12 Hawks in Arizona (With Pictures)

12 Hawks in Arizona (With Pictures)

Discover the majestic world of hawks in Arizona, where these awe-inspiring raptors soar through the vast skies and leave an indelible mark on the state’s diverse landscapes. From the iconic Red-tailed Hawk to the elusive Cooper’s Hawk, these avian predators showcase remarkable adaptations and unrivaled hunting prowess.

Unravel the secrets of their migratory patterns, nesting habits, and their crucial role in maintaining ecological balance.

Join us on a thrilling journey as we delve into the lives of these charismatic birds, and explore how Arizona’s unique habitats provide an ideal haven for these magnificent creatures to thrive and captivate our hearts.

1. Red-Tailed Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo jamaicensis
  • Life span: 10-15 years
  • Size: 19.7-25.6 in (50-65 cm)
  • Weight: 31.8-51.5 oz (900-1460 g)
  • Wingspan: 44.9-52.4 in (114-133 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern

The Red-tailed Hawk, widespread across North America, is one of the most recognizable raptors with its broad wings and stunning reddish-brown tail. Its striking plumage varies among subspecies, but generally features a pale underbelly and a dark-streaked upper body.

This majestic bird of prey is renowned for its keen eyesight and powerful hunting abilities, making it a formidable aerial predator.

A Red-Tailed Hawk sitting on a wooden post

The Red-tailed Hawk, a prominent raptor in Arizona, exhibits fascinating nesting behavior. During the breeding season, they establish their nests high in trees, offering excellent vantage points for spotting potential threats and prey.

They meticulously construct these nests using twigs, leaves, and other materials, creating a secure environment for their young. Their courtship displays involve aerial acrobatics, demonstrating their strong bond with their mates

The Red-tailed Hawk’s diet reflects its adaptability as a skilled predator. It primarily preys on small mammals like rodents and rabbits, but it also includes reptiles, birds, and even carrion.

They are known for their soaring flights and keen eyesight, enabling them to detect movements on the ground from great heights. Once spotted, they dive down with impressive speed and accuracy to catch their prey.

Over the years, conservation efforts for the Red-tailed Hawk have been crucial in maintaining stable populations in Arizona. While once targeted for persecution and habitat destruction, these majestic raptors are now protected by various laws and conservation initiatives.

The establishment of protected areas, combined with public education and advocacy, has contributed to their conservation success, ensuring the Red-tailed Hawk’s presence as a symbol of strength in Arizona’s skies.

2. Cooper’s Hawk

  • Scientific name: Accipiter cooperii
  • Life span: 12 years
  • Size: 14.6-15.3 in (37-39 cm)
  • Weight: 7.8-14.5 oz (220-410 g)
  • Wingspan: 24.4-35.4 in (62-90 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern

Found throughout North America, Cooper’s Hawk boasts a medium-sized body and a striking appearance. With rounded wings and a long, rounded tail, it excels at aerial acrobatics and high-speed chases. The adult birds showcase blue-gray backs, reddish barring on the breast, and distinctive red eyes, while juveniles display brown plumage with streaks.

A Cooper’s Hawk eating its prey on a branch

Cooper’s Hawks have demonstrated remarkable adaptability to urban environments in Arizona. While they do nest in traditional woodland areas, they have also become increasingly prevalent in suburban and urban settings. Their nests are often concealed high in trees, blending seamlessly with their surroundings. During the breeding season, they engage in impressive courtship displays, which involve aerial displays and mutual food-sharing between mates.

Cooper’s Hawks are skilled bird hunters, and their diet primarily consists of other birds. They are known for their quick bursts of speed and agility, allowing them to ambush their avian prey. In urban areas, they frequently target backyard bird feeders, making them both admired and occasionally unwelcome guests among bird enthusiasts.

The adaptability of Cooper’s Hawks to urban environments has led to both challenges and opportunities for conservation. Urbanization can lead to conflicts with humans and poses risks from collisions with buildings and vehicles.

Conservation efforts have focused on promoting coexistence with these hawks, encouraging responsible bird feeding practices and raising awareness about the benefits of maintaining balanced ecosystems in urban settings.

