Hawks In Pennsylvania with Pictures

Have you ever looked up at the sky and spotted a hawk soaring overhead? If you’re living in Pennsylvania, then there’s a good chance that this was no coincidence. Hawks are quite common throughout PA, with some species even making their home here year-round. In this article, we’ll explore why hawks have made such an impression on Pennsylvanians, looking into what makes them so special and how they continue to thrive despite all odds. So if you’ve ever wondered about these majestic birds of prey, read on for more!

Overview Of Pennsylvania’S Hawks

Pennsylvania is home to a number of magnificent hawks. These soaring birds are awe-inspiring, their wingspan and powerful talons creating an image of strength and grace. Three species in particular stand out: the red-tailed hawk, sharp-shinned hawk and broad-winged hawk. Each one has its own unique characteristics that make it both fascinating and beautiful. From the impressive size of the red tailed hawk to the sleek design of the sharp shinned hawk, these raptors have much to offer. The broad-winged hawk with its distinctive two toned coloring adds another layer of color and texture to Pennsylvania’s skies. All three together provide an incredible show for onlookers lucky enough to witness them in flight. To further explore each species we will now dive into a closer look at the majestic red-tailed hawk.

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk

The red-tailed hawk is one of the most common hawks found in Pennsylvania. It’s scientific name is Buteo jamaicensis and it can be recognized by its brick-red tail feathers. The female red tailed hawk is larger than the male, with a wingspan of up to four feet wide. They are known for their characteristic whistle call, which they use to signal territory ownership or attract mates.

Red-tailed Hawk range map

These birds typically nest on top of trees but also take advantage of manmade structures such as telephone poles and transmission towers when available. Their diet consists mainly of small rodents but they will also feed on insects and other birds if necessitated by food scarcity or availability. Red-tailed hawks are monogamous and will mate for life given a suitable habitat and prey sources that sustain them throughout the year. With this in mind, conservation efforts aimed at preserving their natural habitats should continue so they may thrive in Pennsylvania’s ecosystems without interruption. This leads us into our next section about sharp-shinned hawks, another type of raptor commonly seen in Pennsylvania forests.

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk
Sharp-Shinned Hawk

One of the most common raptors in Pennsylvania is the sharp-shinned hawk. These birds are small but powerful and have a wingspan of up to 20 inches. According to the scientific name for this species, Accipiter striatus, they inhabit all regions of PA. Adult sharp-shinned hawks can be found hunting during daylight hours as well as at dusk and dawn throughout spring, summer, and fall months.

These birds feed on small animals such as rodents, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and even other smaller birds. They tend to nest in coniferous forests close to open areas near water sources or roadsides which makes it easier for them to find food quickly. Furthermore, they often build their nests high up in trees so that they are able to keep an eye out for predators while also having access to plentiful prey items below them.

Sharp-shinned Hawk range map

Sharp-shinned hawks have adapted well in Pennsylvania due largely in part to its diverse habitat types and abundance of resources available for these predatory birds. In addition, with proper conservation efforts being put into place by local wildlife organizations these populations should remain stable overall allowing us to continue observing these remarkable creatures year after year. Transitioning now into our discussion about northern goshawk…

Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk
Northern Goshawk

Moving on from the sharp-shinned hawk, one of Pennsylvania’s resident hawks is the Northern Goshawk. This large and powerful species has a scientific name of Accipiter gentilis that translates to “noble bird of prey” in Latin, indicating its strength and ferocity as an apex predator. The northern goshawk has brown upperparts with light stripes across their body, white underparts with barring, yellow legs and feet, and a barred tail which it uses for maneuverability.

Northern Goshawk range map

The diet of this raptor consists mainly of medium-sized birds such as grouse or small mammals like ground squirrels. It hunts by soaring over forests until it spots its target before quickly diving down to capture them. To find food sources, they often take advantage of open areas near rivers where there are plenty of opportunities to hunt unsuspecting victims. They also nest in dense forested regions because they provide shelter from predators while giving access to hunting grounds nearby.

The Northern Goshawk boasts an impressive wingspan range between 32-42 inches long (81–107 cm) depending on sex, making these robust birds truly majestic when seen flying overhead through the skies above Pennsylvania’s forests.

Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk
Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawks are one of the most common hawks found in Pennsylvania. These birds have broad wings and a wide tail that narrows towards the tip. The adult Broad-winged Hawk has distinctive rusty red coloring on its upper body, with dark brown coloration on its underside. Its call is described by some as sounding like a high pitched whistle or squeak.

Broad-winged Hawk range map

The scientific name for this species is Buteo platypterus which translates to “flat wing” in Latin due to their broad wingspan used during long migrations southward each winter. They typically hunt small mammals such as mice, voles, and gophers along unimproved fields or clearings making them an important part of our ecosystem. With that said, it’s time to transition into the next section about Cooper’s Hawk…

Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk

The Cooper’s Hawk is the next bird that we will explore, a powerful predator soaring through the skies of Pennsylvania. Symbolically similar to an eagle, it stands for strength and determination in its pursuit of small birds – even when faced with overwhelming odds.

Here are three facts about this majestic raptor:

  • The scientific name for the Cooper’s Hawk is Accipiter cooperii.
  • It usually hunts from perches or while flying quickly between trees, using its sharp talons to capture prey.
  • This hawk has adapted well to living in different habitats, including urban and suburban areas throughout America.
Cooper's Hawk range map

Because of these adaptations, this species can be found throughout much of Pennsylvania and other parts of North America. In some places it will nest close to people’s homes as long as there are enough food sources nearby. As they continue their journey across PA skies, they bring us closer to understanding their fascinating lives on Earth. With visions of grace and power, we now turn our attention to another breathtaking hawk – the Red-shouldered Hawk.

Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-Shouldered Hawk
Red-Shouldered Hawk

The Red-Shouldered Hawk, or Buteo lineatus, is a common sight in Pennsylvania. It is one of the most easily recognizable hawks due to its uniquely red and brown plumage. This species belongs to the genus Buteo, which includes other buteo hawks such as the Broad-Winged Hawk and Red-Tailed Hawk. The scientific name for this species reflects its distinctive coloration; ‘lineatus’, meaning striped, refers to the bold stripes on its chest.

Red-shouldered Hawk range map

Red-shouldered Hawks are often seen perched high up on trees near streams or open fields, where they can search for small mammals like mice, voles and shrews to feed upon. Other prey items include amphibians, reptiles, insects and even some birds. They prefer dense forests with an abundance of these animals nearby. Their diet also consists of carrion when available during winter months.

Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk
Rough-Legged Hawk

Pennsylvania is home to several hawks, including the Rough-Legged Hawk. Aptly named because of their feathered legs and feet, these majestic birds are a spectacle to behold! With its long tail, dark brown body and broad wingspan, it’s easy to spot this species in flight as they soar through the sky.

Rough-legged Hawk range map

Scientifically known as Buteo lagopus, the Rough-Legged Hawk inhabits northern regions during winter months before migrating southward when temperatures drop. This hawk feeds primarily on small mammals such as voles and mice but will also hunt for insects or scavenge carrion if needed. As one of Pennsylvania’s top avian predators, Rough-Legged Hawks play an important role in controlling local rodent populations.

The state provides numerous habitats for Rough-Legged Hawks throughout year; from grasslands to wetlands and even open fields, these birds can be seen hunting prey or soaring across the skies each season.

Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson's Hawk
Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk is a species of hawk that can be found in Pennsylvania. It has an impressive wingspan of up to four and a half feet, and its body can range from thirty-five to fifty inches long.

Scientific NameButeo swainsoni
MigrationCentral America
DietSmall mammals
ColorBrown & White

The Swainson’s Hawk enjoys eating small mammals like mice, voles, and ground squirrels. Its diet also includes amphibians, fish, insects, reptiles, other birds, and eggs. The bird is brownish-gray on top with white feathers underneath and a dark head. In flight it appears as if only one wing is visible due to its overlapping coloration pattern.

Swainson's Hawk range map

During springtime they migrate south through the central United States into Mexico and parts of Central America where they breed during winter months before returning home for the summer months back in Pennsylvania. They prefer open habitats such as grassland or prairies but have been known to inhabit agricultural fields too when available food sources are plentiful enough for them to survive on.

