Most Common Birds of Prey in Pennsylvania

As a seasoned bird watcher in Pennsylvania, I’ve been fortunate to witness the aerial prowess of the state’s iconic birds of prey. Through my experience, I’ve marveled at the Red-tailed Hawk’s majestic flight and the Great Horned Owl’s silent hunting skills.

I believe these predators play a crucial role in maintaining the ecological balance, showcasing nature’s intricate tapestry. Every sighting is a reminder of the delicate harmony between predator and prey in the wild.

Join me on a journey to uncover the hidden world of Pennsylvania’s most common raptors and appreciate the beauty and importance they bring to our natural landscapes.

Key Takeaways

  • Red-tailed Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, and Cooper’s Hawks are common in Pennsylvania.
  • Northern Harriers are prevalent in marshy terrains of Pennsylvania.
  • Red-shouldered Hawks are vocal raptors found near water sources in wooded areas.
  • These birds of prey exhibit unique characteristics and hunting behaviors in Pennsylvania.

Red-tailed Hawk

The Red-tailed Hawk’s distinctive red tail feathers make it easily recognizable in the skies of Pennsylvania. These large birds of prey, known scientifically as Buteo jamaicensis, are common in the Northern part of the state.

Red-tailed Hawks are skilled hunters, preying mainly on small mammals such as rodents and rabbits. Their sharp talons and keen eyesight aid in capturing their prey with precision. Often soaring at great heights, these Hawks emit high-pitched screams as part of their communication and territorial behaviors.

Their impressive wingspan and powerful flight make them a formidable presence in the skies of Pennsylvania. Keep an eye out for these majestic raptors as they soar gracefully above the treetops.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Darting swiftly through dense woodlands, the Sharp-shinned Hawk showcases unparalleled agility in pursuit of its avian prey. As the smallest hawk species in North America, these acrobatic hunters use their long legs, short wings, and long tails to navigate wooded areas in search of prey like songbirds.

Sharp-shinned Hawks are known to hunt near backyard bird feeders, attracted by the abundance of small birds and rodents. Their presence around feeders can sometimes be disruptive, leading to recommendations to remove the feeders temporarily if these hawks appear frequently.

Cooper’s Hawk

Pivoting from the subject of the Sharp-shinned Hawk, another notable avian predator in Pennsylvania is the Cooper’s Hawk, a small hawk that demonstrates exceptional agility and adaptability in urban and suburban environments. These hawks are increasingly observed in cities, preying on small birds attracted to backyard bird feeders.

Cooper’s Hawks are characterized by their accipiter shape, featuring short, rounded wings and a distinctive long tail. Their presence in urban areas has sparked interest among bird enthusiasts and researchers. To deter these backyard visitors, removing bird feeders has been suggested as a means to discourage Cooper’s Hawks from frequenting residential spaces.

Their ability to thrive in both natural and developed landscapes makes them a fascinating species to observe in Pennsylvania.

Northern Harrier

Gliding effortlessly over marshes with its slim figure and distinctive flight style, the Northern Harrier, a long-tailed hawk species in Pennsylvania, showcases an owl-like face that aids in its hunting endeavors.

This bird of prey is recognized for its low flight style, a unique trait among hawks, as it hunts for small mammals, birds, rabbits, and ducks in the marshy terrain. Breeding in Pennsylvania, the Northern Harrier’s graceful yet deliberate movements make it a captivating sight for birdwatchers.

To observe these raptors successfully, patience and a quiet demeanor are essential to avoid disturbing their natural behaviors.

The Northern Harrier’s presence adds to the rich avian diversity of Pennsylvania’s landscapes, showcasing their adept hunting skills in the marshy regions.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Have you ever encountered the striking sight of a Red-shouldered Hawk with its distinctive reddish-brown shoulder patch soaring through the wooded areas of Pennsylvania near water sources?

Red-shouldered Hawks, medium-sized raptors, showcase a unique hunting technique where they drop suddenly onto their prey from a perch. These birds primarily feed on small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles found in their wooded habitats. Their preference for wooded areas near water sources provides them with ample hunting grounds.