3. Sharp-Shinned Hawk

  • Scientific name: Accipiter striatus
  • Life span: 5 years
  • Size: 9.4-13.4 in (24-34 cm)
  • Weight: 3.1-7.7 oz (87-218 g)
  • Wingspan: 16.9-22.1 in (43-56 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a small but agile accipiter, inhabiting North America. Its sleek and slender build aids its prowess in manoeuvring through dense forests and capturing swift prey. Its distinguishing features include short, rounded wings and a long, squared-off tail. Often secretive, this bird’s cryptic plumage offers effective camouflage in its woodland habitat.

This Sharp-Shinned Hawk seems to have spotted the cameraman

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is renowned for its secretive nesting behavior, often hidden away in dense forests. They construct their nests using sticks and foliage, carefully camouflaging them to avoid detection. During the breeding season, they are solitary birds, except for their devoted pair bonds. They exhibit impressive agility and maneuverability while navigating through dense vegetation to reach their nests.

This hawk species is a skilled avian predator, preying primarily on smaller birds. Their sharp talons and hooked beaks allow them to efficiently capture their prey. They are known for their rapid and stealthy flights, surprising their unsuspecting victims. While they mainly hunt in forests, they may venture into urban areas with abundant bird populations.

Sharp-shinned Hawks have faced challenges due to habitat loss and human disturbance. However, conservation efforts have focused on preserving their forested habitats and raising awareness about the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems. Bird enthusiasts and researchers have played a significant role in monitoring their populations and ensuring that they thrive in their natural habitats.

4. Broad-Winged Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo platypterus
  • Life span: 12 years
  • Size: 13.4-17.3 in (34-44 cm)
  • Weight: 9.3-19.8 oz (265-560 g)
  • Wingspan: 31.9-39.4 in (81-100 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern

Nesting in eastern North America, the Broad-winged Hawk is renowned for its remarkable migration in large flocks. This medium-sized raptor showcases a distinctive dark-bordered tail and broad, rounded wings, ideal for soaring over vast distances. Its underparts are marked with alternating dark and light bands.

Close-up photo of a Broad-Winged Hawk

Nesting Behavior: Broad-winged Hawks are known for their remarkable migratory behavior. During the nesting season in Arizona, they construct their nests in deciduous forests, favouring large trees with dense foliage.

Their nests are typically well-hidden and provide a secure environment for rearing their young. However, their nesting habits in Arizona are temporary, as they undertake long-distance migrations to South America during the winter.

Their diet consists of a variety of small prey, such as insects, reptiles, and small mammals. While nesting in Arizona, they primarily rely on the abundant supply of insects found in the region. During migration, their diet shifts to accommodate the availability of food sources along their journey.

Conservation efforts for Broad-winged Hawks have emphasized the need to protect their nesting and wintering grounds throughout their extensive migratory range. Researchers and conservation organizations work together to monitor their populations, track migration routes, and advocate for habitat conservation.

Public engagement in citizen science initiatives has also been valuable in gathering data and promoting the importance of preserving these migratory marvels.

5. Rough-Legged Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo lagopus
  • Life span: Up to 15 years
  • Size: 18-20 in (46-51 cm)
  • Weight: 1.5-3.25 lbs (680-1470g)
  • Wingspan: 52-54 inches (132-137 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern

Thriving in Arctic and subarctic regions, the Rough-legged Hawk is a large bird with a distinct feathered facial disk, giving it an owl-like appearance. This adaptation helps it withstand cold temperatures. In flight, its wings feature a characteristic black carpal patch, while its tail is adorned with a contrasting dark band.

A Rough-Legged Hawk sitting on the snowy ground

The Rough-legged Hawk, though not a permanent resident in Arizona, occasionally visits the state during the winter months. During their breeding season in the Arctic tundra, they build nests on cliffs and rocky outcrops, offering a secure vantage point for observing their surroundings. Their nests are constructed using twigs, grass, and feathers, providing protection against the harsh Arctic weather.

In the Arctic, Rough-legged Hawks primarily feed on lemmings, voles, and other small mammals. However, during their winter visit to Arizona, their diet may shift to include small rodents and occasionally birds. Their keen eyesight allows them to spot prey from great distances while soaring through the open landscapes.

