Hawks In Ohio (8 Species with Pictures)

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

There are 8 different species of hawks that can be found in Ohio.

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

Ohio has a landscape that caters well to many North American hawks, since many of them like woodlands, grasslands, and water sources, and Ohio has plenty of all three of these. 

The most common of all the hawks found in Ohio is the Red-tailed hawk, which loves open fields, and you will regularly see them perched on roadside telephone poles overlooking fields. 

Some state parks where hawks are regularly seen in Ohio include, but are not limited to, Hocking Hills Maumee Bay

Maumee Bay State Park has a large hill, which is commonly used for sledding during cold Ohio winters, but during the spring and summer many bird watchers will use this hill as an ideal hawk watching location. 

Many hawk species are migratory, and some of these species travel south in the fall to escape cold Ohio winters, while others are able to brave the cold and stay throughout the year. 

Here is a list of all Hawk species in Ohio:

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

What Hawks can be seen in Ohio?

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 are smaller with rounder wings than many other hawk species. In fact, they are the smallest hawk species in the United States. 

Their belly has an orange shade to it, while their backs are mostly grey. Their most common food source is smaller birds, which they generally hunt mid-flight. 

Sharp-shinned hawks will also keep a close eye on suburban and rural bird feeders to hunt prey that visits the feeders. 

They have had a fluctuating population over the past few decades, and their population is currently declining, without a particular known reason as to why. 

They hunt by perching in trees, attempting to be unseen by prey below, before diving out of trees to catch the prey below. They are not commonly found around fields and grasslands and generally stick to wooded areas. 

They are migratory, so they’ll only be found in the northern half of the state during non-breeding months, they can be found in southern Ohio throughout the entire year.

When can this bird be seen in the state?

They can be seen in northern Ohio during non-breeding seasons and in southern Ohio throughout the entire year.

Where can this bird be seen in the state?

They like to live and hunt in forests and wooded areas. They can be found in any region of the state. You won’t see them in open areas. They also prey on bird feeders.

2. Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk





Life Expectancy

Up to 12 years


Small Birds, Mice & Squirrels

Cooper’s hawks share many similarities with the sharp-shinned hawk mentioned previously on this list. 

They go after their prey from covered perches, similar to sharp-shinned hawks, but Cooper’s hawks are much more willing to venture out into open areas to seek food. 

They share so many similarities because they are both part of the same subgroup of hawks, known as Accipiter hawks. Cooper’s hawks are slightly larger than sharp-shinned hawks. 

Young sharp-shinned hawks also bear a similar resemblance to Cooper’s hawks, but they are usually much smaller, still close enough to frequently get confused. 

They have a large range that encapsulates the majority of North America. They will hunt at bird feeders, just like sharp-shinned hawks. 

They also don’t have the orange coloring that sharp-shinned hawks have when they are full grown, so by the time sharp-shinned hawks are adults, they are easier to tell apart. 

They are agile in flight due to fast wing strokes and this allows them to easily fly through congested wooded areas where some larger and less agile hawks might struggle to fly.

When can this bird be seen in this state?

They are found throughout the entire year in Ohio.

Where can this bird be seen in this state?

They are found in every region of the state and they have a large range. They generally stick to wooded areas and have a tendency to stalk bird feeders.

3. Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk





Life Expectancy

7 Years


Mammals, reptiles & insects

The Northern Goshawks are large hawks with a unique appearance to them. They are slightly menacing with red eyes, a black swipe on the side of their heads, a black beak, a dark brown back, and black and white striped fronts. 

They are not easy to find in Ohio, but they can be found in the northern portion of the state near Lake Erie.

They live in forested and wooded areas and they stay high in the trees, which can make them difficult to spot. 

They are not picky when it comes to food and will eat just about anything they can sink their talons into, including birds, small mammals, carrion, and insects. 

Of all the Ohio hawks, Northern Goshawks are arguably the spookiest. They are also known for being intense hunters, often recklessly crashing into bushes or trees as they follow through on pouncing on their prey at high speeds.

When can this bird be seen in the state?

They can be seen in Ohio in the winter. They breed north of Ohio in Canada.

Where can this bird be seen in the state?

They can be seen in the northern part of the state along Lake Erie. At times they will wander further south, but very rarely.

4. Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-Shouldered Hawk





Life Expectancy

2 years


Small mammals, reptiles & amphibians

The red-shouldered hawk gets its name from the red-brown lines that line the upper part of its wings, which give it a red-shouldered appearance. 

They are large in comparison to other hawk species, and the females of this species are larger than the males. 

They have brown heads and light brown bellies with black and white checked wings. Their diet consists mostly of small mammals, which get as large as rabbits. 

Their color can alter depending on location, and in Ohio they are likely to have a lighter-colored appearance than in other parts of the country. 

They do not prefer to perch in trees that are alive, because the leaves can get in the way of their view of the forest floor below, where their food sources are found. 

They also are one of the few bird species that will return to its nest each year, they do not build new nests for each breeding season. 

Also, different from some hawks, red-shouldered hawks use their hearing as an aid in hunting, often relying on that just as much as their eyesight.

When can this bird be seen in the state?

The red-shouldered hawk can be seen in Ohio throughout the entire year.

Where can this bird be seen in the state?

The red-shouldered hawk can be seen all over Ohio. They can be found in dead trees in forests or swamps where they will scout the ground below for small mammals.

