12 Different Types of Hawks in Alabama

Different Types of Hawks in Alabama
Photo by WFranz

Alabama is home to various species of hawks, each of which has unique characteristics.

Whether you’re a bird enthusiast or just someone looking to learn more about the different types of hawks in Alabama, this comprehensive guide will help you identify and learn about the different types of hawks in the area. 

From Red-tailed to Red-shouldered Hawks, this guide will explore the different types of hawks in Alabama, the physical characteristics of each species, and their behavior.

So if you’re interested in learning more about the different types of hawks in Alabama, read on!

1. Sharp-shinned Hawk

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is one of Alabama’s most common types of Hawk.

This tiny Hawk is a widespread bird seen throughout the state during the spring and summer.

These types of hawks in Alabama are typically about 11 to 14 inches long and have a reddish-brown or gray color on their backs and wings.

They have yellow legs and feet, and their tails have thin dark bands. They have a square-shaped head with a gray-brown crown, nape, face, and yellow eyes.

Sharp-shinned Hawks are skilled hunters and will feed on small mammals, such as mice, chipmunks, and voles, as well as songbirds, lizards, and insects.

They usually hunt from a perch or by flycatching from the air.

2. Short-tailed Hawk

The Short-tailed Hawk is one of the types of hawks found in Alabama. It is a medium-sized raptor with a dark brown head and pale underparts. Its wings are broad and rounded, with a short tail and a white band at the end. Its call is a series of loud, raspy cries. 

This species prefers to hunt in open areas, such as grasslands, pastures, fields, and edges of forested areas. The Short-tailed Hawk feeds mainly on rodents, insects, and small birds. This species breeds from May to July, laying two to three eggs in a stick nest built near the tops of trees.

3. Broad-winged Hawk

The Broad-winged Hawk is one of the most common Hawk in Alabama. These types of hawks in Alabama are easily identified by their black-and-white tail, which they typically carry in a raised position while soaring in flight. Their heads and upper parts are grayish brown, while their chests are white. 

The wings are broad and rounded, with a distinctive dark band across the leading edge. During the breeding season, these hawks are often perched on the tops of trees or along fence lines in open habitats such as fields and pastures. They feed mainly on insects, small rodents, and small reptiles.

4. Red-shouldered Hawk

One of the most common hawks in Alabama is the Red-shouldered hawk. These medium-sized hawks have broad wings and short tails with a distinct reddish-brown or rust-colored band across their shoulders. These types of hawks in Alabama hunt small mammals, reptiles, and even birds in the sky. 

Alabama’s different types of hawks can also be seen on roadsides or open fields as they soar above, looking for their next meal. They typically live in deciduous forests near streams, lakes, and marshes, as well as in urban areas, making them a familiar sight for many people in the state.

5. Sharp-shinned Hawk

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is one of Alabama’s most common types of hawks. This small, compact bird of prey is a regular winter resident of the state. With their short wings and long tails, Sharp-shinned Hawks look similar to Cooper’s Hawks but are smaller in size and have more slender bodies. 

They can be found in forested areas throughout the state and often perch in trees or utility poles. These agile hunters feed mainly on small birds such as finches, sparrows, warblers, and thrushes. They typically hunt by taking off from a high perch, flying low over the ground, and using their speed to surprise their prey.

6. Northern Harrier

The Northern Harrier is one of the types of Hawks in Alabama that is a bit of a unique sight, boasting a distinctive owl-like face. These hawks have long wings and slender bodies, which help them soar through the air with grace and agility. 

They have a light brownish-grey head, neck, and upper body, with a white patch on the belly, black wingtips, and white on the trailing edges of their wings. The Northern Harrier is a year-round resident in Alabama, preferring wetland habitats like marshes, swamps, wet meadows, and flooded fields.

7. Ferruginous Hawk

The Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis) is one of Alabama’s most unique types of Hawk. This large Hawk has a wingspan of up to four feet and can be identified by its reddish-brown upper parts and tail. The chest is whitish, with dark streaks along the sides. 

Its powerful hooked beak is yellow. These types of hawks in Alabama are found in open countries, including deserts, grasslands, agricultural fields, and prairies. They hunt from an elevated perch or fly low over the ground, capturing small animals such as ground squirrels and rabbits. 

