Pennsylvania is a state that has plenty of hawk activity.
Boasting an amazing eight species of hawks commonly within the state, it is always possible to find at least one to watch in the right areas.
With its expansive natural areas and interesting animals, the hawk is able to freely hunt, nest, and live within this state. In fact, some of these birds are happy to call Pennsylvania home year-round!
In Pennsylvania, you can find a wide range of state parks that are absolutely perfect for birdwatching.
Many hawks are known to migrate and will leave this state when the cold sets in.
Still, birds from further north can be seen migrating across the state during this time instead.
Here is a list of all Hawk species in Pennsylvania.
What Hawks can be seen in Pennsylvania?
Table of Contents
1. Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Robins and Thrushes
The Sharp-Shinned Hawk is a fearsome predator known for its agile movement and unique preferences when hunting.
This beautiful bird is found in forested areas and enjoys building nests high up in the surrounding trees.
The male and females will actively work together to collect materials and bring together a nice and sturdy nest to hold their pale and blue-spotted eggs.
Spotting the Sharp-Sinned Hawk in Pennsylvania can be easier or more difficult depending on your birdwatching style.
On one hand, these unique birds are known to stay hidden in the trees among the branches and greenery during the breeding season in Spring and Summer.
This means that spotting them from a distance can be quite hard during this time of year. However, if you can enter the area they are breeding, you might just be in luck.
If you are looking for the easiest place to see this particular hawk in Pennsylvania, it is without question Hawk Mountain.
This global conservation is known for their unique ability to find, present, and educate people on the hawks in the area.
Otherwise, these interesting birds can be found hidden away in forests. However, when it is colder out, you can often find them closer to towns and populated areas.
In fact, it is possible to draw these interesting birds to your yard with the right protein sources.
2. Cooper’s Hawk
Up to 12 years
Small Birds, Mice & Squirrels
The Cooper’s Hawk is one of the more interesting hawks around because of its fierce protectiveness of its babies.
Though most animals are relatively committed to keeping their kids safe, the Cooper’s Hawk is incredibly dedicated to hiding their babies away.
These birds have been known to nest an astounding 50 feet off the ground, putting their nests well out of the way of interested parties.
Finding the Cooper’s Hawk generally involves waiting for nicer weather. In fact, you will be hard-pressed to spot them in a cold Pennsylvania Winter.
These birds are incredibly partial to warm weather and are generally more active during the warmer months. Depending on the severity of the season, they can sometimes be spotted closer to Canada.
The Cooper’s Hawk is another bird that can be readily found at the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, but that doesn’t mean you have to go there to see them.
These birds can generally be found on the edges of wooded areas. Though they do enjoy some good time spent in the forest, they are also a proud type of bird that has no qualms about being seen by humans.
You can spot them lingering on fence posts or watching with a sharp gaze from the trees in an area. Sometimes they even venture into more populated areas.
3. Northern Goshawk
Mammals, reptiles & insects
The Northern Goshawk is an elusive bird that is a point of significant interest among birding communities in Pennsylvania.
These secretive birds enjoy hiding away their nests in incredibly high trees, making it incredibly difficult to locate them.
These birds, often nesting in the tallest trees, use this as one of their many safety measurements. Generally, their nests are created by the females.
Sometimes they are even repaired from older nests since these birds seldom use the same nesting spot two years in a row. Every once in a while, the males have also been known to help with nesting efforts.
This particular type of bird is generally considered more active in Summer months.
However, it is a little hard to tell since they spend their time hidden away. In Summer, they tend to spend time in their designated habitats, but they are generally hard to find at any time of year.
The Northern Goshawk is such a secretive bird that the Pennsylvania Goshawk Project has asked for help locating some of them in recent years.
By pairing with birders, they hoped to find more evidence and confirmed sightings of this particular bird.
However, they continue to be hidden away in the forests around Pennsylvania. In fact, multiple projects of this type have been carried out with evidence revealing that they have a small nesting population in the state.
4. Red-Shouldered Hawk
Small mammals, reptiles & amphibians
The Red-Shouldered Hawk is a stunning predator that is known for its incredibly loud mating behaviors.
When these birds are seeking companionship and working out the dynamics of their nest-building process, they are known to be a bit loud about it.
It is fairly common for them to bother neighborhoods in the off chance that they end up moving in.
When it comes to spotting these beautiful birds in Pennsylvania, the best time of year is between Fall and Winter.
These adorable birds are known for their migratory behavior, and this is generally when they are out being more active in the Pennsylvania area. On average, roughly 500 of these birds have been spotted in a year around this time.
