Hawks in South Carolina (6 Species with Pictures)

hawks in south carolina

There are six species of hawks you can see in South Carolina.

These are:

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

South Carolina is a state in the southeast of America and is well known for its historic influence.

The climate of this state is subtropical meaning that it is a humid state that has mild winters and long, hot summers.

This kind of climate makes it ideal to be the home of different hawk species. It also has 47 different state parks and 1 national park.

The most abundant of these species is the Red-tailed Hawk.

Let’s have a look at each of these birds in individual detail.

What Hawks can be seen in South Carolina?

Table of Contents

1. Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Sharp-Shinned Hawk” by ‘Dennis Murhpy‘ is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Wingspan

43-56cm

Weight

87-218g

Life Expectancy

3 years

Diet

Robins and Thrushes

This hawk is covered in different shades of brown feathers whilst their bellies have pale brown feathers, but their wings are dark brown in colour.

These birds will only nest in dense forests and you will not see them in areas of open woods or parks.

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.

You can only see these birds in South Carolina outside of their breeding seasons and they are most common in the state in winter.

Most of the recorded sightings of this bird are concentrated in the south east of the state.

2. Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Wingspan

62-90cm

Weight

330-680g

Life Expectancy

Up to 12 years

Diet

Small Birds, Mice & Squirrels

Cooper’s Hawks have a very standard colour palette that covers their medium sized bodies.

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

Whilst these birds prefer dense forests, they have been spotted in leafy suburban park areas.

These birds have use powerful flights when hunting for prey, they have a wide diet but 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 birds are year-round residents in the state of South Carolina and can be seen in all areas of the state.

They are most active during their breeding seasons and most common in winter. Most of the sightings of this bird are concentrated in the north west of the state.

3. Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-Shouldered Hawk

Wingspan

94-111cm

Weight

486g-774g

Life Expectancy

2 years

Diet

Small mammals, reptiles & amphibians

Red-shouldered Hawks are medium sized hawks that have a checked pattern of feathers across their body in colours of white, brown and black.

Their underbellies and breasts are covered in warm brown feathers as well as their shoulders, hence the name.

You can see these birds in areas closest to swamps, but they will nest in a variety of woodlands.

These hawks mostly consume small mammals and hunt by hovering in circles over their 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 court a female by performing a ‘sky dance’.

These birds are permanent residents in the state of South Carolina, and they are least seen during their breeding seasons.

They have been seen in all areas of the state but most of the sightings are in the east of the state.

4. Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad Winged Hawk” by ‘Felipe Uribe‘ is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Wingspan

81-100cm

Weight

265g-560g

Life Expectancy

Up to 20 years

Diet

Small mammals & insects

As you may expect from the name, these hawks are known for their widely shaped, broad wings.

They have pale colors of feathers on their bellies and brown feathers on their wings and heads.

These hawks make their nests most commonly in areas close to bodies of water, but they will nest in any areas of dense forests.

They prefer to be as far away as they can from human activities and landscapes so will not be seen in urban areas.

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, but they are all monogamous.

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

These migratory hawks can only be seen in South Carolina during their breeding seasons.

Their range extends across all of the states with most of the sightings being concentrated in the southern regions of South Carolina.

5. Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk

Wingspan

114-133cm

Weight

900-1460g

Life Expectancy

10-15 years

Diet

Small mammals, mice & voles

These birds are easily identifiable by the rusty coloured tail feathers which give them their name.

They also have pale feathers on their underwings and bellies.

Red-tailed hawks have been seen in a large variety of habitats, but they prefer to nest in areas of open woodlands.

When it comes to their territory, these birds are very defensive and have been known to 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 have their own territory. Many hawks cannot find territories as they are only allowed to enter once a member of a breeding pair dies.

This is the most abundant species of hawk on the list and they can be seen in all areas of South Carolina.

They are at their most common during the winter months and most of the sightings of this bird are in the east of the state.

6. Northern Harrier

northern harrier

Wingspan

120cm

Weight

390g

Life Expectancy

16 years

Diet

Rodents and small birds

This hawk has a white coloured belly, and they have small brown patches of feathers across their belly and plumage.

They have pale grey feathers covering their wings. 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 which helps them to detect and catch their quick prey such as mice.

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

Both males and females become defensive of their nests and will chase away any birds that get too close. 

These birds are most commonly seen in South Carolina in winter but can be seen in the state any time outside of their breeding season.

They have been recorded in all areas of the state with sightings most commonly being recorded in the eastern half 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!