9 Different Types of Hawks in Arkansas

types of hawks in arkansas
Photo by Martin Adams

If you’re an avid birdwatcher, Arkansas is the perfect place to explore. There are a variety of types of hawks in Arkansas that call this state home, and each species has its own unique characteristics. 

In our blog post, we’ll look at the different types of hawks in Arkansas and discuss the features that make them stand out.

From red-shouldered hawks to Cooper’s hawks, you’ll be able to learn about the different species and where you can find them.

So keep reading to learn more about the amazing types of hawks in Arkansas!

1. Northern Harrier

The Northern Harrier is starting our list of types of hawks in Arkansas. It is a medium-sized hawk found in Arkansas. It is unique from other hawks because its owl-like facial disk and wings are held in a V shape. 

This hawk species is sometimes called the ‘Marsh Hawk’ due to its preference for wetland habitats, where it can catch and eat small mammals, such as rodents, rabbits, and frogs. The Northern Harrier is easy to spot when flying, as its white underside contrasts with its dark gray and brown upper parts. During the winter, the Northern Harrier can also be seen gathering in large flocks with other raptors.

The adult types of hawks in Arkansas males and females of this species look different, with the male having a grayish head and upper body and the female having a brown coloration on its upper parts. Additionally, both sexes have yellow eyes and legs, though the male has yellow-orange on its legs while the female has yellow legs. Regarding breeding season, the female will construct an open nest with grasses and twigs in dense vegetation near water.

Overall, the Northern Harrier is an impressive hawk and can easily be identified due to its unique characteristics. It makes for a beautiful sight as it soars over wetland habitats looking for prey to eat. With their distinct plumage, these types of hawks in Arkansas can make for a wonderful sighting on birding trips.

2. Swainson’s Hawk

The Swainson’s Hawk is an impressive species of hawk that can be found throughout the state of Arkansas. This large raptor is characterized by its dark brown plumage, mottled with pale and reddish markings on the wings, head, and tail. It has broad wings and a white neck and tail

Swainson’s Hawks feed primarily on small rodents, grasshoppers, lizards, and other small prey. They stay in the same areas year-round but may travel long distances for food or during migration. Breeding pairs can often be seen hunting together over the same area, with one bird flying lower and the other circling high above. 

In Arkansas, these types of hawks in Arkansas typically breed from late May to late June. The nests are made of sticks and lined with strips of bark, grasses, and other materials and are built in trees, cliff ledges, or on the ground. Swainson’s Hawks lay one to three eggs, which hatch in three to four weeks. The young hawks fledge after four to five weeks, and parents continue to care for them until they are fully independent.

3. Broad-winged Hawk

The Broad-winged Hawk is a small, medium-sized raptor found in Arkansas. Its brown upperparts, white undersides, and broad rounded wings characterize this species. Its name derives from the fact that its wingspan is wider than most of the other hawks found in Arkansas. 

It is one of the more common hawks in the state and can often be seen hovering over wooded areas or soaring in open fields. Broad-winged Hawks are migratory birds, so they will not be found in Arkansas all year round.

The Broad-winged Hawk primarily feeds on small mammals such as mice, voles, and squirrels, although they occasionally catch large insects and small birds. They often hunt by perching on a high branch or hovering in midair. Broad-winged Hawks can sometimes be observed soaring with large groups of other types of hawks in Arkansas called “kettles” during migration.

The Broad-winged Hawk’s call is a loud, high-pitched whistle that nests in deciduous oak and maple trees. The female typically lays two to four eggs and the young hatch after about five weeks. 

Both the types of hawks in Arkansas male and female work together to raise their young and teach them how to hunt. The Broad-winged Hawk is an important part of Arkansas’ ecosystem as it helps control small mammal populations.

4. Rough-legged Hawk

The Rough-legged Hawk is a large hawk typically found in northern areas of the United States. This hawk species can range from 18-24 inches long and have up to 54 inches of wingspans. They are primarily dark brown on the upper part of their body and pale on the underside. 

The Rough-legged Hawk is commonly found in Arkansas during the winter months. During this time, they often frequent open grasslands, river bottoms, and lightly wooded areas. 

The Rough-legged Hawk has an extremely varied diet, consisting mainly of small rodents such as voles and mice. Occasionally, these types of hawks in Arkansas of prey will also take advantage of larger animals such as rabbits and hares. Unlike many other hawks, the Rough-legged Hawk is particularly well adapted for hunting in colder climates. They have feathers that extend down over their feet and toes, which allows them to remain warm while they perch or soar.

Like many other types of hawks in Arkansas, the Rough-legged Hawk mates for life and builds its nest in tall trees or on cliffs. The female typically lays between two and five eggs, which both parents take turns incubating until they hatch. After hatching, the parents continue to care for their chicks until they are ready to leave the nest in about six weeks. 

Overall, the Rough-legged Hawk is a fascinating bird to observe during the winter months in Arkansas. Its varied diet and cold-adapted features make it a wonderful species to appreciate in its natural habitat.

5. Red-shouldered Hawk

The Red-shouldered Hawk is a medium-sized hawk that can be found in Arkansas. It is part of the genus Buteo, which includes all the broad-winged hawks. 

These types of hawks in Arkansas are distinguished by their red shoulder patches and reddish-brown coloring on their wings and tails. Their long tails and broad wings help them soar through the air, making them skilled fliers. They range in size from 16 to 24 inches long and have a wingspan between 30 and 40 inches.

