fiercer, and wilder than the Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s Hawks. 

It has relatively short, wide wings and a large rudder-like tail, making it extremely nimble in the air as an accipiter. It’s an enthralling bird. These shy birds have conspicuous white “eyebrow” threads across the tops of their bright orange or red eyes

A young northern goshawk’s color differs dramatically from that of an adult. Their backs, wings, and heads are brown, and their bottoms are white with brown streaks down the middle. 

The Northern Goshawk, which may be found on all five continents, is the most widely distributed Accipiter. These hawks may be found in the mountainous regions and woods of North America and Eurasia, but not in the south-eastern United States. 

Northern Goshawks inhabit boreal woods, northern hardwood forests, and pine estates as their major habitat. Although the population in the United States and Canada appears to be steady, Goshawks are vulnerable to habitat deterioration in their native region owing to deforestation and isolation.

These hawks hunt for birds and animals in wooded environments, swooping down softly or leaping feet first through the underbrush to seize prey with cripplingly powerful talons. Fish, amphibians, and insects will also be targeted.

2. Gray Hawks

Gray Hawks

In the United States, Gray Hawks have a limited range. When Gray Hawks are present, they are difficult to spot since they wait patiently in trees for prey.

The best approach to finding them is to listen in on their phone calls. 

Males use a three-note whistle called a “Kah-lee-oh” to find partners and mark territory. While the Gray Hawks’ genders appear to be comparable, the female is substantially bigger. The breasts are heavily speckled, and the face is all white with prominent eye lines.

Adult Gray Hawks have a brown back, wings, and tail, but juvenile Gray Hawks have a brown back, wings, and a banded tail.

The location of this hawk determines its travel habits. Birds in northern Mexico and the southwest United States are known for migrating.

The nest is constructed of twigs and may contain some foliage, and it is created by both sexes. Breaking living, leafy branches from trees creates the green leaves that border the cup. While only the females are in charge of hatching, the males are in charge of feeding the females.

3. Harris’s Hawks

Harris’s Hawks

Harris’ hawks may be found in a variety of habitats, such as scant forest, semi-desert, savannah, shrub land, and even marshes. The sexes have essentially similar coloring. 

The rich brown plumage of this bird is completed with chestnut-colored wings and thighs, as well as a white tail tip. It also has a yellow cere on its head and lengthy yellow legs. Males are smaller than females in terms of bodily size.

There is a hierarchy of authority among Harris’ hawks: the mature female is in charge, followed by the adult male, and last the young from previous years. 

A group of birds normally consists of two to seven birds, and they cooperate in a variety of ways, including hunting and nesting. Cacti, trees, shrubs, and man-made structures are used to build nests. Female Harris’ hawks return to the same nest year after year.

Females may lay a second or even third clutch if there is enough food in the area. The best times to watch these hawks are early in the morning and late in the evening. 

They fly low and quickly through the undergrowth when on the prowl, avoiding cactus and thorns along the route. Individual Harris’s hawks catch small prey such as mice, birds, and reptiles.

When hunting bigger animals such as jackrabbits or turkeys, two or more hunters will team up to bring down their target. They’ll alternate pursuing until the victim is too exhausted to continue.

4. Zone-tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk
Credits – Wikipedia

These medium-sized hawks are sometimes mistaken for Turkey Vultures due to their similar plumage and flying qualities. Both birds fly with their wings slightly lifted and regularly sway back and forth.

Zone-tailed Hawks’ finely banded flight feathers have a two-toned look, akin to vulture wings.

The Zone-tailed Hawk has a blackish coloration. The cere and legs are both yellow. The Common Blackhawk and the Zone-tailed Hawk have similar ranges and surroundings, making them easy to confuse.

Zone-tailed Hawks have a slimmer body, bigger wings, gray lore, grayish-white tail bands on the dorsum, and shorter legs when perched.

When flying, the Zone-tailed Hawk has a longer tail and bigger wings than the Black Hawk, making it easier to distinguish.

Despite breeding in the United States and northern Mexico, the Zone-tailed Hawk migrates south for the winter, with a few outliers in southern Texas and Arizona.

From mid-March to mid-May, Zone-tailed Hawks arrive in Texas, with the majority arriving in late March and late April. These raptors feed small vertebrates such as tiny mammals and birds.

5. The Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawks have a characteristic enormous gray head, red shoulders and legs, and shining white bottom portions, making them North America’s largest hawk. These hawks occur in two color variants, despite their ferruginous (rust) look. 

The head and breasts of the light variety are pale grays with rufous patterning. Dark morph individuals have a dark look all around. A deeper variant with a reddish-chocolate color is highly unusual. 

Because of its large beak and bright golden gape, the Ferruginous Hawk resembles an eagle more than other buteos. The large gape may aid the bird in better controlling its body temperature by panting, which is an important trait for animals that live in hot, open environments.