If you want to see one of these beautiful birds, your chances are much better in a somewhat wooded or wet area.
Even though they are known to visit some suburbs, the fact remains that there are plenty of other areas around the state for them to visit.
The Hawk Mountain sanctuary and other surrounding natural areas are an excellent place to begin seeking these birds out. The numbers change annually, so don’t be discouraged if you miss them on year.
5. Broad-Winged Hawk
Up to 20 years
Small mammals & insects
The Broad-Winged Hawk is known as a beautiful and shy bird who wants very little to do with people.
These wonderful birds are stunning creatures that enjoy living and nesting in the privacy of a nice forest.
Their nests can be found hidden away in dense woods, and they are known to spend as much time as possible away from populated areas.
These adorably secretive birds work together as a couple to build their perfect nest and wait for a single brood to arrive.
This particular hawk is known to spend time breeding in the late Spring well into Summer. As they mate, there can be more activity.
This is because the birds are actively seeking a partner, it is a time when they are known to spend more time exploring an area and being present.
It is also more common to hear them. Spotting one of them can be easier if you are in the right forest. However, in Pennsylvania, they are more commonly seen in the middle of September.
Witnessing these birds is a bit of a spectacle. On one hand, they are secretive and often spend time tucked away deep within forests with mature trees.
On the other, they are known for their bizarre flocking behaviour that puts them at odds with most other kinds of hawks. When they migrate for the colder months, it is possible to see them taking to the sky in large numbers.
6. Swainson’s Hawk
Mammals & Insects
The Swainson’s Hawk is an unassuming hawk that just wants to live its best life and eat lots of bugs.
These unique birds can be found creating perfectly flimsy nests that are somehow still able to support their eggs.
With their small and poorly designed nests, they are able to manage an area just long enough for their eggs to hatch and their baby birds to set out.
These are nests that almost never survive once the winds start coming in, so they are never reused.
These migratory birds are known to spend their time migrating when it gets cold out. Some are known to find Pennsylvania to be a bit cold for their liking, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t see them.
In fact, you might be able to see them in late Fall when it gets cold as they begin to migrate.
Pennsylvania doesn’t have an abundance of sightings, but this interesting bird has been known to grace certain areas with its presence. Allensville, Philadelphia, and Fort Washington park all have confirmed sightings.
You can generally find these birds in somewhat wooded areas looking for something nice to snack on or building a less than great nest.
7. Red-Tailed Hawk
Small mammals, mice & voles
The predatory Red-Tailed Hawk enjoys nothing more than a hearty supply of food options in its area.
In fact, this massive bird has been known to scare other animals away from a kill simply to cash in on some fresh food.
Unlike other birds, the Red-Tailed Hawk is known to appreciate all kinds of ledges and structures.
It will build its nests on billboards, window ledges, and even the odd cliff if it suits its needs.
Red-Tailed Hawks are known for their preference for the warmer weather.
Though it isn’t necessarily the cold that bothers them, they don’t appreciate it when their meals retreat from an area, leaving them bored and hungry.
For this reason, you are more likely to see them in warmer seasons, unless they are migrating from further north.
Fortunately or the avid birdwatcher, this particular bird is known for its massive numbers in Pennsylvania.
In fact, it is the most common bird in the area. You can spot it getting up early to chase down scurrying creatures or retiring to the forest for a quick rest during the day or at night.
Finding them is a matter of looking to all manner of tall perches. Light posts, tree lines, and other high structures are their preferred place to hang out.
This is even more true if they are set up in an area where food might be scurrying below.
8. Rough-Legged Hawk
Up to 18 years
This large hawk is known for its massive wingspan and interest in hunting.
As these birds enter their mating season, they are often found to carry out a special kind of dance in the air with elaborate displays that are important for attracting the right girl.
Though not all of the males do this, it is quite a spectacle to see them soaring through the air as they try to convince a special girl to build a nest with them.
Their nests are generally found on the tops of trees and high cliff edges, so it pays to have a bird that flies well.
Pennsylvania is far enough north to be graced with occasional visits from this beautiful hawk, but it is more commonly seen in the end of Fall and start of Winter.
It is not the most common hawk around, but most birdwatchers are thrilled when they catch sight of this massive bird.
During the warmer months, they are generally much further north and won’t be seen often in the United States.
When looking for this hawk, it is important to remember that it really enjoys small mammals and rodents.
Since this is the case, it is commonly seen soaring in the sky above open fields and other areas that give it a clear view of the bush below.
Since small mammals are known to enjoy ground-based vegetation, open areas like this are preferable for their hunting patterns. As a general rule, they are more easily found further north.
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!