Hawks in Missouri (7 Species with Pictures)

hawks in Missouri

There are seven different species of hawk that you may see in the state of Missouri.

These are:

  • Northern Harrier
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Broad-winged Hawk
  • Swainson’s Hawk
  • Red-tailed hawk

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

Missouri is a state in the regions of Midwestern States.

This state has a large population as well as a large percentage of urban areas. The climate is humid and subtropical meaning the summers are long and hot and the winters are cool.

There are 91 different state parks across Missouri as well as 6 different national parks.

The variety of parks and urban areas means that it is a common habitat for hawks.

Now let’s look at these 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 Missouri?

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

This hawk is covered in brown feathers of a variety of shades.

Their bellies have pale brown feathers, but their wings are dark brown in colour.

These birds will not nest in areas with low tree cover and are only seen in dense forest areas.

Sharp-shinned Hawks mostly consume small species of songbirds and they are classified as pursuit hunters.

During their breeding seasons these birds are a lot less active to reduce their risk of predation.

The pairs will nest together under areas of deep forest cover and on average produce 3-8 eggs per brood and only one brood per breeding season.

These birds have been seen in all regions of Missouri. However, they have only been seen in the state outside of their breeding seasons.

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

2. Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk





Life Expectancy

Up to 12 years


Small Birds, Mice & Squirrels

Cooper’s Hawks have large heads compared to their medium sized bodies.

Their underbellies are covered in red barred feathers and they have slate grey coloured wings and backs.

If you’re lucky you may spot these birds in a suburban park, but they prefer dense forests for nesting.

These birds have use powerful flights when hunting for prey, they have a wide diet but most commonly consume small bird species like songbirds.

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.

Cooper’s hawks have a very large range across the state and can be seen throughout the year in the state of Missouri.

They are most common during their breeding seasons and can be seen in all regions of the state.

Most of the recorded sightings of this bird have been in the central regions of the state.

3. Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-Shouldered Hawk





Life Expectancy

2 years


Small mammals, reptiles & amphibians

Red-shouldered Hawks are medium-sized hawks their feathers form a checkered pattern across their wings in black and white.

Their underbellies and breasts are covered in warm brown feathers. You can see these birds in a variety of woodlands but usually in areas close to swamps.

These hawks mostly consume small mammals and hunt in flight and will over hover over potential prey.

Red-shouldered hawks are very territorial birds and have been known to not only attack Great Horned Owls and Crows, but also humans that move too close to their nests.

Males of this species have a mating display made up of a series of dives that is referred to as a ‘sky dance’.

These hawks can also be seen year-round in the state of Missouri. But their range only extends to the western half of the state.

Most of the recorded sightings of this bird have been in the south west of the state.

4. 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

As you may expect from the name, these hawks are known for their wide, circular-shaped wings.

They have pale coloured bellies and brown wings and heads. These hawks make their nests most commonly in areas close to bodies of water, but they will nest in most dense forest areas.

You would be very unlikely to see these birds in any of the more urban areas of Missouri.

Some of these birds will form breeding pairs that stay together for a series of several years whilst others will mate with different individuals each year.

Even if they stay together for several years, breeding pairs will not interact with one another outside of the breeding seasons.

The Broad-winged hawk is one of the most abundant hawk species in the state of Missouri.

They are most commonly in the state during their breeding seasons and can be seen in all regions of the state.

Most of the sighting of this hawk have been recorded in the southern half of the state.

5. Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk


4 feet



Life Expectancy

16-19 years


Mammals & Insects

This bird has pale feathers on both its belly and breast whilst its back and wings have darker brown and grey feathers.

Unlike lots of other hawks, these hawks prefer areas of open grasslands rather than dense forests. Swainson’s hawks mostly hunt on foot and their main prey consists of small species of mammals.

Breeding pairs are monogamous and both individuals are aggressive when it comes to defending their territory.

They are known to often get into fights with other birds, including other species of hawks. These birds are migratory and will move in large groups, sometimes in the thousands.

These birds are migratory and are only seen in the United States during their breeding seasons.

This includes the state of Missouri and they can be seen throughout all regions of the state. 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 a rusty coloured tail, which is where they get their name and how they are most easily identified.

They also have pale underwings and bellies. Red-tailed hawks have been seen in a large variety of habitats, but they most often make their nests in open woodlands.

When it comes to their territory, these birds are very defensive, and they have often been observed fighting with other birds.

They have been known to get into fights with and chase off other hawks, eagles and certain species of owls. These birds are monogamous and form mating pairs that do not allow others into their territory.

They will only allow another hawk in if one member of the breeding pair dies.

These birds can be seen in all fifty states and they are year-round residents in the state of Missouri.

They can be seen in all regions of the state and are most commonly seen in the south west. They are most common in the state during the winter months.

7. Northern Harrier

northern harrier





Life Expectancy

16 years


Rodents and small birds

This hawk is mostly very pale in colour, but they have small brown patches of feathers across their belly and plumage.

Their wings are covered with pale grey feathers. These birds are often sighted in areas of low vegetation, such as grasslands or wetland areas.

Northern Harriers rely mostly on their hearing when they hunt, this allows them to detect and catch their quick prey such as mice.

These birds are not monogamous, though most males only mate with one or two individuals per breeding season.

Both males and females become defensive of their nests, males tend to chase away other males whilst the females focus on defending their nests from other females.

These birds will sometimes stay in the state of Missouri throughout the year, but most are only in the state outside of their breeding seasons.

They have been sighted in all regions of the state with most of the sightings being in the south west 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!