Ferruginous Hawks hunt throughout the plains, deserts, and mountains of the West, often from a single tree, a rock outcropping, or a great height. These birds consume prairie dogs, ground squirrels, and other small animals.

Ferruginous hawks begin reproducing at the age of two. A female will lay 3-5 eggs in a nest she constructs in a bush, tree, or hillside. Both parents incubate the eggs for 28 to 36 days until they hatch.

After 38 to 50 days, a chick can leave the nest. Female Ferruginous chicks grow to be bigger than males while taking longer to develop.

6. Swainson’s Hawks

Swainson's Hawk

Swainson’s Hawks are huge hawks with short tails and wide wings. Swainson’s Hawks are smaller than other hawk species in their family.

Swainson’s hawks are long-distance migrants who like to nest in lone trees in open grasslands. This hawk spends the winter in the South American pampas of Argentina, Uruguay, & southern Brazil. 

A tiny percentage of these birds, however, spend the winter on Florida’s south-eastern coast and along the Texas coast. They are most likely doing so because they were unable to make it along the coast surrounding the Gulf.

Each migration may take two months or more to finish.

State and federal authorities have identified Swainson’s hawk as a Species of Concern because its population has fallen owing to habitat degradation (SOC). 

As critical forage zones are changed into urban landscapes or other inappropriate ecosystems, the landscape’s capacity to sustain breeding couples decreases. The Swainson’s Hawks are also threatened by herbicide toxicity and climate change.

The descent might culminate in a spectacular ascension to a perch. Swainson’s hawks might be seen throughout much of the central and western United States, as well as Canada, prompting a number of investigations into the birds’ reproductive activities.

7. Broad-winged Hawks

Broad Winged Hawk

The broad-winged hawk is a small, compact bird with a large head and a large body. A short, thick, square tail is attached to the body. Their large wings shrink to a point as they fly.

The mature dark brown bird is about 18 inches long, with a white belly and breast barring. The juvenile hawks are distinguished by a white longitudinal stripe. The male and female falcons are about the same size.

Broad-winged hawks are available in two color variations: a black morph with a few white dots and a light morph with pale spots all over. This hawk has a population of one million birds in North America, making it one of the most common raptors.

From Texas to Minnesota, and even in the northwest of eastern and northern North America, they can be found. British Columbia has a population of only a few thousand people. Several Caribbean islands have year-round resident indigenous subspecies.

In open places, this species is scarce, and it’s quite rare across its breeding range. A capable predator, the broad-winged hawk, eats anything from frogs to reptiles to juvenile birds. During the breeding season, the major prey is fish and crabs.

Giant insects are a vital source of food for large insects on their lengthy journeys. Adults become more active hunters later in the morning. Before eating, they de-feather birds and remove the skins of frogs and snakes.

Red-tailed hawks use vocalization to mark their territory as well as communicate with their spouses and young. They have a whistle-like call or an extremely high-pitched kee-ee call. When they detect danger, they produce an alarm sound consisting of stuttering and shrieking whistles.


Hawks are predatory birds that belong to the Accipitridae family, which also includes eagles and kites.

They hunt small animals and birds for a living and are frequently spotted circling high in the sky or perched on a high post, searching the ground for their prey.

We looked at hawks in Texas that are regularly seen patrolling the sky in the lone star state in this post.


Is it lawful for me to shoot a hawk if it attacks humans or animals in Texas?

Harming, seizing, or killing any raptor, including hawks, is prohibited under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. If you are found shooting a hawk for whatever reason, you might face severe penalties or perhaps prison time.

How Frequently Do You See Hawks in Texas Neighborhoods?

Hawks may be seen all year in Texas since they make their homes in various parts of the state. Cooper’s and Harris’s Hawks establish their homes in or near communities so that they may easily catch food such as pigeons.

To discover more about Texas hawk migration and appearances, go to the Hawk Migration Association of North America’s website.

What Food Do Texas Hawks Consume?

Hawks in Texas consume a wide range of prey. Tiny rodents, rabbits, bugs, bats, snakes, lizards, frogs, little poultry, squirrel, and other smaller birds are the most typical meal of hawks.

By searching for the hawk you wish to learn more about on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website, you may receive a full analysis of each hawk species’ prey.

In Texas, how many distinct kinds of hawks can you find?

The state of Texas is the most populated in the United States. Because of its proximity to Mexico, it is directly on the migratory path of various bird species, including hawks. Texas is well-positioned to host a varied range of hawk species, with 14 species of hawks.

What does it signify when you see a hawk?

A hawk is a wonderful symbol of freedom and flight. Seeing a hawk is significant because it depicts a creative creature. A hawk is a sign that you must let your artistic juices flow when you see one. It might be via music, poetry, or other artistic endeavors.

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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