8 Types of Hawks in Indiana

types of hawks in indiana
Photo by bs-matsunaga

Have you ever been walking or hiking in the woods of Indiana and spotted a rare hawk soaring above?

Hawks are one of the most majestic birds in the world and can be seen flying across the skies around Indiana.

Although there are many different types of hawks in Indiana, some are more common than others in the state.

Indiana is known for its diverse wildlife and is home to several species of hawks.

This article will discuss several types of hawks in Indiana and their identifying features and habits.

We will also offer some tips on how to identify them. So whether you are a first-time birdwatcher or an experienced hawk enthusiast, this guide should help you identify any hawk you encounter while exploring the state!

1. Northern Goshawk

The Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) is a large bird of prey that lives in coniferous and other types of mature forests throughout northern Europe, Asia, North America, New Zealand, and Australia. It is around the same size as a large falcon and has long tails, which help them hunt agile prey like smaller birds. The upper parts are usually grayish-brown with a white belly and underwing feathers; the eyes are orange-red. 

Northern Goshawks typically hunt by perching up high in a tree and descending quickly to catch their prey. This behavior helps them better aim at small birds or animals running on the ground, and if something jumps out when they are landing, they can easily pivot midair and still catch it. They tend to split up into pairs during hunting season but spend most of the year living alone or in small family groups. 

Northern Goshawks are first on this list of the different types of hawks in Indiana, and they build large stick nests in trees that can take weeks to construct. They can take down medium-sized animals such as rabbits, grouse, ducks, or hares, depending on what food is available in their environment.

2. Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk is a species of medium-sized raptor found in North, Central, and South America. It has brown upper parts and a pale underside with brown streaks. The hawk’s wingspan ranges from 35 to 43 inches (90-110 cm). This species, of the types of hawks in Indiana is mainly seen in open grasslands, savannas, or croplands. 

Swainson’s hawks hunt primarily during the day when they soar above fields, looking for rodents and other small mammals to catch and eat. They dive quickly to snatch up small prey before bringing it back up for consumption. Swainson’s Hawk faces endangerment due to habitat loss due to agricultural industry expansion and overhunting. 

Due to the destruction of their habitat, the numbers of these species are severely diminished, making them very hard to spot. To help the Swainson’s Hawk populations recover, conservation efforts include creating wildlife refuges for this species and creating tighter regulations on wildlife trade so traders can no longer sell these birds. Still, more research needs to be done to understand why Swainson’s Hawks are experiencing a population decline so urgently needed measures can be implemented to prevent their imminent extinction

3. Rough-Legged Hawk

The Rough-legged Hawk is a medium-sized hawk found in Alaska, Canada, and the northern United States during winter. This species has long legs and broad wings, which are evenly colored on top with a white underside, featuring black wing tips and a light brown head. The Rough-legged Hawk’s wingspan, one of the many types of hawks in Indiana, is approximately four feet or approximately 1.2 inches. 

This species of hawk typically feeds on small mammals such as voles, lemmings, and ground squirrels but also consume carrion and birds when available. They hunt by soaring high in the sky until they spot prey below before swiftly swooping down to catch it in their talons. During migration, these hawks often move southwards where food sources are more plentiful, allowing them to survive the cold weather easily. 

The Rough-legged Hawk is an important part of their ecosystems as they help control pest populations. They do this while also providing sustenance for larger predators, such as owls and eagles, that may come across their ill-fated prey once the hawk consumes it.

4. Northern Harrier

The Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius) is a hawk species commonly found in North America and Europe. Their wingspan is typically around 4 feet, and weigh between 8 and 20 ounces. These birds are distinguishable by their white rump, black primary feathers, and grey head and back. The males have grey heads, while the females have brown-streaked heads with yellow eyes. 

Northern Harriers have an impressive range of flight skills, making them adept hunters of small mammals in wide-open areas such as fields and meadows. They usually hunt by surprise, swooping down on unsuspecting animals like mice, voles, rabbits, or insects from great heights. Occasionally, these types of hawks in Indiana will also consume small reptiles or amphibians. 

Northern Harriers also use their keen eyesight to spot fish swimming in shallow waters from up in the sky and then diving down for a tasty meal if given a chance. These birds migrate southwards during winter for better feeding opportunities and milder climates. 

Unusually among raptors, female Northern Harriers are larger than the males due to sexual dimorphism. These magnificent birds live an average lifespan of 7-12 years, although some may even reach up to 17 years old!

5. Broad-Winged Hawk

The Broad-winged Hawk (Buteo platypterus) is a medium-sized raptor native to North and South America. Its distinguishing features are its broad wings and tail with a visible dark band near the tips. Also, it has a pale grayish-brown head and back, a streaked chest, narrow dark streaks on its underparts, and yellow feet and legs. 