The conservation of Rough-legged Hawks mainly centers on their breeding grounds in the Arctic. Preservation efforts focus on protecting the fragile tundra ecosystems and reducing disturbances caused by human activities. In Arizona, their temporary presence highlights the importance of maintaining a balanced and healthy ecosystem that supports the wintering needs of these Arctic visitors.

6. Northern Goshawk

  • Scientific name: Accipiter gentilis
  • Life span: Up to 15 years
  • Size: 24-29 in (61-74 cm)
  • Weight: 1.5-3 lbs (680-1360g)
  • Wingspan: 45-52 in (114-132 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern

Widely distributed across the Northern Hemisphere, the Northern Goshawk is an impressive, robust bird of prey. Known for its aggressive and fearless nature, it exhibits a slate-gray upper body, white underparts with fine barring, and striking red eyes. This formidable hunter prefers densely forested regions as its primary hunting ground.

A Northern Goshawk plucking its feathers

The Northern Goshawk is a secretive bird of prey that nests in the dense coniferous forests of Arizona. Their nests are typically located high in the trees, providing a commanding view of their surroundings. They are solitary birds during the breeding season, fiercely defending their nesting territories.

These skilled predators have a diverse diet, consisting mainly of birds and small mammals. They are known for their silent and stealthy flights, which allow them to surprise their prey from above. Their strong talons and powerful beaks enable them to swiftly subdue their catch.

Northern Goshawks have faced challenges due to habitat loss and human disturbances, particularly in their forested nesting areas. Conservation efforts have focused on promoting sustainable forestry practices and maintaining undisturbed habitats for these elusive forest phantoms. The protection of large tracts of mature forests and the establishment of conservation areas have been essential in safeguarding their populations in Arizona.

7. Swainson’s Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo swainsoni
  • Life span: Up to 15 years
  • Size: 18-22 inches (46-56 cm)
  • Weight: 1.4-2.4 pounds (650-1,100 g)
  • Wingspan: 47-59 inches (119-150 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern

Known for its extensive migration, Swainson’s Hawk breeds across North and South America. This medium-sized hawk exhibits a characteristic white throat patch bordered by a dark stripe, enhancing its distinctive appearance. During migration, vast numbers of these birds gather in “kettles” before soaring across continents.

A Swainson’s Hawk sitting on an electrical pole

Swainson’s Hawks are fascinating migratory birds that undertake an incredible journey between North and South America. During their nesting season in Arizona, they construct nests in the open landscapes of prairies and grasslands, using sticks and other materials. Their nests are often located on utility poles and trees.

Swainson’s Hawks are primarily insectivorous, and their diet mainly consists of large insects, such as grasshoppers and locusts. During migration, they rely on the abundant insect populations found along their route. However, they may also opportunistically feed on small mammals and reptiles.

Swainson’s Hawks face various threats during their migration, including habitat loss and exposure to pesticides. Conservation efforts aim to protect their breeding and wintering grounds, promote the responsible use of pesticides, and reduce collisions with man-made structures during migration. International collaborations are vital in ensuring the successful conservation of these cross-continental voyagers.

8. Ferruginous Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo regalis
  • Life span: Up to 20 years
  • Size: 22-27 inches (56-69 cm)
  • Weight: 2.6-4.4 pounds (1.2-2 kg)
  • Wingspan: 52-55 inches (132-140 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern

Native to North America, the Ferruginous Hawk is one of the largest buteos. Named after its rust-coloured plumage (“ferruginous” meaning “rust-coloured”), this majestic bird showcases a pale head and underparts. In flight, its wings reveal strikingly pale leading edges.

A Ferruginous Hawk sitting on a telephone pole

The Ferruginous Hawk is well adapted to nesting in the vast grasslands of Arizona. They construct their nests on the ground, often under the protection of shrubs or bushes, which provides excellent concealment for their young. Their nests are made from sticks, grass, and feathers, offering a cozy shelter for their chicks.

