Hawks in Massachusetts (7 Species with Pictures)

hawks in Massachusetts

There are seven different species of hawks that you may see in the state of Massachusetts. 

These are:

  • Cooper’s Hawks
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Northern Goshawk
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Rough-legged Hawk
  • Broad-winged Hawk

Want to learn more? This book on the Birds of Prey of North America is a fantastic read!

Massachusetts is officially known as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and is a north eastern state.

This state has a continental climate meaning that is has hot and humid summers and cold and snowy winters.

There are 16 different national parks in Massachusetts and over 4500acres of state parks and these are some of the reasons it is a popular state for birds of prey.

Now, let’s have a look at these individual species in more detail.

Want to attract birds of prey to your yard? Take a look at our article!

What Hawks can be seen in Massachusetts?

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 years


Robins and Thrushes

These hawks have very contrasting colours like many other hawk species, it helps them to camouflage against the light when hunting.

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, but you may see them in open woodlands.

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 stay in Massachusetts throughout the year, but some will only enter the state during the winter months.

They have been seen in all regions of the state, but they have most commonly sighted in the north of the state.

2. Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk





Life Expectancy

Up to 12 years


Small Birds, Mice & Squirrels

Cooper’s Hawks have a medium-sized body, but their heads are large.

The feathers on their bellies and breasts form a barred pattern and they are red in colour. 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 usually stay in forest areas, particularly dense ones.

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 birds have been seen throughout all areas of Massachusetts and are permanent residents of the state.

They have been most commonly seen in the eastern half of the state and are most active during the breeding season.

3. Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk





Life Expectancy

7 Years


Mammals, reptiles & insects

The Northern Goshawk has similar colour 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 they will usually make their nests and roost in the canopy layers of the trees.

They most frequently hunt in flight, but they have been known to pursue prey on foot as well.

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.

These birds are only seen in the state outside of their breeding seasons.

They can be seen throughout all of Massachusetts though their numbers are scarce in the state. They have most frequently been seen in the north of the state.

4. Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-Shouldered Hawk





Life Expectancy

2 years


Small mammals, reptiles & amphibians

Red-shouldered Hawks are covered in mostly brown feathers that vary in shade.

These brown shades are rusty coloured on the shoulders of these birds, 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 in the sky, they can be seen 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’.

These birds have an eastern range and are permanent residents in Massachusetts.

They have been seen in all areas of the state but have been most commonly found in the central regions of the state.

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

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 their wings and backs are covered in brown feathers.

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 any urban areas.

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 birds have been seen in all regions of the state however, they are only present in Massachusetts during their breeding seasons.

Most of the recorded sightings of this bird have been in the western half of the state.

6. Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk





Life Expectancy

10-15 years


Small mammals, mice & voles

These birds have rusty brown tails that appear red in contrast to their rest of their pale body.

You can see these hawks nesting in a variety of woodlands, but they prefer to nest in more open areas of woodlands.

When it comes to their territory, these birds are very defensive and often get easily aggressive with other birds that stray into their territory area.

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. 

These are the most abundant hawks in the united states and have been seen year-round in the state of Massachusetts.

They are most active in spring and have been most commonly reported in the eastern regions of the state.

7. Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough-Legged Hawk





Life Expectancy

Up to 18 years


Small rodents

These hawks are one of the larger hawk species and their legs are covered in messy feathers that look rough, hence the name.

Rough-legged Hawks will almost always nest in open areas of land and they are most commonly seen in open grasslands.

These hawks are active through 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 can only see these hawks in Massachusetts in the winter months of the year.

They can be seen in all areas of the state, but they have been most commonly sighted in the north eastern regions of the state.


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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!