7 Hawks in Maine (With Pictures)

7 Hawks in Maine (With Pictures)

Maine, a state renowned for its rugged landscapes and diverse ecosystems, plays host to a fascinating array of bird species, and among them, hawks hold a prominent place in the avian hierarchy.

From the dense forests of the North Woods to the coastal marshes and farmlands, these majestic birds of prey grace the skies, capturing the hearts of both seasoned birdwatchers and casual nature enthusiasts alike.

This article delves into the captivating world of hawks in Maine, shedding light on their intriguing behaviors, seasonal patterns, and their status within the state.

As the seasons change, so do the roles of hawks in Maine’s ecological tapestry. Some, like the Northern Goshawk, Cooper’s Hawk, and Red-tailed Hawk, take on the responsibility of breeding and nurturing the next generation amidst the state’s lush woodlands.

Meanwhile, others, such as the Sharp-shinned Hawk and Rough-legged Hawk, embark on impressive migratory journeys, traversing vast distances to and from their wintering grounds. Join us on a soaring exploration of these awe-inspiring birds, as we uncover their stories, challenges, and contributions to the natural world of Maine.

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
  • State status: Breeding and common

The Red-Tailed Hawk stands as an iconic raptor across North America, found across a vast expanse of the continent. These hawks earn their name from their striking brick-red tail feathers, a vivid contrast to their overall dark plumage. With a robust and powerful physique, complete with formidable talons, they are well-suited for capturing a diverse range of prey.

Often, one can spot Red-Tailed Hawks gracefully gliding through the open skies, as they search for small mammals and birds. The countryside frequently resonates with their distinct “krreeeee” call, adding to the ambiance of their presence.

A Red-Tailed Hawk in flight

The Red-tailed Hawk, a symbol of the open skies, shows a preference for nesting in high places like cliff ledges or tall trees in Maine. Their nests are robust structures, built with sticks and lined with softer materials.

This choice of nesting site reflects their mastery of the skies and offers protection to their offspring. Their nesting behavior is a testament to their strength and determination, ensuring their legacy in the Maine skies.

The diet of the Red-tailed Hawk is as robust as its presence in the sky. These hawks primarily feed on small mammals like rodents, rabbits, and sometimes reptiles and other birds. Their hunting strategy is a mix of patience and power, often seen soaring high before diving down to capture their prey.

In the tapestry of Maine’s ecosystem, they play a crucial role in controlling rodent populations, maintaining ecological balance.

The Red-tailed Hawk in Maine has a conservation story marked by adaptability and resilience. These hawks have shown remarkable adaptability to changing environments, including urban areas. Conservation efforts are focused on

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
  • State status: Breeding and common

The Cooper’s Hawk, a North American bird of prey, boasts a sleek physique with a lengthy tail, distinguished by its captivating slate-grey upper plumage and conspicuous reddish breast bars.

These hawks showcase remarkable hunting agility, with a primary focus on avian prey within wooded habitats, employing their impressive speed and manoeuvring prowess to pursue their quarry.

While often mistaken for their close kin, the Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawks typically feature a larger stature and a tail that’s more rounded in shape.

A Cooper’s Hawk sitting on a stick

Cooper’s Hawks bring a touch of mystery to Maine’s woodlands with their nesting habits. Preferring dense foliage for cover, these hawks build their nests in the crooks of large tree branches.

The construction of their nests is a meticulous process, involving both mates, symbolizing their commitment and teamwork. These nests are not just structures but homes filled with the promise of new life and the continuation of their species.

The diet of Cooper’s Hawks is a vivid display of their hunting prowess. These birds are adept at catching medium-sized birds and small mammals, showcasing their versatility and adaptability.

In Maine’s varied landscapes, they demonstrate remarkable agility, weaving through trees and shrubs. Their diet is a reflection of the dynamic ecosystem they inhabit, playing a crucial role in maintaining the natural balance.

Conservation efforts for Cooper’s Hawks in Maine highlight the importance of understanding and protecting avian species. Historically, these hawks faced challenges from environmental pollutants and habitat loss. Current conservation strategies focus on habitat preservation and research to understand their ecological needs.

Cooper’s Hawks serve as a symbol of the resilience of nature and the importance of human stewardship in preserving the natural world.

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
  • State status: Migratory and common

The Sharp-shinned Hawk, a nimble and compact predator native to North America, is easily identifiable by its diminutive size, short wings, and elongated tail. These hawks exhibit a slate-grey upper plumage and finely barred underparts, showcasing their distinctive appearance.

Their hunting style is marked by swift and precise movements, making them adept bird hunters within densely wooded and suburban environments. Frequently mistaken for Cooper’s Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks feature slender bodies and tails with square ends, granting them exceptional manoeuvrability as they navigate through dense foliage.

