Michigan is home to a wide variety of hawks, and if you’re an avid birdwatcher, you may have already spotted a few of these majestic birds soaring across the skies.
From the small American Kestrel to the large Red-tailed Hawk, many types of hawks in Michigan are native to the region.
In our blog post, we’ll explore the different types of hawks in Michigan, including their characteristics, behaviors, and habitats.
So whether you’re a novice bird watcher or an experienced avian enthusiast, read on to learn more about the different types of hawks in Michigan!
1. Red-Tailed Hawk
The red-tailed hawk is one of the most common and easily recognizable types of hawks in Michigan. It is a large hawk with a wingspan of up to 4 feet and an overall length of approximately 20 inches.
These types of hawks in Michigan typically have reddish brown plumage on their backs, along with white breasts and tails. Red-tailed hawks can be found throughout the state, hunting for small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and other birds. They often perch atop tall trees and power lines, looking for their next meal. Red-tailed hawks are adaptable and can live in various habitats, from forests to grasslands.
2. Red-Shouldered Hawk
The Red-Shouldered Hawk is also on our list of types of hawks in Michigan. It is a medium-sized hawk species seen in the woodlands and forests of Michigan. It is distinguished by its broad wingspan, reddish breast and belly, and red-orange shoulders. The bird’s head is darker than its body, with white bands around its eyes and a dark streak on its neck.
Red-shouldered Hawks typically hunt during the day, and they eat a variety of small animals, such as mice, frogs, snakes, and even insects. They make their nests high up in the trees and usually lay 3-4 eggs incubated for about 32 days.
These types of hawks in Michigan typically inhabit the southern and southeastern parts of Michigan, but they are known to migrate north in the winter to escape cold weather. If you’re lucky enough to spot one, you can identify it by its call, which is a loud “kee-ah” sound. Red-shouldered Hawks are an important part of Michigan’s natural ecosystem, as they help to control rodent populations.
3. Short-Tailed Hawk
The Short-Tailed Hawk (Buteo brachyurus) is a small hawk found throughout the eastern United States and southern Canada. In Michigan, it can be found in open woodlands and along the edges of streams, lakes, and rivers.
The Short-Tailed Hawk is relatively small, measuring only around 13 inches. Its wingspan is around 33 inches, much smaller than some of its larger hawk relatives.
Short-Tailed Hawks have a gray-brown back, with white or pale brown streaks on the underparts and sides. They also have a unique white-and-black checkered tail and black “eyebrows” over each eye. Like most hawks, they feed mainly on small mammals such as rodents, birds, and insects.
These types of hawks in Michigan are relatively uncommon, so their sightings are quite special. When seen, they often perch in high trees or poles, where they can watch for potential prey. Though their numbers are not thought to be declining, it is still important to appreciate these beautiful birds whenever we get the chance!
4. Rough-Legged Hawk
The Rough-Legged Hawk is a medium-sized raptor found in Michigan during winter. This hawk has distinctive feathered legs and feet, a light grayish-brown back and head, and a white belly. It has large yellow eyes, a black beak, and long wings.
It is an opportunistic feeder and can be seen hovering or hovering low over fields while looking for small mammals, like voles and mice, to eat. In addition to eating small mammals, this hawk will eat other small animals such as birds, snakes, and amphibians.
This hawk is often seen perching on telephone wires or on fences. The Rough-Legged Hawk is an important member of Michigan’s bird population and can help to keep the population of small mammals in check.
5. Swainson’s Hawk
Swainson’s Hawk is one of the most majestic types of hawks in Michigan. This hawk is also known as the Grasshopper Hawk due to its primary diet of grasshoppers and other large insects.
Swainson’s Hawks are easily identified by their brown upper parts, white underparts, and long, broad wings. They tend to inhabit open woodlands or prairies and can often be seen soaring high above the ground.
These types of hawks in Michigan nest in trees and lay up to 4 eggs in their nest. The female will incubate the eggs for about four weeks, while the male will provide food for the female and young. Swainson’s Hawks typically migrate from Michigan in late August or early September to overwinter in Central and South America.
6. Northern Harrier
The Northern Harrier is a species of hawk found in Michigan and across North America. It is sometimes known as the marsh hawk because of its preference for hunting over wetlands and meadows.
The Northern Harrier has a distinctively long tail, pointed wings, and an owl-like facial disc. Its coloration is grayish-brown above, with white undersides and long, dark streaks running down its body.
When hunting, Northern Harriers fly low over the ground, often hovering in place to search for prey. They mainly hunt small rodents and birds but also eat insects, amphibians, reptiles, and occasionally fish.
