In the state of Oklahoma, there are eight different species of hawk that can be seen.
- Cooper’s Hawks
- Red-tailed Hawks
- Red-shouldered Hawks
- Broad-winged Hawks
- Rough-legged Hawks
- Northern Goshawks
- Swainson’s Hawks
- Sharp-shinned Hawks
Now, let us look at these species in closer detail.
The state is popular for hawks due to its wide-open areas and its climate. The climate of this southern central state is a temperate subtropical climate.
This means that the winters in the state are mild and the summers are hot and humid.
There are 35 different state parks across Oklahoma and 3 different national parks. These 3 national parks each have their own affiliated areas.
What Hawks can be seen in Oklahoma?
Table of Contents
1. Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Robins and Thrushes
These hawks also have contrasting colours with the bellies of this bird being 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 not nest in places with little tree cover.
Sharp-shinned Hawks are classified as pursuit hunters and they consume mostly 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.
These birds can be seen throughout Oklahoma but only outside of their breeding seasons.
They are most abundant in winter and are most commonly recorded in the central regions of the state.
2. Cooper’s Hawk
Up to 12 years
Small Birds, Mice & Squirrels
Cooper’s Hawks have large heads and medium sized bodies.
Their feathers are dull colours, with their underbellies being covered in red barred feathers and their backs wings are a slate grey colour.
Whilst these birds prefer nesting in thick forests, they will nest in leafy suburbs and sightings of these hawks in these areas 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 behaviours.
These hawks are year-round residents in the states, including in Oklahoma where they can be seen in all regions of the state.
They are most common outside of their breeding seasons and most of the sightings have been recorded in the central regions of the state.
3. Northern Goshawk
Mammals, reptiles & insects
The Northern Goshawk has contrasting colours like many hawks.
They have dark feathers covering their wings and back whilst their belly and breast are covered with pale feathers.
These hawks will build their nests close to the canopy in mixed hardwood forests.
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.
These birds are more scarce in the state of Oklahoma but their range does extend across all state regions.
You will only see them outside of their breeding seasons and most commonly they have been reported in the north of the state.
4. Red-Shouldered Hawk
Small mammals, reptiles & amphibians
Red-shouldered Hawks are medium sized hawks with a peculiar checked feather pattern on its wings of white and dark feathers.
They have warm brown feathers on their underbellies and breasts. 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 birds are year-round residents of Oklahoma but only in the eastern half of the state.
You are most likely to see them just after their breeding seasons and they are most frequent in the south east of the state.
5. Broad-Winged Hawk
Up to 20 years
Small mammals & insects
As you may expect from the name, these hawks are known for their broad wings.
They have pale coloured bellies and brown feathers on their wings and heads.
These hawks are forest residents and will reside in woodland areas that are close to bodies of water if they can.
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.
You can only see these birds in Oklahoma during their migratory period.
However, they have been observed in all areas of the state during their migration. The most commonplace for sightings is in the eastern half of the state.
6. Swainson’s Hawk
Mammals & Insects
This bird has pale feathers on both its belly and breast whilst its back and wings are covered with brownish grey feathers.
Unlike lots of other hawks, these hawks prefer open areas such as grasslands rather than dense forests.
Swainson’s hawks mostly eat small mammals and will often hunt on foot, another unusual hawk behaviour.
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 only in the state during their breeding seasons and will migrate south for winter.
They can only be seen in the western half of the state with most recordings being in the south west of Oklahoma.
7. Red-Tailed Hawk
Small mammals, mice & voles
These birds are easily identifiable by their warm brown tail feathers that appear red in the sunlight.
Red-tailed hawks have been seen in a large variety of habitats but their most common are for nesting is in 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 hawks are the most abundant in America and can be seen in all areas of Oklahoma throughout the whole year.
They are most abundant outside of their breeding seasons and most sightings of this bird have been recorded in the north west of the state.
8. Rough-Legged Hawk
Up to 18 years
These hawks are known for their longer tail feathers and their smaller bill.
Rough-legged Hawks make their nests in open areas, usually in grasslands.
These hawks are active through the day, and hunt most frequently 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.
You can see these hawks in all state regions of Oklahoma but only outside of their breeding seasons.
They are most abundant in the state during the winter months and have been most commonly spotted in the north 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!