They also eat insects and carrion. In Alabama, Ferruginous Hawks migrate southward in the fall and winter months, returning in the spring to breed. They build large stick nests in isolated trees or shrubs, typically near open areas where they can hunt for food. They lay 1 to 4 eggs and incubate them for 28-35 days before hatching. 

Ferruginous Hawks are not considered a threatened species and are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. In Alabama, they are a particular interest species, meaning the state’s wildlife biologists monitor them to ensure their conservation and management.

8. Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk is one of the many types of hawks in Alabama. It is a medium-sized raptor with a length of 14 to 20 inches and a wingspan of 28 to 35 inches. It has a rounded tail, a gray back, and barred brownish underparts. 

They are mainly gray-brown above, with fine reddish barring on the chest and whitish to pale gray below. Males have darker heads than females, with a more compact body shape than female Cooper’s Hawks. 

They hunt mainly small to medium-sized birds, such as jays, doves, and grouse, but they can also take rodents, lizards, snakes, and even smaller hawks. They live in wooded areas and open fields, preferring forests with dense undergrowth where they can easily hunt.

9. Northern Goshawk

The Northern Goshawk is one of the types of hawks in Alabama. It is a large raptor with a slate-gray back and barred, white chest. The head is also gray but has a white eyebrow and a black facial stripe. It has long, broad wings and a relatively short, rounded tail. 

The adult male has yellow eyes, and the female has brown eyes. The Northern Goshawk can be found in coniferous and mixed forests with open hunting spaces. They feed mainly on small mammals and birds but take other prey, such as reptiles, amphibians, and even insects. 

The Northern Goshawk nests in tall trees near the tops of forested hills. The nest is usually made of sticks, bark, moss, and twigs and is lined with softer grasses, feathers, and fur. During the breeding season, males perform spectacular aerial courtship displays. 

In Alabama, the Northern Goshawk is listed as endangered due to habitat loss from logging and urban development. Conservation efforts include protecting remaining habitats, restoring degraded habitats, reducing predation, and educating the public about the species.

10. Red-tailed Hawk

The Red-tailed hawk is one of Alabama’s most common types of hawk. It is a medium-sized hawk that typically inhabits wooded areas and open country, including grasslands and farmland. These types of hawks in Alabama have a dark brown back and head, with a white throat and underside. Its tail is a distinctive reddish-brown color. 

The Red-tailed Hawk can be seen soaring above fields and forests, often hovering in the air in search of prey. Its diet consists of small mammals such as rodents, rabbits, snakes, and lizards. It also feeds on insects, birds, and reptiles. The Red-tailed Hawk is an important bird of prey in Alabama, helping to control populations of rodents and other animals that could become pests.

11. Rough-legged Hawk

The Rough-legged Hawk is one of the many types of hawks in Alabama. It is a medium-sized hawk and can be identified by its long, yellow legs, broad wings, and long tail. The upper parts of the Rough-legged Hawk are usually grayish-brown in color, while the underparts are lighter, often with a white or pale buff breast.

The tail is typically black with light barring on the sides. These hawks feed mainly on small mammals, such as voles, lemmings, rabbits, and some birds. In winter, these hawks can be seen perched on telephone poles or other high points as they hunt for their prey.

12. Swainson Hawk

Swainson’s Hawks are among the types of hawks in Alabama. These medium-sized raptors have a wingspan of approximately 3 feet and weigh up to 1.5 pounds. They usually inhabit open woodlands, grasslands, and agricultural fields. 

Swainson’s Hawks feed mainly on small mammals, birds, insects, ards, and frogs. Their nests are usually in tall trees and shrubs, although they may occasionally be found on the ground or in other structures. In Alabama, hawks can be found year-round, but they can in Alabamare most abundant during the spring and summer months.


Alabama is home to a wide variety of hawks, from the Sharp-shinned Hawk to the Northern Goshawk. Every kind of Hawk has unique physical or behavioral characteristics and can often be seen hunting in different parts of the state. 

With careful observation, you may even be able to spot some of the more elusive types of hawks in Alabama, such as the Swainson’s Hawk and the Ferruginous Hawk. Whether you are an experienced birder or just getting into bird watching, taking a closer look at the types of hawks in Alabama is a rewarding experience.

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