Because they prefer wetland habitats, Northern Harriers are considered a species of special concern in Michigan due to the destruction of wetlands.
They are also vulnerable to human disturbance in their nesting sites, so it is important to be mindful of them during the nesting season. If you’re lucky enough to spot a Northern Harrier in Michigan, you’ll be able to recognize it by its unique silhouette and distinctive white rump patch. It’s truly a stunning sight!
7. Northern Goshawk
The Northern Goshawk is a magnificent bird of prey and one of Michigan’s largest hawks. This species has a striking black-gray upper body with a white underside and patches around the eyes. The wings are broad, long, and pointed, with a long tail with white bands near the end.
The Northern Goshawk is commonly seen soaring through open fields and forests in search of prey. It feeds primarily on small birds and mammals, including rabbits, hares, and carrion.
In addition to preying on small game, the Northern Goshawk is an important predator for controlling rodent populations in the region. This species is rare in Michigan, and sightings should be reported immediately to local wildlife authorities.
8. Broad-Winged Hawk
The Broad-Winged Hawk is a small to medium-sized raptor found in North America. It’s relatively easy to spot due to its wide wingspan and distinct black and white feather patterns. The wingspan of the broad-winged hawk can range from 28 to 36 inches, typically weighing around 10 to 18 ounces.
In Michigan, these hawks usually reside in forests and thickets, making their nests in trees. They mainly feed on large insects, lizards, amphibians, small mammals, and birds.
During migration season, Broad-Winged Hawks will often flock together in large numbers before making their way south for the winter months. Now, you can spot them in fields and open spaces, sometimes in small flocks or even single birds.
The best time to observe these types of hawks in Michigan during migration season is usually in the late summer and early fall when they are most active. So if you’re in Michigan at this time of year, keep an eye out for these amazing birds!
9. Sharp-Shinned Hawk
The Sharp-Shinned Hawk is a small, agile predator found in Michigan’s deciduous and coniferous forests. These types of hawks in Michigan are easily recognized by their size, smaller than other hawks, and their distinctive “V” shaped tail.
These hawks typically hunt smaller birds and mammals, though they have been known to catch larger birds. Their diet includes jays, doves, woodpeckers, and even small rabbits.
The Sharp-Shinned Hawk has dark slate-gray upper parts with white underparts and a white throat. Its short and pointed wings make them great for hunting in wooded areas. The Sharp-Shinned Hawk is also highly maneuverable in the air and can twist and turn to catch prey or escape predators. These hawks are seen singly or in pairs in the summer and migrate south for the winter months.
10. Ferruginous Hawk
The Ferruginous Hawk is the largest species of hawk in Michigan and can reach a wingspan of up to four feet! Its brownish coloration helps it blend into the environment, and its diet consists mainly of rabbits and other small mammals. The Ferruginous Hawk can be found in open grassland habitats, like meadows or prairies, and often hunts from a perch.
The Ferruginous Hawk is one of the rarest types of hawks in Michigan, so it’s not seen very often. It is also very sensitive to human disturbance and will quickly fly away if there is too much activity in its habitat. Because of this, it is important to keep a safe distance from these birds and avoid any disruption of their habitat.
Fortunately, efforts are being made to protect the Ferruginous Hawk and its natural habitats, allowing the species to flourish in Michigan. With proper conservation measures, this beautiful hawk can continue to thrive in the wild for generations.
11. Cooper’s Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk is on our list of types of hawks in Michigan. It is a mid-sized hawk native to North America. This hawk species can be found in Michigan, mostly near woodlands and forests.
The adult, Cooper’s Hawk, is easily identified by its reddish-brown head and neck, white stripes, and gray back. It has long, rounded wings and a long tail with multiple black bars. The juveniles have darker feathers than the adults.
Cooper’s Hawks hunt their prey by sneaking up on them from behind and surprising them. They feed mostly on small birds, small mammals, and even lizards.
Cooper’s types of hawks in Michigan prefer to nest in coniferous trees, often seen soaring high in the sky or perched atop tall trees. They migrate in winter, usually heading south or along the coasts.
Michigan is home to a wide variety of hawks, with more than 10 different types of hawks in Michigan inhabiting the state. From the smallest, the Sharp-shinned Hawk, to the largest, the Red-tailed Hawk, Michigan has a diverse range of hawks that can be spotted in the skies above.
In our blog post, we have explored the different types of hawks in Michigan, from their appearance to their behaviors. We hope you have Read on to learn more about the types of hawks in Michigan!