Hawks In Illinois with Pictures

Hawks are majestic and powerful birds that soar gracefully through the sky. In Illinois, these magnificent creatures can be found in a variety of different habitats – from wooded areas to open fields. But what makes hawks so unique? And why are they important to the ecosystem of Illinois? This article takes an in-depth look into the lives of hawks living in this state, exploring their behaviors, habitats, and benefits for humans.

Hawks have long been admired by many people around the world for their beauty and skillful hunting abilities. With curved talons and sharp eyesight, these raptors make quick work out of any prey unlucky enough to cross their path. There are several species that call Illinois home too; red-tailed hawks, Cooper’s hawks, rough-legged hawks, northern harriers and more! Every type has its own unique characteristics that help it thrive within particular regions of the state.

In addition to providing us with breathtaking views while flying overhead or perched atop trees, hawks also serve as valuable predators in the environment. Through their diets of small mammals such as mice and voles, they help keep rodent populations under control which is beneficial for both farmers and homeowners alike. Furthermore, they may even play a role in controlling some insect populations since insects sometimes form part of their diet too! All in all, understanding how these amazing creatures live and interact with their surroundings can provide insight into our own relationship with nature – something we could all benefit from learning more about!

Overview Of Hawks In Illinois

Illinois is home to a variety of hawks, ranging from the broad-winged hawk to the red-tailed hawk and red-shouldered hawk. These birds are most commonly found in woodlands and along rivers throughout the state. The broad winged hawk can be identified by its short wingspan and distinctive dark brown eyes. They typically nest on trees close to bodies of water like lakes or streams. Red tailed hawks have reddish feathers, long tails, and yellow legs which make them easily identifiable even at a distance. They prefer open areas with plenty of grassy space for hunting small mammals and insects. Red shouldered hawks are also quite common in Illinois and they can be identified by their black caps, white stripes across their breasts, and rust colored shoulders. These raptors usually hunt during late afternoon hours when there is good light for spotting prey. Their diet consists mostly of smaller animals including lizards, frogs, snakes, small rodents, fish, and invertebrates. With such a wide range of habitat preferences among these species of hawks in Illinois, it’s easy to find one wherever you go! Moving onto another species that is native to the region: sharp shinned hawks…

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk
Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Thrilling to watch, the sharp-shinned hawk is one of Illinois’ most common hawks. These daring raptors have a unique hunting style, allowing them to dart between trees in search of small mammals for their next meal. They can be identified by their slender body and short tail with broad wings held at an angle during flight.

Sharp-shinned hawks are found throughout forested areas of Illinois and nest in stands of coniferous or mixed deciduous forests. From May through August these birds migrate south from northern breeding grounds along the Great Lakes or Canada to winter territories as far away as South America. Interestingly, they often travel alone rather than migrating in flocks like other species of hawk.

Sharp-shinned Hawk range map

In order to thrive, sharp-shinned hawks require adequate habitat ranging from dense woods to open fields and access to prey such as mice and voles that make up much of their diet. It’s no wonder why this majestic bird has become so popular among backyard birders! With its stunning plumage, it’s easy to spot against the landscape while looking for prey—transitioning us into our discussion on red-tailed hawk populations across Illinois.

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk

The Red-Tailed Hawk is a common sight in Illinois. These birds are easily identifiable due to their distinctive red tails and yellow legs. They can be found throughout the state, including woodlands, grasslands, farmlands, and urban areas. Red-Tailed Hawks typically hunt for prey from high perches or midair dives.

Red-tailed hawks have a scientific name of Buteo jamaicensis. The bird has a wide range across North America with many subspecies inhabiting different regions. Their diet consists mainly of small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates like crickets and beetles. In addition to that they also feed on carrion as well as garbage left out by humans in some cases.

Red-tailed Hawk range map

In comparison, the Red Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) is similar yet distinct in appearance. It’s smaller than its relative and has barred wings instead of solid coloration along with more slender body proportions. Its favored habitats are deciduous forests near streams where they tend to nest among dense foliage and hunt through the trees using powerful talons to capture prey on the ground or even in midair.

Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk

One of the most common hawks in Illinois is the Cooper’s Hawk. They are a small-to-medium sized hawk that can be seen throughout the state, and they have become quite accustomed to living near humans. These birds were once on the brink of extinction but now thrive in suburban areas as well as forests.

Cooper’s Hawks typically prey upon other birds such as doves, grouse, pheasants, quail and roughlegged hawks. This makes them an important part of the ecosystem by keeping populations in check. The diet of these hawks also includes rodents and squirrels which helps keep their numbers down so farmers won’t suffer crop damage or loss due to overpopulation.

