11 Types of Hawks in Nebraska

Types of Hawks in Nebraska
Photo by Mousum De

Hawks are diverse birds in size, coloring, and habits. Several types of hawks in Nebraska state can be found in natural areas.

Red-tailed Hawks, Rough-legged Hawk,s and Harlan’s Hawk are just a few that can be spotted in Nebraska skies. 

Nebraska is also home to many other species of hawks, including Swainson’s Heavy, Long-eared Owl and Short-eared Owl found in grassy or marshy habitats, and the Swainson’s Hawks nest mainly in bottomland forests during the summer months.

Although their habitats vary greatly from one species to another, all these types of hawks in Nebraska bring unique beauty to Nebraska’s environment.

1. Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk

The Northern Goshawk is first on our list of types of hawks in Nebraska. It is a species of hawk found in Eastern Nebraska and other parts of the Midwest.

This species of hawks have powerful legs, talons, and sharp eyesight, making them excellent hunters. 

They mainly feed on small mammals, such as rabbits and rodents.

While they may not be as common as other types of hawks in  Nebraska, they still provide valuable services to two-thirds of the state covered by forests.

For example, their presence can help to reduce the overpopulation of smaller game animals, thus keeping natural ecosystems in perfect balance.

2. Red-tailed Hawk

The Red-tailed Hawk is common in Nebraska. These hawks in Nebraska typically live in wide-open areas and spend much time soaring high above the ground. Its call is a high, sharp “Kreeeeee” that echoes far and wide.

Red-tailed Hawks have gray backs and white chests adorned with reddish tails, hence their name. 

They also have yellow legs and feet. In Nebraska, they nest in trees or on cliffs and lay three to four eggs per breeding season.

This species prefers to hunt from a high perch using its keen eyesight to spot prey such as small rodents, reptiles, amphibians, rabbits, and birds from far away.

3. Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier - Types of Hawks in Pennsylvania
by RS2Photography is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Northern Harrier is a hawk found in Nebraska that rarely builds nests, instead using abandoned nests from other birds or sometimes flat ground sites.

These types of hawks in Nebraska are active during the day and hunt for small rodents, reptiles, and amphibians. They have long tails, relatively short wings, and long toes for perching. 

The harrier will often hunt in meadows, fields, marshes, and over open water. They can be seen soaring slowly in wide circles, searching for prey on the ground below. 

These types of hawks in Nebraska breed yearly in Nebraska and lay eggs typically between March to April.

Northern Harriers can also be identified by their distinct vocalization, which consists of the shrill whistle or “screaming ” calls.

4. Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk
by Charles Patrick Ewing is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) is a large hawk species that inhabits much of Nebraska.

It can be found in the eastern half of the state and across the center but rarely in the western third. 

Red-shouldered Hawks are usually seen perched atop tall trees or soaring high above fields and open areas in search of prey like rodents, small birds, reptiles, and amphibians.

Their characteristic whistle call can often be heard overhead as they scan for food with their sharp eyesight.

They have heavily barred reddish-brown wings and tail; white, streaked underparts; bright yellow feet and eyes; squared tail tip; blue-gray back with fine barring; deeply colored chestnut red shoulder patches; and narrow, dark streaks on a uniformly brown head.

5. Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk
by Jon David Nelson is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Rough-legged Hawk is also one of the types of hawks in Nebraska. It is a distinctive species due to its long legs, giving it a distinct look.

The Rough-legged Hawk can be seen in Nebraska during the summer months and then migrates south into Mexico and Central America for the winter months. 

These majestic types of hawks in Nebraska feed mostly on small mammals, such as voles, but can also hunt down rodents, reptiles, and carrion when needed.

They nest on open grasslands during the warmer months and occasionally set up roosting sites nearby. 

A primary food source of these remarkable hawks is dung beetles living in pastures.

If you can spot one while exploring Nebraska’s vast landscape, enjoy the moment and take a picture!

6. Osprey


There are numerous types of hawks in Nebraska, but one of the most prominent and majestic in Nebraska is the osprey.