These hawks are diurnal hunters meaning their activity starts at daybreak until dusk when they return to roosting sites located higher off the ground than most raptors do. With their unique coloring patterns and hunting skills these amazing creatures help keep balance in local ecosystems while providing us with beautiful sights throughout our state parks here in PA. Transitioning easily into the next section about Northern Harrier…

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier
Northern Harrier

The Northern Harrier is a type of hawk that can be found in Pennsylvania. It belongs to the scientific family Accipitridae and has an unmistakable white rump patch, which helps make it identifiable from other hawks in the area. Females are larger than males and have a distinctively darker plumage with brown barred wings and tail. These birds use their long tails for maneuverability when flying, as well as for stabilizing its flight during hunting dives.

Northern Harriers often hunt by hovering above open fields or marshes before diving down to grab small mammals like rodents and rabbits. They also eat snakes, frogs, lizards, insects, fish, and sometimes even smaller birds. Female Red-tailed Hawks may also be mistaken for Northern Harriers due to their similar coloring but they differ significantly in size; red tailed hawks being much bigger than northern harriers.

Northern Harrier range map

In addition to being observed across Pennsylvania’s diverse habitats—including meadows, wetlands, agricultural lands, forests—Northern Harriers migrate south every winter to warmer climates where food sources remain plentiful throughout the year. Transitioning into the subsequent section about ‘buteo hawks’, these species usually inhabit wooded areas where they can easily find prey such as voles and mice.

Buteo Hawks

The Buteo Hawks are a group of hawks that includes species such as Red-tailed Hawks and Cooper’s Hawks.

Red-tailed Hawk1
Red-tailed Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk

These birds tend to have broad wings, short tails, and strong feet with sharp talons. This is why they are good for hunting small prey from the air or on the ground. In Pennsylvania there are two very common buteos which include the Red-tailed Hawk and the Cooper’s Hawk.

The Red-tailed hawk can be found in open fields and woodlands across most of the state while the smaller Cooper’s hawk tends to live in more heavily wooded areas like forests. Both species hunt other animals including rodents, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and even other Northern Harriers!

Both types of Buteo Hawks play an important role in their habitat by controlling populations of certain animals so nature remains balanced. They also bring great beauty to our skies when they soar overhead or perch atop trees looking out for food below them. As one looks up at a soaring red tail hawk or cooper’s hawk it may remind us all to take time to appreciate these magnificent creatures in our natural world. With this appreciation comes understanding and respect for wildlife that helps us protect endangered species moving forward into future generations. Osprey are another type of raptor found throughout Pennsylvania that can help inspire awareness and stewardship among people who see them fly through the sky.



Osprey, often referred to as ‘fish hawks’ or ‘river hawks’, are one of the most fascinating birds found in Pennsylvania. With a wingspan of up to six feet and a length of two feet, they make an impressive sight when soaring over waterways and wetlands hunting for fish. Ospreys have unique adaptations that help them hunt such as their reversible outer toe so they can better grip slippery prey and sharp talons straight out of their feet which allow them to easily catch their meal while hovering above water.

Osprey range map

Their diet consists almost exclusively of live fish, although occasionally they will also take advantage of other sources like frogs and small rodents. They build nests near open bodies of water where food is abundant; these nests are large platforms made from sticks and lined with green vegetation. After mating season has ended, ospreys migrate south for winter but return by springtime each year.

With this overview complete, it’s time to explore migration patterns and habitat preferences in Pennsylvania for the osprey population.

Migration And Habitat Preferences In Pa

Hawks soar through Pennsylvania skies, with their sharp eyes scanning the land for prey. From Northern Goshawks to Broad-winged Hawks, these majestic birds are a common sight in PA’s woodlands and grasslands. Still, where do they migrate from and what habitats do they prefer?

The majority of hawks that visit Pennsylvania each year have migrated here from points south and farther north – some even from as far away as the Arctic Tundra! During autumn migration season, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary near Kempton is a popular spot for raptors heading southward. This area provides an ideal perch for them to rest before continuing on towards warmer climates. Conversely during springtime, many species fly up from Central America and Mexico back into Pennsylvania’s forests and fields.

In terms of habitat preferences, most hawk species stay within familiar territories such as open countrysides or coniferous or deciduous woods. Some may also be found hunting over wetlands or along rivers and streams; however, urban landscapes tend to hold less attraction since food resources can be scarce there. As we move forward in this article, let’s look at the nesting and breeding habits of PA’s hawks.