Cooper's Hawk range map

The appearance of a Cooper’s Hawk is mostly dark brown with a light underbelly and white bands across its tail feathers. They are fast fliers and can reach speeds up to sixty miles per hour while hunting for prey. Red-shouldered Hawks share similar habitats and characteristics but differ slightly in size and coloration making them easier to distinguish from one another when out birding.

Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-Shouldered Hawk1
Red-Shouldered Hawk

Moving on from Cooper’s Hawk, another type of hawk commonly found in Illinois is the Red-Shouldered Hawk. These hawks are typically between 15 and 20 inches long and have a wingspan of up to three feet – larger than Cooper’s Hawks. They have reddish or brown shoulders, with white and black barring across their bodies. These birds consume small mammals such as mice or voles, but they will also feed on other birds or even frogs.

Red-shouldered Hawk range map

Red-shouldered Hawks can be found throughout the state of Illinois; however, they prefer forests near water sources like rivers or streams where there are plenty of trees for them to nest in. Although these hawks might not be seen quite as often as some other species due to their habitat preferences, when spotted it is usually during migration periods since they migrate south every winter. From here we turn our attention to broad-winged hawks which share many characteristics with red-shouldered hawks yet still differ significantly in size and coloration.

Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk
Broad-Winged Hawk

Have you ever seen a Broad-Winged Hawk? These birds are an impressive sight to behold, with wingspans averaging between 30 and 40 inches in length. The scientific name for a broad-winged hawk is Buteo platypterus, and they belong to the family Accipitridae which includes other hawks such as female sharp shinned hawks.

Broad-winged Hawks can be found throughout Illinois during migration season from April until October when they migrate southwards towards Central America. Their habitats include forests, woodlands, marshes, and agricultural land where prey like small mammals, lizards, snakes, frogs, fish and insects can be found. They hunt using their keen vision while soaring high above the trees or perched on a branch waiting for their next meal.

Broad-winged Hawk range map

These majestic creatures play an important role in our environment by controlling rodent populations that could otherwise cause severe damage to crops or spread disease. Therefore it’s essential that we protect these birds of prey so that future generations may enjoy them in all their beauty!

Northern Harrier Hawk

Northern Harrier
Northern Harrier Hawk

Moving on from the Broad-Winged Hawk, we come to the Northern Harrier Hawk. This raptor is a medium-sized hawk with long wings and a short tail which it uses for maneuvering in pursuit of its prey. It has distinctive facial disc feathers that are white underneath and gray above, making it easy to spot amongst other hawks.

The scientific name for this species is Circus hudsonius and they can be found throughout North America as well as parts of Europe and Asia. They prefer open fields and wetlands where there is plenty of room to hunt small mammals like voles, mice, rabbits and birds. Here’s what you should know about these majestic hunters:

  • Their slender bodies enable them to fly low over grassy areas while hunting.
  • Northern harriers have excellent vision and hearing that helps them track down their prey even at night.
  • They sometimes engage in courtship dives or rollercoaster flights while competing for mates during breeding season.
  • These hawks usually nest in marshes but will also inhabit agricultural areas if available food sources are plentiful enough.
Northern Harrier range map

Northern harriers have been studied extensively by scientists due to their unique behavior and mating rituals; however, their population appears to be declining due to habitat destruction and pollution. Conservation efforts must continue in order for these birds to survive into the future. With this knowledge in mind, let us now turn our attention to Swainson’s hawk, another species native to Illinois..

Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson's Hawk
Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson’s Hawks are found in Illinois during the summer months. These hawks have a wingspan of four to five feet and typically weigh between one and two pounds. They feed on small mammals, reptiles, insects, and other birds. Swainson’s Hawk is distinguishable from the Northern Goshawk by its lack of barring or streaks on its tail feathers; The Northern Goshawks have barred tails instead.

Swainson's Hawk range map

In addition, Swainson’s Hawk has broad white bands across its upper wing surface while the Northern Goshawk does not. Furthermore, unlike the Northern Goshawk which is classified as Accipiter gentilis (Northern Goshawk Scientific), Swainson’s Hawk belongs to Buteo swainsoni species. To conclude this section, it can be said that Swainson’s Hawks are easily distinguished from the more common Northren Goshawks commonly found in Illinois due to their distinct physical characteristics.

Transcending into the subsequent section about ‘rough-legged hawk’, there exists another type of hawk with unique features that sets them apart from others in Illinois.

Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk
Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough-Legged Hawks are one of the many species of hawks found in Illinois. Their scientific name is Buteo lagopus, and they can be seen soaring through the skies during winter months. These majestic birds have long wings that span up to four feet across. Adults generally feature dark brown heads, white undersides with black streaks, and a distinctive hooked yellow bill. Juvenile Rough-Legged Hawks often have darker upperparts than adults and may lack their characteristic streaked bellies.

Rough-legged Hawk range map

In Illinois, Rough-Legged Hawks prefer open grasslands or agricultural fields for nesting and hunting habitats. They feed on small mammals like voles, mice, rabbits and ground squirrels which they capture from the ground or snatch out of midair. During migration season, these birds will congregate along wooded areas near rivers or wetlands where food is plentiful before continuing southward for the winter months. With sharp vision and great maneuverability in flight, Rough Legged Hawks make an impressive sight as they soar high above!

Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk
Northern Goshawk

Moving on from the Rough-Legged Hawk, we come to the Northern Goshawk. The scientific name for this species is Accipiter gentilis and it is native to Illinois. Within our Prairie State, they are found in wooded areas with dense canopy cover and along riparian corridors. They feed mainly on small mammals and birds but can also take reptiles and invertebrates.

Northern Goshawk range map

Northern Goshawks prefer open habitat such as prairies or meadows that provide hunting opportunities during migration. In addition, these hawks will nest in cavities of large trees which provide them with a sense of security while breeding.
The presence of Northern Goshawks within Illinois serves as an indicator for healthy ecosystems since their diet consists primarily of other animals living in the area. As such, conservation efforts should be made to help protect both their habitats and prey sources so that populations of these raptors may remain stable throughout the state. With this knowledge in mind, let’s move onto a discussion about ferruginous hawks next.

Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk

The ferruginous hawk is a large, buteo-like bird of prey that can be found in Illinois during the winter months. It has a unique, rusty coloration on its chest and back which gives it its name. This majestic creature was once commonly seen perched atop fence posts or soaring through the air hunting for small mammals like mice and voles.

HeadLight BrownDarker than body
BackRusty RedReddish-brown to rust brown
TailWhite & GrayLong with white bands
WingsDark BrownPale trailing edges
UndersideWhite Breast & Belly

To identify this magnificent species, observe its long wingspan (up to five feet) and light brown head contrasting with its reddish-brown back and tail with white bands at the tip. The underside is usually bright white with some darker mottling between the breast and belly. Its overall size also makes it stand out when compared to other birds of prey in Illinois.

Ferruginous Hawk range map

These features make it easy to spot Ferruginous Hawks across various habitats such as grasslands, deserts, wetlands, agricultural land, and riparian areas. With these identification tips in mind, one can easily recognize them among the many hawks found throughout Illinois!

Identification Tips For Hawks In Illinois

Identifying hawks in Illinois can be quite a challenge, especially if you don’t know what to look for. There are several species that inhabit the state, each with its own unique characteristics and features. Here are some tips on how to identify them:

  • Northern Goshawks have reddish-brown backs and grey heads with white streaks running down their cheeks and napes. They also have bright yellow eyes and long feathers at the end of their tails.
  • Sharp Shinned Hawks tend to be smaller than other hawk species, but they still share similar traits including streaked breasts and barred bellies. The tail is short and square, while wings are tapered towards the tip.
  • Ferruginous Hawks possess large bodies, broad wingspans, red-orange underparts, and light brown upper parts. Their chests usually feature distinct dark spots or stripes along with pale edges around the outer wingtips.

By taking note of these physical attributes as well as coloration patterns, size comparison against other birds in flight, and behavior habits such as soaring circles or swooping dives it becomes easier to distinguish one type from another when out birdwatching in Illinois. With practice anyone should be able to quickly recognize different types of hawks simply by sight alone. Knowing this information can help us better understand these majestic creatures’ habits and diet within our state’s borders.

Habits And Diet Of Hawks In Illinois

Hawks in Illinois have a variety of habits and diets depending on the species. Northern Harriers are common throughout the state, and they typically prefer open grasslands and shallow marshes where they can hunt small birds. They also eat small mammals such as mice, voles, frogs, and insects.

Red-TailedRabbits, rodents & reptilesOpen woodlands
Cooper’sSmall birds & mammalsOpen fields near trees
Sharp-ShinnedSmall birdsDense forests or thickets
Bald EagleFish & waterfowlNear large bodies of water

These hawks generally inhabit different habitats based upon their diet. For instance, red-tailed hawks usually live in open woodlands, while cooper’s hawks tend to reside in more open areas with scattered trees nearby. Sharp-shinned hawks have adapted to living in dense forests or thickets since small birds form the bulk of their diet. The bald eagle is unique among these other hawk species because it prefers to stay close to larger bodies of water where its food source—fish and waterfowl—can be found easily.

