Hawks in New Jersey (7 Species with Pictures)

hawk in new jersey

In New Jersey, there are a large variety of hawks that have been sighted by bird watchers.

The hawks that can be found in the state of New Jersey are :

  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Red-Shouldered Hawk
  • Broad-Winged Hawk
  • Red-Tailed Hawk
  • Rough-Legged Hawk
  • Northern Goshawk
  • Sharp-Shinned Hawk

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Several of these hawks have been spotted in massive groups all at once.

The state of New Jersey has three very popular hawking spots as well as 50 different designated state parks and 4 different national parks.

New Jersey has what is classified as a moderate climate and this means that in the state there are warm summers and cold winters.

This is ideal for hawks that may need to migrate due to severe seasonal conditions.

Now that we’ve had a little look at the different species of hawk that reside in this state, lets look at the 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 New Jersey?

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

The bellies of this bird are pale brown in colour whilst their wings are covered in dark brown feathers.

These birds are most commonly seen in dense forest areas and will rarely nest in places with little tree cover.

Sharp-shinned Hawks are classified as pursuit hunters and most of their diet is made up of small species of songbirds.

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.

Very few individuals will stay in the state of New Jersey year-round, most of these hawks will only be seen outside of their breeding seasons.

There have been recorded sightings of this bird throughout the whole state but most of the common sightings appear to be along the eastern border 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 in comparison to their medium sized body.

Their underbellies are covered in red barred feathers and their backs wings are a slate grey colour.

Whilst these birds prefer nesting in thick forests, they have been seen nesting in leafy suburbs and sightings of these hawks in parks have become more common in recent years.

These birds have very fast and powerful flights when hunting for prey, they most commonly consume smaller species of birds.

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 behaviors.

These birds can be seen year-round in the state of New Jersey; however, some individuals only stray into the state during their breeding seasons.

Cooper’s Hawks have a relatively even distribution throughout the state, but most are spotted along the western border of the state.

3. Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk





Life Expectancy

7 Years


Mammals, reptiles & insects

The Northern Goshawk has dark feathers covering its wings and back whilst its belly and breast is covered with pale feathers.

These hawks will seek out nesting sites in mixed hardwood forest areas and will build their nests close to the canopy.

They will hunt using gliding flights but will occasionally also pursue their prey on foot.

Their prey is incredibly diverse, and they consume mammals, birds, amphibians and insects.

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.

Small amounts of these birds are year-round residents in New Jersey, but most are only present in the state outside of their breeding seasons.

They can be seen in all regions of the state, but they have most commonly been recorded in the northern half of the state.

4. Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-Shouldered Hawk





Life Expectancy

2 years


Small mammals, reptiles & amphibians

Red-shouldered Hawks are medium-sized hawks with checkered wings of white and dark feathers.

Their underbellies and breasts are covered in warm brown feathers. You can see these birds in forest areas, and they will often live close to flooded swamps.

These hawks hunt by hovering in circles and their prey mostly consists of small mammals.

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 be seen throughout all regions of New Jersey and they are permanent residents of the state.

They are most active during their breeding seasons and have been most commonly sighted in the eastern half 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

As you may expect from the name, these hawks have very wide and broad wings.

They have pale-colored bellies and brown wings and heads. These hawks are forest residents and will usually reside in woodland areas that are close to bodies of water.

They prefer to be as far away as they can from human activities and landscapes.

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.

These hawks can be seen throughout all areas of the state, but they can only be seen in New Jersey during their breeding seasons.

Most of the recorded sightings of this bird appear to be in the northern regions of the state.

6. Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk





Life Expectancy

10-15 years


Small mammals, mice & voles

These birds are easily identifiable by their warm brown tail feathers and their pale underwings and bellies.

Red-tailed hawks have been seen in a large variety of habitats and are most commonly found in areas of open woodlands.

When it comes to their territory, these birds are very defensive and can be very aggressive 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, more often than not, will stay together until an individual passes away.

These birds can be seen throughout the year in New Jersey and are residents of all regions of the state.

The recorded sightings of this bird are evenly distributed throughout the state, but most recorded sightings have been on the western border.

7. Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough-Legged Hawk





Life Expectancy

Up to 18 years


Small rodents

This is one of the larger species of hawk and they have longer tail feathers than most, but they do have a smaller bill.

Rough-legged Hawks make their nests in open areas, most commonly in grasslands. These hawks are active through the day, most commonly at dawn and dusk, their prey consists of small rodents such as voles.

Whilst the courtship display of this bird is very minimal in comparison to other species, these birds stay monogamous during their breeding seasons and have sometimes been observed nesting in their wintering grounds together.

This hawk is migratory and therefore can only be seen in New Jersey outside of their breeding seasons, most commonly in winter.

These birds have been seen throughout all regions of the state, but they appear to be least commonly sighted in the central areas 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!