As a top predator in grassland ecosystems, Ferruginous Hawks primarily feed on ground squirrels, prairie dogs, rabbits, and other small mammals. Their keen eyesight and broad wings enable them to soar at great heights, scanning the expansive grasslands for potential prey. They may also opportunistically scavenge on carrion.

The conservation of Ferruginous Hawks centers on the preservation and restoration of their grassland habitats. Agricultural expansion and urban development have led to habitat loss, putting pressure on their populations. Conservationists work to protect grasslands, implement sustainable land management practices, and mitigate threats like pesticide use to ensure the long-term survival of these grassland guardians.

9. Common Black Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteogallus anthracinus
  • Life span: 10 – 15 years
  • Size: 18 – 22 inches / 46 – 56 cm
  • Weight: 1.5 – 2.2 lbs / 0.7 – 1 kg
  • Wingspan: 42 – 48 inches / 107 – 122 cm
  • Status: Least Concern

Occupying riparian habitats in southwestern North America, the Common Black Hawk is a striking bird with a predominantly black plumage, contrasting with a white tail and rump. Its long legs and strong talons reflect its preference for hunting near water bodies, where it primarily feeds on fish and other aquatic prey.

A Common Black Hawk sitting in vegetation

The Common Black Hawk is an emblematic raptor of riparian habitats in Arizona. These hawks build their nests near water bodies, such as rivers and streams, often selecting locations with overhanging branches or rock ledges. Their nests are constructed from sticks and lined with softer materials for comfort. Their choice of nesting sites reflects their dependence on riparian ecosystems.

As riparian guardians, Common Black Hawks primarily feed on aquatic prey. They are skilled fishers and are known for their adeptness at catching fish, crustaceans, and amphibians from the water’s surface. They use their powerful talons to snatch their prey while in flight or during perched hunting.

The conservation of Common Black Hawks is intertwined with the preservation of healthy riparian habitats. These vital ecosystems face threats from habitat degradation, water diversion, and human disturbance. Conservation efforts focus on protecting and restoring riparian areas, ensuring water quality, and implementing measures to mitigate the impact of human activities on these precious habitats.

10. Harris’s Hawk

  • Scientific name: Parabuteo unicinctus
  • Life span: 12 – 18 years
  • Size: 18 – 30 inches / 46 – 76 cm       
  • Weight: 1.6 – 2.6 lbs / 0.7 – 1.2 kg
  • Wingspan: 40 – 46 inches / 102 – 117 cm
  • Status: Least Concern

Notable for its unique social behavior, Harris’s Hawk is found in the Americas. Its appearance includes a rufous shoulder patch, dark wingtips, and a white-tipped tail. This species exhibits remarkable cooperative hunting, with family groups often working together to capture prey.

A Harris Hawk sitting on a pole

Harris’s Hawks are unique among raptors for their cooperative nesting behavior. They are social birds, often seen in family groups known as “packs.” During the breeding season, multiple adult birds, typically offspring from previous years, assist in raising the young. They construct their nests in trees or on cacti, using sticks and lining them with softer materials.

As versatile hunters, Harris’s Hawks have a varied diet that includes small mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects. Their hunting strategy often involves cooperative hunting, where family members work together to encircle and capture prey on the ground or in the air. This cooperative hunting behavior is rare among raptors and sets them apart as highly intelligent and adaptable predators.

Harris’s Hawks have adapted well to human-altered landscapes, and their populations have remained relatively stable. However, some localized threats still exist, such as habitat loss and accidental poisoning from pesticides. Conservation efforts primarily focus on maintaining suitable habitats and raising awareness about the importance of preserving these unique birds and their cooperative behaviors.

11. Gray Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo plagiatus
  • Life span: 10 – 15 years
  • Size: 16 – 18 inches / 41 – 46 cm
  • Weight: 9.3 – 13.4 oz / 265 – 380 g
  • Wingspan: 35 – 40 inches / 89 – 102 cm
  • Status: Least Concern

The Gray Hawk, prevalent in Central and South America, is a stunning raptor with a distinctive slate-gray plumage. Its tail is marked by broad black and white bands, making it a striking feature in flight. Preferring wooded areas near water, this bird often hunts reptiles and small mammals.