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 can only be found in Ohio throughout their breeding months, which covers April to August. 

After their breeding period, they will head south for the winter, often in massive groups that is shocking to see, with as many as thousands traveling at once. These large migratory groups are called “kettles.” 

Broad-winged hawks have a white chest with brown spots and a brown head and back and are small compared to most hawks. 

They like to stay near sources of water or near treelines, since they hunt in the edge effect zone of woods and near water banks. 

They also have an easily identifiable whistle that is eardrum-shattering and should be able to help you locate them easily if you hear it. 

They are hyper-protective of their young and always make sure there are no other hawks or birds of prey in a half a mile radius of their nest.

When can this bird be seen in the state?

They can be seen in Ohio from late spring to early fall during their breeding period. After that they will head south for migration in massive groups.

Where can this bird be seen in the state?

They can be seen all over Ohio during their breeding period, but they are much more common in the southern half of the state. Look for them in wooded areas near the edge of woods or near the edge of a source of water.

6. Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk


4 feet



Life Expectancy

16-19 years


Mammals & Insects

The Swainson’s hawk mostly resides in the western United States, but they are occasionally found on the east side of the country. 

There have been about 50 sightings of Swainson’s hawks in Ohio, so it would be a great find if you happened to stumble upon one. 

They are certainly a unique hawk, since you will not see these hawks perching high above looking for small mammals below. Instead, you will likely see them on the ground hunting for insects. 

Since Swainson’s hawks are native to grasslands and prairies of the western United States, trees are most likely not a usual fixture in their environment, which causes them to hunt on the ground for insects such as grasshoppers. 

They will eat small mammals like most hawks do, but usually only when they are breeding and need to feed their offspring. 

Although they are not regularly found in Ohio, if you do see one it will most likely be during their breeding season, since Ohio would not be anywhere near their migration track.

When can this bird be seen in the state?

The Swainson’s hawk will only be seen in Ohio during the breeding season, and even then, they are extremely rare in Ohio.

Where can this bird be seen in the state?

They are not an easy find by any means anywhere in Ohio, but if you see one it could very well be on the ground searching for insects.

7. Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk





Life Expectancy

10-15 years


Small mammals, mice & voles

One hawk that you should have no trouble finding in Ohio, or anywhere in North America for that matter, is the red-tailed hawk. 

They are the most common hawk in North America, with a North American population of nearly 2 million, which adds up to over 90% of the entire red-tailed hawk population. 

They live in Ohio year-round as well. They are known for being strong flyers with a steady and high soar. Since they soar so high, their vision has to be incredibly sharp to see the small rodents and mammals that they hunt for below. 

They stick to open areas and fields and can be seen sitting atop of roadside telephone poles, scouting the fields for mice, squirrels, or moles.

Their cry is gravelly and sharp, a cry that is often used in movies to represent the dinosaur raptors as opposed to the bird raptors. Although they are large, their weight is relatively low for how long they are.

When can this bird be seen in the state?

The red-tailed hawk can be seen throughout the entire year in Ohio. They are the most common hawk in Ohio.

Where can this bird be seen in the state?

The red-tailed hawk can be seen all over the state and it should not take you long to find one. Look for them soaring over an open field or sitting atop a telephone pole near a field.

8. Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough-Legged Hawk





Life Expectancy

Up to 18 years


Small rodents

 When comparing a rough-legged hawk to any other type of hawk, you will quickly understand where they get their name.

Their feathers, instead of stopping near their knees, go all the way to the tops of their feet. Their legs are like this because they nest in the Arctic, so the extra feathering is necessary to keep them warm in the blistering cold. 

They eat rodents in the Arctic and generally take this diet to their migratory locations as well, and they usually stick around fields and meadows, where they are most likely to find these rodents. 

They are also known as “rough-legged buzzards.” Their coloring has two variations, light and dark, and the two variations actually look fairly different.

Ohio is a migratory destination for rough-legged hawks (not a common migratory location, that is for sure), to give them a respite from the Arctic winters. It is hard to believe that an animal could think that Ohio winters are comfortable.

When can this bird be seen in the state?

Rough-legged hawks can only be found in Ohio during the winter months, since Ohio is a migratory location for them.

Where can this bird be seen in the state?

They can be seen anywhere in Ohio, but generally stick around meadows and fields where they can hunt for rodents, similar to what they hunt in the Arctic while breeding. 


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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!

3 thoughts on “Hawks In Ohio (8 Species with Pictures)”

  1. Thanks for putting together this great list! I just love shooting hawks with my camera.
    I came here looking to ID a pair of hawks that I didn’t recognize in a field near my home in central Ohio. They didn’t quite fit any so I kept looking. Turned out to be Northern Harriers which aren’t on your list. I thought maybe they technically weren’t a hawk but the Audubon site calls them as such. I thought I found something extremely rare but maybe not so much. Perhaps you may want to include them?

  2. Hi Stewie, thanks for the comment, you’re quite right! I have missed out the Northern Harrier, I will look to add it to the list asap! Thanks again.

  3. I just had a shinned hawk on our suet cake thingy, I am pretty persistent of keeping hawks out of our yard. Loud noises, chasing with brooms and throwing things at them ( I love my birds). But, I actually thought this was some kind of falcon (in the middle of woods?), so I just looked him over for a bit and then yelled at him, but it was pretty.

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