These hawks typically migrate south for the winter months and can often be seen soaring high in flocks or gathering in large communal roosts at nightfall. Broad-winged Hawks have an expansive range, occupying most of Canada and the eastern half of the United States and Central America and Northern South America. They are predominately woodland birds, preferring deciduous trees over conifers when hunting or nesting. Still, they are also found in urban areas with good food sources, such as resident rodents or birds. 

Additionally, they nest high up in dead trees and live ones but build shallow nests made of sticks lined with finer vegetation above ground level. This gives them good visibility while allowing them a quick escape from predators. 

The diet of these types of hawks in Indiana consists of mostly small mammals such as mice and squirrels, reptiles like lizards and snakes, insects such as dragonflies, grasshoppers, and caterpillars, as well as small birds like finches when available. In winter, their diet tends to switch more towards the smaller bugs for lack of large prey availability, making them an important predator this season.

6. Sharp-Shinned Hawk

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a small bird of prey widely distributed throughout North America, from Mexico to Canada. Despite its size—adults typically measure from 9 to 13 inches in length—it is known to be an accomplished hunter, preying on smaller species such as songbirds, squirrels, and rodents. Additionally, this species has adapted to hunting in densely forested habitats by quickly darting through trees and shrubs.

Its call can be heard throughout its range during the breeding season, which runs from March to June. The sound is a sharp whistle that increases in pitch at the end. The Sharp-shinned Hawk, one of the different types of hawks in Indiana, typically nests in coniferous evergreen trees, similar to those of other raptors. 

Additionally, it feeds its young with small birds and mammals. It uses its remarkable vision to identify potential nesting spots or detect prey flying overhead, which gives it an advantage over other hawks. Overall, the Sharp-shinned Hawk is one of nature’s most agile predators and an impressive example of adaptation for survival.

7. Red-Shouldered Hawk

The Red-shouldered Hawk is an American raptor found in deciduous and wet forests, swamps, and river valleys across the United States. It has a broad, rounded head with bold streaks of black on its chest and back. The hawk’s red shoulders give it its distinctive name, contrasting sharply with its otherwise dark body. 

In flight, the bird’s strong wings and quick flaps make for fast maneuvering, allowing it to catch prey quickly or ward off predators. The Red-shouldered Hawk typically feeds on small mammals like mice, frogs, snakes, and some insects and fish. The hawk uses perches from which to survey their territory, looking for signs of any potential food sources. 

It then dives in at high speed to capture its prey midair or snatch it up from the ground or bushes below. They can also hover while searching, allowing them to spot even small prey over long distances. Mated pairs will hunt together during certain times of the year, feeding off even larger animals like rabbits, waterfowl, and sometimes even squirrels if available. 

The Red-shouldered Hawk is also one of the many types of hawks in Indiana that is fully protected under federal law by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. So hunting them or taking their eggs is prohibited in all states other than those stipulating special exceptions for certain hunting seasons or methods.

8. Red-Tailed Hawk

If you are looking for types of hawks in Indiana, the Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) is a large and majestic bird of prey native to much of the United States, Mexico, Central America, and parts of Canada. It is most recognizable for its distinctive red tail feathers, seen from below as they soar gracefully through the sky. Red-tailed Hawks are incredibly adaptable birds and can survive in various habitats, including backyards. 

Like other types of hawks in Indiana, red-tailed Hawks feed primarily on small mammals such as rodents or rabbits. They hunt by soaring high above the ground and watching for prey below before swooping down on their target with incredible speed. They also have a high level of intelligence that helps them remember where food sources are located. 

Red-tailed Hawks have an impressive wingspan that measures between four to five feet when fully extended! Their nests are large and typically built close to the ground at the tops of trees or tall structures. 

Red-tailed Hawks mate for life and make great parents who share equally in nest-building responsibilities and tending to their young. This bird makes excellent symbols of strength, resilience, freedom, courage, and vision due to their powerful presence in the air us!


In conclusion, there are a variety of types of hawks in Indiana. The two most commonly seen hawks are the Red-Tailed Hawk and Cooper’s Hawk. Both species typically nest far from the ground and feed on small rodents and other animals. 

Other species include the Sharp-shinned Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Mississippi Kite, Swainson’s Hawk, Northern Harrier, Ferruginous Hawk, and Short-tailed Hawk. These birds share similar characteristics, such as hunting by sight and soaring high above the ground while searching for potential prey. With careful observation and knowledge of habitat requirements, these magnificent creatures can be seen year-round in Indiana.

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