Red-shouldered Hawks are known for being vocal birds, often emitting a distinctive call that sounds like ‘kee-yer.’ So, next time you find yourself in a wooded area near water in Pennsylvania, keep an eye out for the majestic Red-shouldered Hawk with its captivating reddish-brown shoulder patch.

Broad-winged Hawk

With a wingspan ranging from 13 to 17 inches, the Broad-winged Hawk is recognized for its remarkable annual migrations covering thousands of miles. These hawks breed in the Arctic tundra and make their way to Pennsylvania during the winter months. Despite their relatively small wingspan, they are skilled at soaring and utilizing thermal currents to aid their journey. One distinctive feature of the Broad-winged Hawk is its unique call, often heard during migration. Observing these birds in Pennsylvania is a treat for bird enthusiasts, as they showcase their mastery of the skies. Below is a table summarizing key facts about the Broad-winged Hawk:

Key FactsBroad-winged Hawk
Wingspan13-17 inches
Migration PatternArctic tundra to PA
Special FeaturesDistinctive call
Flight BehaviorSoaring on thermals

Rough-legged Hawk

Arriving in Pennsylvania during the winter months, the Rough-legged Hawk, with its distinctive feathered legs adapted from its Arctic tundra breeding grounds, stands out with a wingspan of around 52-54 inches. These feathered legs aid in cold weather hunting, particularly targeting small mammals like voles and lemmings.

The Rough-legged Hawk is known for its efficient soaring capabilities, making use of its impressive wingspan to glide effortlessly across the skies. One of its notable hunting techniques includes hovering at a height to survey the land for potential prey.

This impressive bird of prey showcases adaptability in its migration patterns and specialized hunting strategies, making it a fascinating addition to Pennsylvania’s bird population during the winter months.

Great Horned Owl

In Pennsylvania, the Great Horned Owl, a large owl species with distinctive ear tufts and powerful predatory skills, dominates the skies with its haunting hooting calls echoing through the night.

These birds of prey, known for their mottled brown and white plumage and striking yellow eyes, are formidable hunters capable of taking down a variety of prey, from small mammals to other birds and even owls.

Their adaptability is evident in their ability to thrive in diverse habitats, including forests, swamps, and urban areas.

The Great Horned Owl’s presence in Pennsylvania’s ecosystem serves as a testament to its prowess as a top predator, securing its status as a significant and awe-inspiring bird of prey in the state.

Bald Eagle

The transition from the Great Horned Owl to the Bald Eagle in Pennsylvania’s skies showcases a shift from the stealthy nocturnal predator to the iconic diurnal raptor soaring with regal grace and power.

As the national symbol of the United States, the Bald Eagle is a magnificent sight with its striking white head and tail complementing a brown body. These birds boast a wingspan ranging from 6 to 76 inches and can weigh between 6 to 14 pounds.

Known for their powerful talons and impressive hunting skills, Bald Eagles dominate the skies with their keen eyesight and agile flight, making them a symbol of strength and freedom in the American landscape.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Big Birds of Prey in Pa?

When in Pennsylvania, you’ll often see big birds of prey like the Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, and Bald Eagle. Spot them with their sharp talons and keen eyesight hunting in the sky or perched in trees.

What Is the Most Common Bird of Prey?

In Pennsylvania, the most common bird of prey is the Red-tailed Hawk. Known for its red tail and impressive calls, these hawks can be found in various habitats, controlling rodent populations and soaring high.

What Kind of Eagles Are in Pa?

In Pennsylvania, you can find the majestic Bald Eagle, a symbol of the nation. These eagles with impressive wingspans and family bonds are commonly seen near water, feeding on fish, thanks to conservation efforts.

What Animals Eat Birds in Pa?

You’ll find various predators in Pennsylvania that feast on birds, such as raccoons, foxes, and domestic cats. Snakes like black rat snakes and eastern milk snakes are known for targeting bird eggs and nestlings. Be vigilant.


You have now explored the diverse array of birds of prey that call Pennsylvania home, from the majestic Red-tailed Hawk to the powerful Bald Eagle. These raptors play a vital role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem through their hunting prowess and unique behaviors.

By observing and appreciating these magnificent creatures, we gain a deeper understanding of the intricate web of life in our state’s natural habitats. Keep your eyes to the sky and continue to marvel at the beauty of Pennsylvania’s birds of prey.