Nesting And Breeding Habits Of Pa’S Hawks

Hawks in Pennsylvania typically begin their nesting and breeding habits during the early spring, when temperatures start to rise. Breeding season for hawks usually begins around mid-March and ends by late June or July. During this time, several hawk species can be spotted throughout the state’s various habitats including Red-tailed Hawks, Rough-legged Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, Broad-winged Hawk, Northern Harriers and Merlins. These birds construct nests out of sticks and twigs atop trees or cliffs where they lay eggs that range in color from white to bluish tones.

In addition to these nesting sites, some species may also make use of abandoned crow’s nests or ledges on buildings while searching for a suitable place to breed. Once the female has laid her clutch of two to four eggs she will take turns with the male incubating them until hatching occurs after about 33 days. After hatching both parents switch off feeding duties until baby hawks are able to fly at seven weeks old. With this information in mind it is important to understand how human activity could potentially impact PA’s hawks as we move forward into the next section.

Impact Of Human Activity On Pa’S Hawks

Human activity has had a major impact on Pennsylvania’s hawks. The golden eagle, once an iconic species in this area, is now considered to be critically endangered due to habitat loss and other human-related activities. Peregrine falcons have suffered similar declines in population numbers as their habitats are threatened by increased urbanization. Great horned owls’ populations have also been declining steadily over the past few decades due to deforestation and hunting pressure. As a result of these losses, there have been fewer opportunities for hawks to find safe areas to roost and hunt, leading them to move away from their traditional nesting grounds or risk extinction altogether.

Fortunately, the state government has taken steps to protect these birds by introducing new regulations that limit hunting and promote sustainable forestry practices. Additionally, organizations such as Hawk Mountain Sanctuary provide important resources for research into hawk conservation efforts and offer public education programs about how people can help protect our avian friends. It is essential that we continue these initiatives if we want future generations of Pennsylvanians to enjoy seeing these majestic creatures soar through our skies.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Best Way To Attract Hawks To My Backyard?

Do you have a backyard that is perfect for hawks? Have you ever thought of the best way to attract these majestic birds to your yard? Well, if so, then this article is just what you need.

First and foremost, it is important to understand how hawks behave in their natural environment. Hawks are most likely to be seen near areas with open space such as fields or grasslands which provide them with easy access to prey like small mammals. To maximize the chances of attracting a hawk, make sure there is plenty of cover and an abundance of food sources close by. Planting trees and shrubs around your property can help create an inviting habitat for these creatures while also providing protection from predators. Additionally, leaving out some bird feeders full of seeds will draw in other kinds of avian life that could potentially catch the attention of visiting hawks.

Moreover, creating perches in strategic locations can be another great way to entice hawks into your backyard. This can be done by setting up posts or branches at least six feet off the ground where they can easily land without having to worry about being attacked by other animals. Finally, installing nest boxes on high structures or poles may also encourage nesting activity within your garden area; however, it’s important to remember not to disturb any active nests and instead let nature take its course! With a bit of effort and patience, it won’t be long before you get a glimpse of these amazing raptors soaring through the skies above your home!

What Kind Of Food Should I Provide For Hawks In My Area?

Attracting hawks to your backyard is a great way to observe and appreciate these majestic animals. One of the most important aspects of this process is providing food for them. Knowing what kind of food to offer can be tricky, as different species have their own preferences. So, what should you feed hawks in your area?

To start with, it’s essential to know which species are present in your region. This will help narrow down the types of food that can be offered. Some common foods include small mammals such as mice or voles, insects like grasshoppers, crickets and beetles, fish, reptiles like lizards or snakes, fruits and berries, and carrion (dead animals). You’ll also want to consider how much time each type of food takes to acquire – some may require more effort than others. Additionally, offering a variety of foods increases the chances that there’s something available when they come hunting.

When deciding on the most suitable food options for hawks in your area, pay attention not only to what’s readily accessible but also what might appeal most to local birds. For instance, if smaller rodents are abundant then those could become a regular item on their menu; however, if larger game birds are around then focusing on those might bring better results! Ultimately, ensuring that both quantity and quality are taken care of will ensure successful hawk visits to your backyard year round.

Are There Any Laws Or Regulations Regarding Hawks In Pennsylvania?

