Hawks in Florida (9 Species with Pictures)

short tailed hawk

Florida is one of the most unique states in terms of the climate that it can offer, and consequently it offers many unique bird watching opportunities as well. 

There are nine total species of hawks that you can see in Florida. 

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One highlight of Florida bird watching, and bird of prey watching, is the Everglades in southern Florida. 

The Everglades have unique seasonal fluctuations, with a dry season where the Everglades are essentially seas of grass, and then the wet season, where the Everglades are a shallow, swampy, river ecosystem. 

Although the hawks found in the Everglades may not be unique to other parts of the country, the way that they interact with the climate is certainly different.   

Here is a list off all Hawk species in Florida:

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What Hawks can be seen in Florida?

Table of Contents

1. Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Sharp-Shinned Hawk” by ‘Dennis Murhpy‘ is licensed under CC BY 2.0





Life Expectancy

3 years3


Robins and Thrushes

Sharp-shinned hawks vary from other hawk varieties in that they have shorter and wider wings than most. 

They have a gray coloring on their back and an orange coloring on their front side. They breed in large forested areas and their prime food source is other smaller birds, which they often hunt in flight. 

They are also known to watch bird feeders and prey on small mammals and birds that feed there. 

Their populations were greatly hindered in the 80s due to DDT and pesticides, then their population recovered, until recently where researchers have begun to notice sharper declines again. 

They are migratory birds and generally like to stay hidden to keep out of sight of their prey. Although they migrate individually, they are commonly seen with in groups, although these groups are not necessarily a “flock.” 

You will not likely see these hawks in an open area, they like cover and woodlands.

When can this bird be seen in the state?

Since they are migratory, sharp-shinned hawks will only be found in Florida in the winter season. They migrate individually after breeding in the northern United States and Canada.

Where can this bird be seen in the state?

They are found all over the state of Florida. They are not a common sighting due to the severe drops in their population over the past few decades. 

Hopefully, their population levels will experience more stability to come. Look for them in deciduous forests. You might have to look hard because they purposely hide to scout prey.

2. Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk





Life Expectancy

Up to 12 years


Small Birds, Mice & Squirrels

Cooper’s hawks are a middle-sized hawk are a great stalking hunter that likes to watch their prey from dense cover before attacking their prey with great speed and acceleration. 

They are part of a group called Accipiter hawks, which the previously listed sharp-shinned hawk is also a part of. Sharp-shinned hawks are the smallest of the Accipiter hawks, and Cooper’s hawks are the middle of the three. 

Cooper’s hawks are also a little bit more common of a sighting than sharp-shinned hawks, and often bird watchers can confuse young sharp-shinned hawks with Cooper’s hawks, since their coloration is the same. 

Cooper’s hawks live in forested areas and woodlands, although they are more prone to be seen in open areas than the sharp-shinned hawk, especially in the winter.

When can this bird be seen in the state?

Cooper’s hawks are migratory and can only be seen in southern Florida during the winter season. 

However, their range is large enough that even though they are migratory, they can still be found in northern Florida throughout the entire year.

Where can this bird be seen in the state?

Cooper’s hawks can be seen all over the state of Florida, but more commonly in the north, since they have to migrate to reach the southern portions of Florida. 

They can be found in forests and woodlands, although they do venture out into open areas sometimes.

3. Great Black Hawk

great black hawk

Great Black Hawk” by ‘Allan Hopkins‘ is licensed under CC BY 2.0


50 inches


22-46 ounces

Life Expectancy

13 years


Reptiles, fish, small birds & crabs

To say that you are extremely lucky if you see a great black hawk in Florida is an understatement. 

There have only been a handful of sightings of them near Miami. Otherwise, these birds mainly live in Central America, northern South America, and other locations much further south than Florida. 

They are black, as their name suggests, and they have very long legs. They are seen in the same range as the similar common black hawk, although they are much more rare. 

They have 2 white lines on their tails that can differentiate them from the common black hawk, which has only one white line on the tail. They are also nicknamed “Brazilian Eagles.” Although they are uncommon, their populations are considered stable. 

They are timid birds and won’t be keen to be near humans.

When can this bird be seen in the state?

They are not migratory, and Florida is actually on the northern edge of their range, so you can technically see the great black hawk anytime in Florida, although they are extremely rare that far north.

Where can this bird be seen in the state?

You will most likely only see them on the southern tip of the state. Florida is not even in their range, and usually they live much further south than Florida. If you do find them, they will likely be in a forest or marsh area.

4. Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-Shouldered Hawk





Life Expectancy

2 years


Small mammals, reptiles & amphibians

The red-shouldered hawk is one of the larger hawk species, with females being larger than males. 

They have brown heads with a darker brown backside and red-hued bellies. They are one of the most common hawk species on this list. Their wings have a mesmerizing checked pattern. 

They live in forests and perch in trees to scout the forest floor below. They eat mainly small mammals such as squirrels and rabbits. 

Their color varies depending on where you see them, and in Florida their coloring will be lighter and their back will be more gray than brown.  

They get their name from reddish brown upper markings on the tops of their wings. They can also be found in swamps, which makes Florida a great location for them.

 They like to perch in dead trees if possible, so that their view of the ground is not obscured by leaves on the tree.

When can this bird be seen in the state?

Red-shouldered hawks can be found throughout all seasons in Florida. Although those red-shouldered hawks who live in the north will migrate south for the winter, not all red-shouldered hawks migrate and many live in Florida year-round.

Where can this bird be seen in the state?

Red-shouldered hawks can be seen in any part of Florida. They will usually perch in dead trees in forests or swamps.

5. Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad Winged Hawk” by ‘Felipe Uribe‘ is licensed under CC BY 2.0





Life Expectancy

Up to 20 years


Small mammals & insects

Broad-winged hawks are small when compared to other hawk species. They can be found in wooded areas in the eastern United States frequently. 

They are known to have impressive groups for their migrations, and you can often see groups of thousands of them during these incredible group migrations. 

They have a light brown and white spotted chest with a brown back. 

Florida is a unique location for broad-winged hawks because in the north, they can be found breeding, in the middle of Florida you can see their massive migratory groups, but only during their migration journey, and the southern tip of Florida is far enough south that some will settle there for the winter. 

So, the state of Florida is lucky enough to see these hawks through their breeding, migration, and winter cycles. They hunt frequently near water or the edge of woodlands.

When can this bird be seen in the state?

They can be seen breeding in northern Florida in the spring and summer, they can be seen on their migratory journey in central Florida during the fall, and they can be seen in southern Florida during the winter season.

Where can this bird be seen in the state?

They can be seen all over the state of Florida, but throughout the different stages described in the previous paragraph. They often live in forests and woods near water.

6. Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk


4 feet



Life Expectancy

16-19 years


Mammals & Insects

The Swainson’s Hawk is another hawk on this list that is not necessarily an easy find in the state of Florida, but it is possible. They can be found on the southern tip of Florida in the winter season. 

They primarily are found in the western United States and migrate to South America, but some of them seem to get confused and migrate to Florida every once in a while. 

The Swainson’s hawk feeds like a much smaller hawk might, feeding mostly on insects and only eating mammals and birds when it needs to feed its young. 

Due to their affinity for insects, they are often seen on the ground searching for insects as opposed to perched in trees, as hawks are often depicted. 

Their diet is most likely catered to their habitat, which is generally in the plains, where there are not many trees and insects like grasshoppers are plentiful.

When can this bird be seen in the state?

The Swainson’s hawk will only be seen in Florida in the winter, and even then, they are rare, since most of them migrate to South America.

Where can this bird be seen in the state?

They will only be found on the southern tip of Florida following their migratory journey. They will likely be seen on the ground or flying over fields as they hunt for flying insects and insects in the grass.

7. Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk





Life Expectancy

10-15 years


Small mammals, mice & voles

Red-tailed hawks are the most common hawk in all of North America and one of the few hawk species that has actually seen population growth rather than decline in the past few decades. 

This population boost comes as consequence of their high adaptability, and they have become more accustomed to living in urban areas and cities recently. 

They are known for their hefty wings which allow them to soar for long periods of time and at high altitudes. 

They are also easy to spot, since they like to soar up high over open fields and can often be seen perched on power poles. Their range of colors varies greatly, although the red tail remains the same among all of them.  

They eat small mammals that are regularly found in open spaces, such as moles, mice, and squirrels. They also eat small birds and snakes.

When can this bird be seen in the state?

Red-tailed hawks can be seen in Florida during all seasons. They are the most common hawk in Florida.

Where can this bird be seen in the state?

Red-tailed hawks can be seen all over the state of Florida. They are generally easy to spot soaring high above fields or perched near open fields, looking for prey.

8. Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough-Legged Hawk





Life Expectancy

Up to 18 years


Small rodents

 The rough-legged hawk generally sticks to colder climates and won’t be seen as far south as Florida, but they have been spotted there in the winter and they have a variable limit on their southern range.

 During their breeding season, they stay in Arctic environments, so Florida is too shocking of a difference to find many of them in the winter. 


They get their name due to the feathers that run all the way down their legs to the tops of their toes, which helps them to keep warm in the Arctic. 

They mostly eat rodents such as mice, moles, squirrels, and other small mammals. In the winter, they can be found in open fields and grassland searching for these rodents. They are sometimes referred to as “rough-legged buzzards.”

When can this bird be seen in the state?

Rough-legged hawks can only be found in Florida in the winter. Technically speaking, Florida is out of their range, but they have been spotted in Florida.

Where can this bird be seen in the state?

They can not be seen anywhere in Florida on a consistent basis, they have the best chance of being seen in the northern parts of Florida.

9. Short-Tailed Hawk

short tailed hawk


40 inches


14 ounces

Life Expectancy



Small Birds

Population estimates for short-tailed hawks in the state of Florida currently hover at or less than 500 hawks, so these are a very rare find in Florida. 

Short-tailed hawks prefer tropical environments, and in Florida they are generally stay in the central part of the state. 

They are rarely seen out in the open, making them even harder to spot, and they soar at low altitudes when hunting, which means they can often be blocked by treelines, buildings, and other obstructions from bird watchers on the ground. 

They prey on smaller birds and will dive from their low-hanging flights to catch them. In Florida they can be found in open areas with woods nearby. 

Their soaring is also unique in that they soar very slowly, often hanging in the wind, until they spot prey below and start to dive. 

Florida is the only state in the United States where you can find the short-tailed hawk and they even breed in Florida as well.

When can this bird be seen in the state?

They can be seen during all seasons in Florida, although they are very uncommon in Florida.

Where can this bird be seen in the state?

They are generally seen in the central part of the state. They like to stay in open areas and hunt the edges of woods and forests. They can be difficult to spot due to low soaring altitude and hiding to hunt prey


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About Us

We are avid bird-watchers who recently retired, allowing us more time to travel the world. Fortunately, we have managed to visit numerous countries around Europe, Asia, and America. Watching and photographing birds has been a passion for many years and we are making the most of the extra time on our hands!

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