In Maryland, you may encounter seven different species of hawk. These species are:
- Red-tailed Hawk
- Broad-winged hawk
- Rough-legged Hawk
- Red-shouldered Hawk
- Northern Goshawk
- Sharp-shinned Hawk
- Cooper’s Hawk
Maryland is a mid-Atlantic state that acts as a home for many different birds of prey.
One of the reasons for the many species residing in this state is because of the parks.
There are 53 different state parks throughout Maryland and there are 18 different national parks in the state.
The most commonly seen is the Red-tailed hawk which is no surprise considering its large abundance and range. Below we’ll look at these seven different species in further detail.
What Hawks can be seen in Maryland?
Table of Contents
1. Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Robins and Thrushes
These hawks have very contrasting colours, their backs and wings are very dark whilst their bellies are strikingly pale.
It is most likely that you will see these birds in dense areas of forests as they will only nest in more open areas if it is absolutely necessary.
Sharp-shinned Hawks are classified as pursuit hunters, they have a varied diet but most often consume a variety of songbirds much smaller than them.
During their breeding seasons, these birds hunt a lot less to reduce their risk of predation from larger species of hawks and other birds of prey.
The breeding pairs of this hawk will only have one brood per season, these broods contain 3-8 eggs and breeding pairs will remain monogamous to one another.
Some hawks will reside in the state year-round, usually in the western half.
Whilst others can only be seen in the state outside of their breeding seasons.
There have been sightings of this bird in all regions of Maryland. But there has been the highest number of sightings in the north eastern areas of the state.
2. Cooper’s Hawk
Up to 12 years
Small Birds, Mice & Squirrels
Cooper’s Hawks have a comparatively large head for their medium sized bodies.
The red feathers on their bellies and breasts form a barred pattern and their backs wings have feathers of a slate grey colour.
Whilst more sightings of these birds have been recorded in suburban areas and in leafy parks, they still prefer to nest primarily in thick, dense forests.
These birds mostly consume small mammals and hunt from the air.
Males and females of this species will build their nests together after the male has performed a bowing display for her. Not a lot else is known about their breeding behaviours.
These hawks can be seen throughout all regions of Maryland and they are permanent residents of the state.
They are most active during their breeding seasons and most of the recorded sightings of this bird are in the northern half of the state.
3. Northern Goshawk
Mammals, reptiles & insects
The Northern Goshawk has similar color patterns to other hawk species, with a pale belly and a dark back and dark wings.
These hawks will make their nests in various types of hardwood forests and will most often roost in the canopy layers of the trees.
Whilst they will occasionally pursue their prey on foot, they most frequently hunt in flight.
They have a very wide range of prey which includes birds, small mammals and amphibians. After forming a breeding pair, the individuals will perform a sky dance together.
They also remain monogamous to one another and will sometimes produce up to 500 eggs per clutch.
Whilst there have been sightings of this bird throughout all regions of Maryland, they are quite scarce.
They have only been seen in the state outside of their breeding seasons, they are most commonly seen there in winter and most of the sightings appear to be in the west of the state.
4. Red-Shouldered Hawk
Small mammals, reptiles & amphibians
Red-shouldered Hawks are covered in mostly brown feathers that vary in shade.
Their shoulders are covered in a rusty brown colour, hence the name.
They have medium sized bodies, and their underbellies and breasts are also warm coloured.
These hawks will always nest in dense woodland areas usually in areas close to swamps or marshlands.
They frequently consume small mammals and search for their prey by hovering in circles.
Red-shouldered hawks are very territorial birds and will attack many animals including Great Horned Owls, Crows and even humans that move too close to their nests.
This aggressive behaviour increases during the breeding season. Males of this species have a mating display made up of a series of dives that is referred to as a ‘sky dance’.
They are also a species that can be found in all regions of the state, these hawks are permanent residents in Maryland.
You will see these birds most commonly outside of their breeding seasons and most sightings of this hawk are recorded in the central regions of the state.
5. Broad-Winged Hawk
Up to 20 years
Small mammals & insects
These hawks get their name from the round, broad shape of their wings.
This is how they are most commonly identified in flight. Their bellies are covered in pale feathers and brown feathers that cover their wings and heads.
These hawks like staying in woodlands close to areas of water but will stay in any woodland that is necessary.
Broad-winged hawks like to be as far away as they can from human activities and landscapes so you will not see them in city parks.
Some of these hawks will mate with a different individual each year whilst some will form long term breeding pairs, but they are all monogamous in the breeding seasons.
Even if they stay together for several years, breeding pairs will only interact with one another during their breeding seasons.
These hawks can be seen in all regions of Maryland however, they are not in the state year-round.
They are only present during their breeding seasons. They have been recorded many times but most frequently they have been sighted in the north western regions of the state.
6. Red-Tailed Hawk
Small mammals, mice & voles
These birds have rusty brown tails that appear red in contrast to the rest of their pale body.
You can see these hawks nesting in a variety of woodlands, but usually more open areas.
When it comes to their territory, these birds are very defensive and often get easily aggressive with other birds that come too close into their nesting areas.
They have been known to get into fights with and chase off other hawks, eagles and certain species of owls.
These hawks are monogamous, and they will only mate with another individual if their partner dies.
For many hawks, the death of an individual is the only chance they have to enter and claim a territory, meaning that many often go without a nesting season.
This is probably the most abundant species of any hawk and it is shown by their wide range.
They can be seen in all regions of Maryland and there have been frequent sightings in all areas of the state.
They are most active in their breeding seasons and have been most frequently sighted in the northern regions of the state.
7. Rough-Legged Hawk
Up to 18 years
These hawks are one of the larger hawk species and their legs are covered in messy feathers which is where they get their names from.
Rough-legged Hawks will almost always nest in open areas of land and you will most commonly see them in open grasslands.
These hawks are active throughout the day, and they will spend most of their time hunting during the hours of dawn and dusk.
Their prey is varied consuming things such as songbirds and small mammals.
Whilst these birds stay monogamous during their breeding seasons, they only have minimal courting displays that appear to be quick and effective.
Outside of breeding seasons, mating pairs have sometimes been observed nesting in their wintering grounds together.
You will be able to see these hawks in any region of Maryland. However, they can only be seen in the state outside of their breeding seasons.
They are most abundant in winter and have been most commonly sighted in the central regions of the state.
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!