A close up photo of a Gray Hawk

The Gray Hawk is a resident of riparian and woodland habitats in Arizona. They build their nests in the dense foliage of trees, typically near water sources. Their nests are constructed from twigs and lined with softer materials. Gray Hawks are highly territorial during the breeding season, vigorously defending their nesting sites from intruders.

Gray Hawks primarily feed on small mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects. Their hunting style often involves perching in concealed locations and swooping down swiftly to capture their prey. They have excellent eyesight, allowing them to spot movements in the undergrowth from their elevated perches.

While Gray Hawk populations are generally stable, they face threats from habitat loss due to urbanization and agricultural expansion. Conservation efforts focus on protecting their woodland and riparian habitats, implementing responsible land-use practices, and monitoring their populations to ensure their continued presence in Arizona’s diverse landscapes.

12. Zone-tailed Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo albonotatus
  • Life span: 10 – 15 years
  • Size: 16 – 19 inches / 41 – 48 cm
  • Weight: 19.8 – 25.2 oz / 562 – 714 g
  • Wingspan: 37 – 43 inches / 94 – 109 cm
  • Status: Least Concern

Residing in parts of the United States and Central America, the Zone-tailed Hawk possesses unique mimicry. With plumage resembling the common Turkey Vulture, it subtly camouflages itself while hunting small animals. However, unlike vultures, it is a predatory bird with sharper talons and beaks.

Zone-tailed Hawk

The Zone-tailed Hawk is a master of mimicry, resembling the Common Black Hawk in appearance. They exploit this resemblance to their advantage by imitating the black hawk’s silhouette while hunting. They construct their nests in various habitats, including forests and canyons, typically using sticks and lining them with leaves and other materials.

The Zone-tailed Hawk’s diet primarily consists of small mammals, birds, reptiles, and occasionally carrion. Their hunting behavior involves soaring stealthily and surprisingly swooping down to capture their prey, often using their mimicry to approach unsuspecting prey.

Zone-tailed Hawks are relatively elusive, and their populations are not as well studied compared to other raptor species. While they are not currently considered endangered, their conservation status requires further research and monitoring. Protecting diverse habitats and promoting public awareness about these unique hawks contribute to their conservation and continued existence.

Where to find Hawks in Arizona

In Arizona, hawks can be found in various habitats across the state, providing fantastic opportunities for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts to observe these majestic raptors in their natural environment.
Here are some good areas to start looking:

  • Sky Islands Region: This mountainous area, encompassing locations like the Chiricahua Mountains and Santa Rita Mountains, is a hotspot for hawk sightings. Visitors can spot species like the Zone-tailed Hawk and Northern Goshawk, among others, soaring through the canyons and wooded slopes.
  • Verde Valley: Located near Sedona, the Verde Valley and its surrounding riparian habitats attract hawks like the Harris’s Hawk and Red-tailed Hawk. Look for them perched on utility poles or gliding above the Verde River.
  • Southwestern Desert: In the Sonoran Desert regions, keep an eye out for hawks like the Harris’s Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, and Red-tailed Hawk. These arid landscapes offer glimpses of these impressive birds hunting and perched on cacti or trees.
  • Grasslands and Prairies: The southeastern grasslands of Arizona, including locations like Willcox Playa and San Pedro River Valley, are excellent places to spot soaring hawks. Keep watch for Ferruginous Hawks, Swainson’s Hawks, and other migratory species during their seasonal travels.

When searching for hawks, it’s essential to maintain a respectful distance and avoid disturbing their natural behavior. Many of these areas also offer interpretive centers and designated viewpoints, making it easier for visitors to observe hawks while minimizing any potential impact on their habitats.


Arizona’s diverse landscapes offer an enchanting haven for hawks, providing birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts with remarkable opportunities to witness the grace and majesty of these powerful raptors.

From the soaring mountains to the riparian valleys, the state’s varied habitats host an array of hawk species throughout the year. As we marvel at their aerial displays and predatory prowess, let us also embrace our role as stewards of their habitats, ensuring that these magnificent birds continue to thrive and grace Arizona’s skies for generations to come.

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