Knowing the dietary needs of each type of hawk helps us better understand how we should protect them from environmental hazards like habitat loss. Conservation efforts for hawks in Illinois include preserving existing natural spaces for breeding purposes as well as providing additional resources for hunting prey items when needed.

Conservation Efforts For Hawks In Illinois

Illinois is home to a variety of hawks, including bald eagles and red tails. Conservation efforts for these birds have been ongoing for decades in the state.

The main goal of conservation is to protect the population size so that it remains healthy. This is done through various programs such as habitat protection, nest monitoring, and public education initiatives.

  • Habitat Protection: The Illinois Department of Natural Resources works with private landowners to create wildlife corridors and secure areas where hawks can thrive without human interference or destruction of their natural habitats.
  • Nest Monitoring: Wildlife biologists conduct surveys during the mating season to track hawk populations and monitor breeding success rates. They also use banding methods to identify individual birds and study migration patterns over time.
  • Public Education Initiatives: The IDNR produces educational materials about hawks and how people can help conserve them by not disturbing nests or harassing birds when they are nesting or feeding young. These resources often include tips on spotting signs of distress in hawks so that individuals can report any issues quickly and efficiently.

These conservation efforts have helped ensure that hawks remain an integral part of our ecosystem in Illinois despite urban sprawl and other threats from humans. Knowing how to recognize a hawk sighting and correctly report it will further support these efforts towards preserving our avian friends in the state.

How To Report A Sighting Of A Hawk In Illinois

A picture is worth a thousand words, and reporting a hawk sighting in Illinois is no exception. Reporting these majestic birds of prey not only allows you to share your experience with others but also helps conservationists track population numbers for the species. Knowing how to identify hawks in Illinois can help when it comes time to report a sighting.

The Buteo lineatus, commonly known as the red-tailed hawk, is the most commonly seen hawk in Illinois. These large raptors have wingspans that range from 43-52 inches long and they are easily identified by their reddish tails. The Buteo jamaicensis or “red shoulder” hawk is another common species found throughout the state that has distinctive bright chestnut coloration on its shoulders and upper wing coverts which gives them their name. They tend to be slightly smaller than red-tails with an average wingspan length between 37-43 inches.

When it comes time to report a sighting there are several options available depending on where you find yourself in the state. For those living near Chicago sites like eBird provide people with an opportunity to submit sightings online while other areas may require more traditional methods such as calling local wildlife rehabilitators or bird sanctuaries who can then keep records of any sightings reported to them. Wherever you live, having accurate data about where different birds spend their days will give conservationists invaluable information about their populations and their behaviors within our state boundaries.

By taking part in this citizen scientist effort we can all do our part in ensuring healthy habitats for future generations of hawks across Illinois!

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Attract Hawks To My Backyard?

Attracting hawks to your backyard can be a great way to observe these incredible birds up close. Depending on the species and what part of Illinois you live in, there are various ways you can attract hawks to your yard. To start with, it’s important to understand why certain species might visit.

Hawks have specific habitat needs that may determine their presence or lack thereof in any given area. If you want to draw them into your backyard, it helps to create an environment that meets those requirements. This could include providing food sources such as rodents and other small prey animals, setting up birdhouses or nesting boxes, offering roosting spots like tall trees or poles, and ensuring there is plenty of open space for hunting. Additionally, minimizing human disturbance around areas where hawks are likely to occur is helpful in encouraging them to stay in one place for longer periods of time.

Making sure all these elements are present will go a long way towards making your backyard attractive to hawk species commonly found throughout Illinois. While it may take some effort and planning on your end, having the opportunity to witness these majestic creatures in person makes it well worth the investment!

What Are The Differences Between Juvenile And Adult Hawks?

Hawks are a diverse group of birds and they come in many shapes and sizes. One way to differentiate between the different types is by looking at juvenile versus adult hawks. To understand what sets these two categories apart, it’s important to note some key differences between them.

First, when comparing juveniles and adults, it’s essential to take into consideration their physical features. Adult hawks tend to be larger than young ones, with more prominent colors as well as longer tail feathers. Additionally, an adult hawk will have sharper talons for hunting and more powerful wings that allow them to travel great distances with ease. Juveniles may also have similar characteristics but on a smaller scale and less defined form.