When it comes to wildlife, many people are unaware of the laws and regulations regarding them. Hawks in particular can be a difficult subject to navigate as they often stray into areas that may seem off-limits or dangerous. It is important to know what the rules are when it comes to hawks in your area so that you can protect both yourself and the birds.

A good example of this is a story I recently heard about a man who was out hiking in Pennsylvania with his dog. He noticed a hawk on top of a nearby tree, but didn’t think much of it until he got closer and saw several eggs nestled inside its branches. The man knew he had stumbled upon something special, so he decided to take some photos – only to find himself being investigated by game wardens for disturbing protected nests! Fortunately, the incident ended without any fines or charges after the man provided proof that he hadn’t harmed anything.

Here’s an overview of things you should consider if you’re looking at hawks in Pennsylvania:

  1. Determine which species of hawk reside in your area; different species have specific management requirements and protections.
  2. Learn where nesting sites are located and respect their boundaries; do not disturb these habitats no matter how tempting it might be!
  3. Understand hunting regulations and permit requirements before attempting to hunt hawks or other raptors within state borders.

It’s essential to educate oneself on proper management techniques when dealing with wild animals like hawks, as ignorance of the law does not excuse anyone from violating it unintentionally. In addition, all birdwatchers must remain aware that even though most activities involving wildlife require permits or licenses, there could still be unexpected repercussions for those engaging in them without authorization from local authorities. Taking proactive measures such as familiarizing yourself with safety protocols and understanding federal/state guidelines will go a long way towards ensuring everyone’s welfare – including our feathered friends’.

How Much Space Do Hawks Need To Nest In My Area?

It’s important to consider how much space hawks need in order to nest successfully. Hawks typically require ample open areas, such as farmland and grasslands, with substantial tree cover for nesting. These habitats can be found throughout Pennsylvania, so it is possible that hawks may choose your area as a suitable home.

When selecting a location for their nest, hawks look for sites offering shelter from strong winds and predators, as well as good visibility of the surrounding environment. They also need enough room to maneuver within the nest site while they search for food or care for young. Since hawks usually prefer tall trees above all else, you should consider any nearby wooded areas when assessing potential hawk nesting spots in your vicinity.

To ensure that these birds have plenty of space to build their nests without interfering with human activities, it is important to understand what kind of habitat they favor and where this type of habitat can be found around your property. Doing so will help protect both humans and wildlife by allowing them to coexist peacefully.

Are There Any Specific Hawks That Are Endangered In Pennsylvania?

There are a variety of hawks that inhabit different parts of the world, and each species faces its own unique set of challenges. In Pennsylvania, there are some endangered hawk species in particular that wildlife conservationists are keeping an eye on. It’s important to know which specific types of birds may be at risk in your area so you can help protect them.

In Pennsylvania, certain kinds of hawks have been identified as being particularly vulnerable to environmental changes or threats from human activity. The Northern Goshawk is one example; it’s listed as threatened by the state due to habitat loss and other impacts. Similarly, the Bald Eagle has seen a decrease in population size due to pesticide use and other factors affecting their food supply. These two species are just two examples of those facing difficulties in Pennsylvania – but they’re not alone. Other raptors such as Peregrine Falcons and Red-Tailed Hawks also face similar issues here.

It’s essential for concerned citizens to understand the risks that these birds face, including climate change and human activities like hunting and development projects that could potentially harm or disrupt their habitats. By educating ourselves about any local bird populations at risk we can take steps towards protecting them before it’s too late.


I’m sure that if I put the effort in, I can attract hawks to my backyard with ease. By providing a variety of food sources and plenty of space for nesting, I can make my yard an inviting environment for them. It’s important to remember though that there are laws or regulations regarding hawks in Pennsylvania that must be followed.

The most common hawk species found throughout Pennsylvania is the red-tailed hawk. These birds migrate south during winter months and return to nest in wooded areas near open fields in summertime. Interestingly, one study showed that over 75% of all red-tailed hawks surveyed were observed using urban landscapes as part of their habitat!

Though some species such as the peregrine falcon are endangered in Pennsylvania due to loss of habitats, many other types of hawks still remain prevalent throughout our state today. With just a bit of knowledge on how to provide safe and suitable environments for these majestic creatures, we have the potential to observe amazing wildlife right from our own backyards!