Types of Hawks

Published on: Feb 01 2011 by Shenron

The group of large birds in the order Falconiforme is often characterized as hawk. The family comprises of Eagles, Falcons and Hawks. These are often referred to as raptors or birds of prey along, including Owls.

Most of the birds of prey are known as indicator species for the fact that they inhabit a top spot in their ecological system. The alteration or variation in the population of birds of prey is associated with the changes in ecological system.


  • Bald Eagle Facts: The most prominent feature of the adult bald eagles is their white head and tail feathers. These regal white head and tail feathers emerge somewhere in fifth or sixth year of their lives. Young eagles are the one whose body is full with dark brown feathers.

Bald eagles mostly feed on the animals found in the nearby land. Among their diet, fish hold the top position in their diet. The average size of an adult bald eagle is about three feet, i.e. from head to tail and ten to twelve pound in weight. Their wingspread reaches up to seven feet. Female bald eagles are normally larger in size than males.

  • Cooper’s Hawk: These are normally migratory birds which usually live in forests. One can discover them in the forests of United States. These birds prefer small birds for their diet.
  • Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo Regalis): These hawks are large in size and are found in Central and Western United States. The term ferruginous here is used to describe the rusty or rufous sade of the hawk’s legs and feathers. The northern inhabitants in the winter season migrate to the southern regions.
  • Harris’s Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus): This is in fact a Neotropical which is common to the temperate Buteco species in many of its physical and behavioral attributes. These are social hunters which live in large population in the Southwest. They usually feed on small animals, mammals, birds and reptiles. One can easily distinguish them from other species by means of their rufous and brown wings, yellow bill and legs.
  • Marsh Hawk: Marsh hawks are known to fly low over the ground with a V shape of the wings. One can easily recognize them by means of a white spot on the tip of their tail feathers. Marsh hawks are basically the birds which are known to make their nests on the ground. The species which are inhabitant of northern regions migrate to southern regions in the winter conditions. The species of southern regions on the other hand stay there the entire year.

Marsh hawks usually lived on small mammals and amphibians. These hawks don’t prey the domestic livestock such as chickens etc.

  • Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus): These are commonly found in the forests of Eastern United States in a small number. These are more prominent along the western coast of California. Red shouldered hawks usually position themselves on the tall or high branches of the tree pounce on the prey such as mammals, reptiles etc found in the forest. They are recognized easily their distinctive long tail feathers. The northern inhabitants of these species migrate to Mexico in the cold climatic conditions while there are species which usually stay back in their established inhabitants the whole year.
  • Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis): These are the species which enjoy the open areas and are commonly found in the open regions in the Untied States. These are given the red-tailed hawks because they possess a red tail feathers. Hawks younger than one year don’t possess this distinct red tail.


  • Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus): It is a member of New World Vulture family which is found from Southeastern United States towards the northern United States. It is covered with large, dark black feathers, but not larger than the Turkey vulture.
  • Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura): Turkey Vulture is also a species of New World Vulture family and is reasonably large in size with red face and dark black feathers which are its distinct features.

Both these are the species of New World Vulture family and quite large in size. Their wingspread can reach up to six feet. These are commonly found in South America, Central America, Southeastern United States and Mexico. With the start of the spring season, most of the species start migrating to Southern Canada from United States.


  • American Kestrel: These are quite common in the open regions all over the United States. They usually feed on small animals and insects. Kestrels are often known for their attractive features, for instance, some of the female kestrels have blue colored feathers on the forehead with brown spotted wings. However, male kestrels have blue spotted wings same color as that of female’s forehead.

  • Crested Caracara: It belongs to the birds of prey, which feed mainly on mammals and reptiles. There are species of crested caracara which are known as scavengers which consume carrion (dead rotten flesh) like vultures.
  • Gyrfalcon: It is known as the largest falcon on the earth. These are the inhabitant of the colder regions. These are found in farther northern tier of the United States in winter. The feathers of the gyrfalcons are capable of altering their colors depending upon the environment. The inhabitants of the Arctic regions usually possess white feathers. They feed mainly on birds living in those regions.
  • Merlin (Falco columbarius): These are brownish in color with a hint of light buff lines on their top while their lower feathers look brown and streaky buff. Some species of gyrfalcon living in Central Canada and adjacent to United States usually possess light brown feathers. Merlin doesn’t have a thick falcon bill due to which it is often mistaken many other species of large birds. These are the inhabitants of boreal forests and feed on smaller birds. Merlin is often referred to as Pigeon Hawk because they are most commonly found in places where pigeons are in abundance and fell victim of these raptors.
  • Peregrine Falcon: American bald eagle and peregrine falcon are often linked with each other for the fact both the species encountered a heavy decline in population during 1960s because of the heavy employment of DDT. This falcon was declared as an endangered species of falcons in 1970. However, immediate actions were taken to preserve the species by declaring ban on the use of DDT and by captive breeding. As a result of these efforts the peregrine was excluded from list of endangered species in 1999.

Pandionidae Family

  • Osprey: These are the only species in the family Pandionidae of birds of prey. Ospreys’ sole diet includes fish. These are so physically trained that they can feed only on fish. Ospreys like many other species possess excellent eyesight and flying abilities. Their sharp talons on feet help them grab the fish while diving in the water. Their sharp eyesight helps them to spot the movement of the fish under the water surface.

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