Another area where there is variation between the two stages of life is behaviorally. Both juveniles and adults share the same level of intelligence; however, young hawks are still learning how to hunt effectively while adult hawks utilize skills developed over time. Juvenile hawks rely on instinct rather than experience but eventually develop more complex strategies as they age. Furthermore, adult hawks typically migrate during certain times of year whereas younger individuals often remain stationary until reaching maturity.

In short, juvenile and adult hawks differ mainly in terms of size, coloration, strength, development stage and migratory patterns – all traits which can be observed when taking a closer look at each bird species individually. As such, understanding the nuances between juveniles and adults allows us to appreciate the complexities within this amazing family of birds even further!

Are There Any Endangered Species Of Hawks In Illinois?

When it comes to birds of prey, hawks are some of the most recognizable. These raptors have long been part of our culture, and with good reason – they’re amazing creatures! But when we ask whether there are any endangered species of hawks in Illinois, we must keep this context in mind.

To answer that question, let’s look at the different types of hawks found in the state:

  • Red-tailed Hawks
  • Cooper’s Hawks
  • Northern Harriers

The status of these three species varies greatly across the country. While Cooper’s Hawks can be considered Least Concern by The IUCN Red List due to their large population size, Red-tailed and Northern Harrier populations have decreased significantly over time. As a result, both species are now listed as Endangered or Threatened under the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) regulations for many states including Illinois. This means that their populations should be carefully monitored so that appropriate measures can be taken to protect them from further decline.

Ultimately, while not all hawks face an imminent threat of extinction like those mentioned above do, it is important to understand that conservation efforts must still be made to ensure their health and survival for future generations. It’s up to us to take action if we want these majestic creatures to remain part of our world for years to come.

Is It Legal To Own A Hawk As A Pet In Illinois?

Have you ever seen a hawk soaring in the sky and wondered what it would be like to own one as a pet? Owning birds of prey, or raptors, such as hawks is something that many people are interested in, but may not know if it is legal to do so. When discussing owning a hawk as a pet in Illinois specifically, there are several factors that need to be taken into consideration.

The state of Illinois has specific laws regarding keeping wild animals as pets. While some species can be kept legally with permits from the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division, other species cannot be owned at all due to their endangered status. Hawks typically fall under this category because they are protected by both federal and state laws. It’s important to remember that even though certain types of hawks may not necessarily be illegal to possess without a permit within the state, it still might require additional paperwork before someone can become an official owner.

When considering taking on any type of bird ownership responsibility, education should always come first. Knowing exactly how much space and care these beautiful creatures need can help keep them safe and healthy while living in captivity. Additionally, learning about proper feeding techniques will ensure the healthiest diet for your pet and provide insight into potential behavior issues down the road. Keeping informed through research and speaking with experts beforehand will give individuals more confidence when deciding whether owning a hawk is right for them or not.

What Other Types Of Wildlife Can I Expect To See Alongside Hawks In Illinois?

When considering the types of wildlife that exist in a certain area, it’s important to consider not just birds, but also other animals. Hawks are among these birds and can be found throughout Illinois. But what other kinds of creatures may one expect to encounter alongside hawks?

In addition to hawks, there are many mammals that call Illinois home, including white-tailed deer, coyotes, badgers, raccoons, skunks, opossums and foxes. There is an array of amphibians such as frogs and salamanders living in the wetlands across the state. Reptiles like turtles and snakes can be seen basking on rocks or slithering through tall grasses. Various species of bats inhabit wooded areas at night while songbirds flit from tree to tree during the day. It should come as no surprise that wild turkeys have become increasingly common over recent years due to successful restoration efforts.

Overall, Illinois provides plenty of opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts looking for a chance to observe some amazing creatures up close or even photograph them! With so much diversity in its animal populations, this Midwestern state offers something for everyone who loves nature and wants to explore it further.


Overall, hawks are an incredible species to observe in the wild and they can be a great addition to any backyard. It’s important to remember that while it may seem like a good idea to try and attract them with bird feeders or other methods, they’re still wild animals and should be respected as such.

In Illinois, there are over 20 different species of hawks including several endangered varieties. While owning one as a pet is not legally allowed, observing them in their natural habitat is a wonderful experience for anyone who has the chance. Additionally, many other creatures call this state home making for even more wildlife sightings if you know where to look!

One interesting statistic worth noting is that according to the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, the population of Red-tailed Hawks alone soared from just under 500 pairs in 1970 up to nearly 5500 pairs by 2017 in Illinois – demonstrating quite a remarkable recovery rate! This goes to show how much care and attention these birds need in order to thrive which makes protecting their habitats all the more vital.
I hope this article provided some insight into these beautiful birds and inspired people everywhere to take action when it comes conservation efforts!