These large raptors are voracious hunters that feed mostly on fish found in the state’s rivers, ponds, and lakes. 

They also inhabit inland wetlands and open fields, where they can prey on small birds and mammals.

Due to their exceptional location-sensing capabilities, ospreys can be found all over Nebraska — from the Panhandle to the Siouxland region and everywhere.

These powerful predators are a crucial part of the Nebraska food web, helping keep the balance of our ecosystems intact.

7. Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk
by Allan Hopkins is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Broad-winged Hawk is a hawk native to Nebraska. It has dark brown wings, a tail, a white head, and an underbelly-tanned chestnut color.

They have elongated wings and medium-length tails, with individuals ranging in size from 18-20 inches.

The Broad-winged Hawk was named due to its unique broad wingspan, reaching up to 40 inches! 

These types of hawks in Nebraska also have rather loud callings, and borders may hear its cry over some distance as it migrates through Nebraska during the fall or spring migration season.

They feed primarily on small birds and mammals such as squirrels, mice, rabbits, and voles but are also known to eat reptiles or amphibians occasionally.

With their large wings enabling them to soar high above ground level, the Broad-winged Hawk makes for an interesting sight when soaring through the sky!

8. Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk
by Marie Hale is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Ferruginous Hawk is a large hawk found primarily throughout the western United States.

It is a common bird in Nebraska, often seen soaring with widespread wings over prairie rangelands. 

They are usually found singly or in pairs during the breeding season, although small groups may gather during migration periods.

Nests are built in trees, on cliffs, or on the ground and consist of large sticks lined with grass and other plant material placed just above the ground in open areas such as meadows and desert scrub. 

They feed mainly on small mammals like rabbits and rodents and larger animals like snakes and lizards. In Nebraska, the Ferruginous Hawk population has been stable over the past few years.

9. Swanson’s Hawk

Swanson's Hawk
by sandlpics is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Swainson’s Hawk is a migratory species found in Nebraska during summer.

This type of Hawk usually spends the winters in Central and South America. They’re large, slender birds with pale heads, brown wings, and tails. 

Swainson’s Hawks are known for their extended glides across open grasslands or farm fields.

They also prefer to hunt over herds of animals like antelope or bison instead of resting places like trees or branches.

In Nebraska, these hawks can frequently be seen soaring above pastures and overlooked grasslands as they search for food and prepare for their long trip south each winter.

10. Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk
by Becky Matsubara is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a common small hawk found in Nebraska. It is the smallest North American Accipiters, with a slate gray back and barred tail.

These types of hawks in Nebraska have extremely short, rounded wings and long tails, which give them excellent maneuverability when hunting their prey in densely forested areas. 

They typically feed on small birds and are mostly seen flying low over open fields or river bottoms while searching for food.

During the spring migration, sharp-shinned Hawks are also Nebraska’s most frequently seen diurnal raptor.

They can be observed in flocks around urban areas, parks, open grasslands, wooded valleys, and other suitable habitat locations.

11. Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk
by esellingson is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Lastly, Cooper’s Hawks are a type of hawk that is found in the state of Nebraska.

They are medium-sized birds of prey, characterized by their long, rounded wings and barred red tail feathers.

Cooper’s Hawks are commonly seen throughout the spring and summer months in many parts of Nebraska, where they hunt for small mammals and birds to feed on. 

In addition, they also make an excellent addition to backyard bird watching as they have a very diverse diet, including rodents, reptiles, and amphibians, which makes them an important part of nature.

The best time to observe these hawks is during nesting season, when they usually make nests near open fields or woodland areas.


In Nebraska, many hawks can be found in the state. Types of hawks in Nebraska, such as Cooper’s and red-tailed hawks, are seen in abundance across the plains and woodlands of Nebraska. 

They can usually be spotted near ponds and other water sources, where they hunt for prey.

Idaho is home to over twenty species of hawks, including sharp shins, kestrels, Northern harriers, Swainson’s Hawks, and Cooper’s Hawks.

With so many different types of hawks in Nebraska, it can be a great experience to watch these magnificent birds soar through the sky or look out for them when you step out for a walk.

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