Red-shouldered Hawks are most commonly found in forests, as they nest in tree cavities and use the trees as perches while they hunt. They mostly eat small mammals, such as voles, mice, and squirrels, but will also feed on reptiles, amphibians, insects, and other birds. 

These types of hawks in Arkansas are monogamous and mate for life. The female typically lays 2-4 eggs at a time, which hatch in about 4 weeks. The Red-shouldered Hawk is endangered in Arkansas due to habitat loss, human disturbance, and competition from larger species such as Red-tailed and Cooper’s Hawks.

However, many organizations are dedicated to protecting and conserving these birds and their habitats. If you live in Arkansas, you may be able to help by planting native vegetation in your yard or volunteering with local conservation groups.

6. Northern Goshawk

The Northern Goshawk is a large, predatory raptor found in Arkansas. It has a gray and white colored head with a dark gray back, wings, and tail. It has yellow eyes, and its feet are yellow as well. 

This hawk is typically seen flying high above the forest canopy, searching for prey. They hunt mostly small mammals, such as rabbits and squirrels, but they will also take birds and reptiles. They typically nest in large trees but use other structures when available. The Northern Goshawk is the largest accipiter species in Arkansas, measuring up to 24 inches long with a wingspan of over 4 feet.

The Northern Goshawk is an aggressive predator, often chasing its prey through the forest at high speed. It is known for its ability to take down birds much larger than itself and is even capable of killing a snowshoe hare. It has also been observed that Northern Goshawks can be territorial, defending their nests against intruders. 

Although these types of hawks in Arkansas typically hunt alone, they have been known to successfully team up with other hawks or eagles to take down larger prey.

The Northern Goshawk is listed as a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List. The population appears stable across most of its range, though some local declines have been reported in parts of Arkansas due to habitat loss. Conservation efforts focus on protecting existing habitats and restoring previously destroyed areas.

7. Cooper’s Hawk

The Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) is a medium-sized species of hawk native to Arkansas. It is easily recognizable due to its white belly, gray wings, and dark-brown back. They typically inhabit wooded areas such as deciduous forests, where they hunt small mammals and birds. They are known for their aerial agility and powerful, sharp talons which they use to snatch up prey while in flight. 

These types of hawks in Arkansas are monogamous, mating for life and returning to the same breeding grounds yearly. They also form strong family bonds, with parents teaching their young to hunt and care for themselves. With their impressive hunting ability, the Cooper’s Hawk is an important bird of prey for keeping small mammal populations in check. 

The Cooper’s Hawk is considered ‘threatened’ in Arkansas due to habitat loss and fragmentation. The best way to help protect them is by conserving their habitats and limiting development near their territories. It is also important to practice sustainable agriculture techniques to reduce the number of pesticides used on crops and minimize the potential threat they pose to these birds. 

Additionally, birders and wildlife enthusiasts can help by reporting any sightings they encounter in the field. By doing so, we can better understand where these birds live and what habitats they need to thrive.

8. Red-tailed Hawk

The Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is one of Arkansas’s most common hawk species. It is a medium-sized hawk with a wingspan of about four feet. The upper parts of the bird are usually brownish-red, while the underside is usually lighter and can have streaks of white or yellow. Its long, red tail makes it easy to identify. 

It is also quite vocal, often making loud, high-pitched screams as it soars through the sky. The Red-tailed hawks can be seen hunting over open fields, looking for rodents and other small animals. 

They also eat carrion, reptiles, amphibians, and even small birds. During the winter, they will roost in large groups on trees and can often be seen sunning themselves on fence posts or utility poles.

The Red-tailed Hawk is an important part of Arkansas’s ecosystem. They are beneficial predators that help keep rodent populations in check, thus helping to maintain crops.

They are also important scavengers, keeping our environment clean by eating carrion and other dead animals.

Additionally, they serve as a food source for other birds of prey and animals such as coyotes and foxes.

9. Sharp-shinned Hawk

Lastly, The Sharp-shinned Hawk is one of the most common types of hawks in Arkansas. This species of hawk is quite small and measures around 10-15 inches in length with a wingspan of around 2 feet. Its distinct look features reddish orange barring across its chest and back and a blue-gray head.

This type of hawk has also been known to have a white throat and tail feathers with dark barring. These types of hawks in Arkansas can often be seen near forest edges, woodland clearings, and open fields where they will search for food. They are fierce predators, often hunting small birds and rodents, which they can easily catch due to their quick maneuverability. 

The sharp-shinned hawk will often soar up high into the sky, looking for prey before swooping to capture it. In Arkansas, the sharp-shinned hawk is known for being an abundant part of the bird population. They breed in the spring and summer region, usually nesting in coniferous trees such as pine and spruce. 

Breeding pairs may also use abandoned woodpecker cavities or other tree hollows for their nests. During the winter months, some of these types of hawks in Arkansas migrate south in search of warmer weather, while others will remain in the region until spring.


Arkansas is home to a variety of different hawks, each with its distinct features and behaviors. The most common types of hawk in Arkansas are the Northern Goshawk, Swainson’s Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Harrier, and Red-tailed Hawk. 

These types of hawks in Arkansas have different diets and preferred habitats and play a valuable role in the Arkansas ecosystem. Keen observers in many parts of the state can spot them.

Arkansas has many species of hawks, ranging from the large and impressive Red-tailed Hawk to the small and agile American Kestrel. Hawks are majestic birds of prey, and they can be found in many habitats throughout Arkansas, including wetlands, forests, grasslands, and even urban areas. In our blog post, we discussed some of the different types of hawks in Arkansas and looked closely at their habitats and behaviors.

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