A Sharp-Shinned Hawk flying over a lake

They prefer to nest in coniferous or mixed forests, often selecting secluded sites. These birds craft their nests with a blend of twigs and bark, creating a cozy cradle for their eggs. The parents share duties, with a deep-seated instinct to protect and nurture, ensuring the survival of their lineage in the wild Maine landscapes.

In the realm of diet, the Sharp-shinned Hawk is a specialist in aerial agility. These hawks predominantly prey on smaller birds, showcasing their remarkable hunting skills in mid-flight. They often surprise their prey, displaying a dance of predator and prey in the sky. Their diet reflects the fluidity and dynamism of nature, reminding us of the constant ebb and flow of life in the wild.

The conservation narrative of the Sharp-shinned Hawk in Maine is one of resilience and adaptation. These birds have faced challenges from habitat alteration and environmental changes.

Conservationists emphasize the importance of preserving their natural habitats and monitoring avian populations. Efforts include educating the public about the crucial role these hawks play in the ecosystem, advocating for a harmonious coexistence with these winged wonders.

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
  • State status: Breeding and common.

The Broad-winged Hawk, a renowned raptor, is celebrated for its eye-catching appearance and extensive presence across both North and South America. These are characterized by broad wings and a striking, distinctive pattern.

Adorned with a dark head, a chest adorned with reddish-brown bars, and white underparts adorned with black streaks, Broad-winged Hawks showcase their captivating plumage. As migratory birds, they often embark on their annual journey in large groups, a phenomenon known as the “kettle” flight.

Their eerie, high-pitched calls reverberate through the woodlands and open skies they frequently traverse.

A Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawks in Maine select their nesting sites with a preference for dense woodland cover. These relatively small hawks build compact nests, often in the crooks of tree branches.

Their choice of nesting sites reflects their need for seclusion and protection from predators. The nesting period is a time of intense care and protection, with both parents diligently involved in raising their young, embodying the essence of parental dedication.

The diet of Broad-winged Hawks mainly consists of small mammals, insects, and occasionally small reptiles and amphibians. Their hunting strategy is a blend of stealth and surprise, often ambushing their prey from a concealed perch.

This diverse diet reflects their adaptability and the role they play in controlling various prey populations. In Maine’s ecosystems, they contribute to the natural cycle of predator and prey, maintaining ecological balance.

The conservation narrative of the Broad-winged Hawk in Maine is centred around habitat preservation and understanding their migratory patterns. These hawks face challenges from habitat loss and environmental changes.

Conservation strategies include protecting their nesting and feeding habitats and monitoring their migration. The Broad-winged Hawk’s journey through the Americas is a marvel, highlighting the need for cross-border conservation efforts to protect these migratory birds.

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
  • State status: Migratory and rare

The Rough-Legged Hawk, a resident of northern regions, can be encountered in North America, Europe, and Asia. This hawk earns its name from its feathered legs, boasting a unique plumage characterized by a blend of light and dark markings.

With a generous wingspan and a graceful aerial demeanour, it frequently hovers as it scans open fields and marshes for potential prey. These hawks are exceptionally well-suited to frigid climates and have gained recognition for their remarkable hovering abilities while in pursuit of small mammals, such as voles and lemmings.

A Rough-Legged Hawk

The Rough-legged Hawk, a visitor to Maine’s winter skies, exhibits unique nesting behaviors. They typically nest in the Arctic tundra and migrate to Maine for winter. Their nesting sites are usually on cliffs or ground, a stark contrast to Maine’s forest-dwelling raptors.

This nomadic lifestyle reflects the adaptability and resilience of these hawks, thriving in vastly different environments and showcasing the diversity of raptor nesting behaviors.

In their winter habitat in Maine, Rough-legged Hawks’ diet primarily consists of small mammals, particularly lemmings and voles. Their hunting technique is adapted to open landscapes, often hovering in the air before swooping down on their prey.

This diet and hunting style highlight their role as skilled predators in different ecosystems, playing a crucial part in the natural regulation of prey populations.

The conservation story of the Rough-legged Hawk in Maine is interwoven with their migratory patterns. Efforts to protect these birds focus on preserving their winter habitats and understanding their migration routes. Challenges include habitat changes and climate-related impacts on their breeding grounds in the Arctic.

The Rough-legged Hawk’s presence in Maine each winter is a reminder of the global connectivity of ecosystems and the need for international conservation collaboration.

6. Northern Goshawk

  • Scientific name: Accipiter atricapillus
  • 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
  • State status: Breeding and rare

The Northern Goshawk, a formidable raptor found across the northern hemisphere in regions such as North America, Europe, and Asia, is a bird of imposing presence. Distinguished by its sturdy physique and piercing red eyes, the Goshawk sports a slate-grey back, underparts adorned with delicate bars, and a notable white eyebrow stripe.

These birds are celebrated for their exceptional hunting prowess, with a primary diet consisting of birds and mammals within dense forest habitats. Their commanding flight and razor-sharp talons establish them as apex predators in their respective territories.

A Northern Goshawk sitting on a log with its prey

The Northern Goshawk, a master of the Maine forests, weaves its life story high in the tree canopies. These birds are secretive architects, choosing tall trees for their sturdy nests. They meticulously construct their nests with twigs, creating a safe haven for their young.

During breeding, these raptors exhibit a fierce devotion to their nesting sites, often returning to the same area each year, nurturing their young with an almost regal diligence.

The Northern Goshawk’s diet is a testament to its prowess as a hunter. These birds of prey primarily feast on a variety of woodland creatures, including squirrels, rabbits, and other birds. Their keen eyesight and swift flight enable them to be formidable hunters. In the dense Maine woods, they glide silently, striking with precision and agility, embodying the spirit of the wild in every catch.

Conservation efforts for the Northern Goshawk in Maine have been a journey of respect and understanding. Historically, these birds faced challenges due to habitat loss and human interference.

However, ongoing conservation efforts focus on protecting their natural habitats and monitoring populations. These majestic birds of prey remind us of the delicate balance in nature and the importance of coexisting with our winged co-inhabitants.

7. Red-Shouldered Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo lineatus
  • Life span: Up to 12 years
  • Size: 18-20 inches (45-50 cm)
  • Weight: 12-26 ounces (350-740 g)
  • Wingspan: 40-48 inches (100-122 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and rare

The Red-Shouldered Hawk, an impressive bird primarily inhabiting North America, boasts a striking appearance with its vibrant plumage. They showcase rusty-red shoulders that create a captivating contrast with their white belly and barred chest. Their distinctive call, a resounding and prolonged “kee-aah,” often precedes their sighting.

Red-Shouldered Hawks make their homes in wooded environments, frequently near wetlands and streams, where they employ their keen eyes and robust talons to hunt for amphibians, reptiles, and small mammals.

A close-up photo of a Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawks in Maine are architects of the forest, crafting their nests in deciduous trees near water sources. Their choice of nesting site reflects their connection to both forest and water ecosystems. These nests, built with sticks and bark, cradle their young in a secure and nurturing environment.

The devotion of Red-shouldered Hawks to their offspring, with both parents involved in nest building and care, mirrors the beauty and complexity of nature.

The diet of the Red-shouldered Hawk is a mosaic of forest and aquatic life. These birds of prey primarily feed on small mammals, amphibians, and occasionally fish, reflecting their habitat’s diversity.

Their hunting strategy, often a stealthy approach near water bodies, showcases their adaptability and skill. In the food web of Maine’s ecosystems, they play a vital role in controlling prey populations, thus maintaining a delicate ecological balance.

Conservation efforts for the Red-shouldered Hawk in Maine focus on preserving the delicate ecosystems they inhabit. These hawks have faced challenges due to habitat fragmentation and environmental changes. Current conservation strategies include habitat protection and public education about the importance of these birds.

The Red-shouldered Hawk’s story is one of resilience, highlighting the importance of comprehensive conservation strategies to safeguard our natural heritage.

Where to find Hawks in Maine

These majestic birds of prey can be found across various habitats, from coastal regions to dense forests and open fields. To find hawks in Maine, one should look towards the sky, especially in areas with open fields or forest clearings, as hawks often soar or glide in search of prey.

  • A good starting point is Acadia National Park, a gem of the Northeast. Here, amidst the stunning landscapes, hawks can be observed riding the thermals over the rocky coastlines and dense woodlands. The park’s diverse ecosystems make it a haven for birdwatchers.
  • Another notable location is Baxter State Park, a wilderness area in northern Maine. Known for its breath-taking mountain views, the park’s high elevation areas, such as around Mount Katahdin, are excellent for spotting hawks, especially during their migration periods.
  • The Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge is another hotspot for hawk-watching. This refuge, with its unique coastal habitat, attracts a variety of hawk species, making it an ideal spot for bird enthusiasts.
  • Lastly, Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Maine is a must-visit. Its mix of forests, wetlands, and fields provides a perfect habitat for hawks, and its remote nature offers a serene birdwatching experience.

When searching for hawks, patience and a good pair of binoculars are essential. Early mornings or late afternoons are typically the best times for sightings, as hawks are most active during these periods.

Observing from a high vantage point can also increase your chances of spotting these magnificent birds as they engage in their aerial displays. Remember to respect the natural environment and maintain a safe distance to avoid disturbing these magnificent creatures.


In conclusion, hawks play a vital role in Maine’s ecosystem, contributing to its rich biodiversity and maintaining the delicate balance of nature. These magnificent birds of prey not only captivate us with their aerial prowess but also serve as valuable indicators of environmental health.

While facing various challenges, including habitat loss and pesticide exposure, efforts are being made to conserve and protect these raptors. Maine’s dedication to preserving its natural heritage underscores the importance of safeguarding these majestic creatures.

As we continue to appreciate and study hawks in Maine, we gain a deeper understanding of the interconnected web of life and the importance of preserving this unique part of our world.

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