13 Hawks in New Mexico (With Pictures)

13 Hawks in New Mexico (With Pictures)

Nestled within the captivating landscapes of New Mexico, a realm of majestic hawks unfolds. These aerial predators, with their keen eyesight and remarkable adaptations, command the skies and forests of this diverse southwestern state.

From the iconic Red-tailed Hawk to the elusive Ferruginous Hawk, New Mexico offers a haven for a remarkable variety of hawk species. Whether soaring above the rugged canyons or perched atop ancient trees, these raptors symbolize the wild spirit of the region.

Join us as we delve into the lives and behaviours of these fierce hunters, uncovering their crucial role in the delicate tapestry of New Mexico’s ecosystems.

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

Spanning across North America, the Red-tailed Hawk stands as an instantly recognizable raptor, distinguished by its expansive wings and captivating reddish-brown tail. While the specific colouration of its plumage varies across subspecies, a common thread is found in its pale underbelly and intricately streaked upper body.

Esteemed for its exceptional visual acumen and potent hunting prowess, this regal avian predator commands the skies with unmatched authority.

A Red-Tailed Hawk in flight

Come breeding season, they choose elevated tree locations to construct their nests, providing an advantageous view for potential threats and prey. Using twigs, leaves, and other materials, these nests are thoughtfully built to offer a secure environment for their young. Their courtship displays involve impressive aerial manoeuvres, solidifying their bond with their mates.

Adapting their diet to various prey, the Red-tailed Hawk displays its versatility as a skilled predator. Though small mammals like rodents and rabbits constitute their primary food source, reptiles, birds, and even carrion also make their way onto the menu. Employing soaring flights and acute vision, they spot ground movements from considerable heights and swiftly dive to seize their prey.

Conservation endeavours have played a crucial role in maintaining stable Red-tailed Hawk populations in New Mexico. Once subject to persecution and habitat loss, these raptors now benefit from legal protections and focused conservation initiatives.

Protected areas, along with education and advocacy, contribute to their revival. The resilient presence of the Red-tailed Hawk signifies not only their strength but also the effectiveness of collaborative efforts in safeguarding New Mexico’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

Distributed across the expanse of North America, the Cooper’s Hawk presents a notable presence, marked by its medium-sized physique and captivating visage. Displaying rounded wings and an elongated, gently curving tail, this species adeptly navigates the skies, showcasing exceptional aerial manoeuvres and adeptness in swift pursuits.

Adult specimens are characterized by their blue-grey dorsal region, accompanied by reddish barring on the breast and discernibly vivid red eyes. In contrast, juvenile Cooper’s Hawks present a different aesthetic, adorned in brown plumage adorned with streaks.

Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper’s Hawks have demonstrated impressive flexibility when it comes to adapting to urban landscapes within New Mexico. While their nesting habits traditionally aligned with woodland areas, they’ve progressively established a notable presence in suburban and urban domains.

Concealing their nests high in trees, they effortlessly blend into their surroundings. During breeding periods, their courtship rituals are a sight to behold, featuring aerial displays and the mutual exchange of food between partners.

Skillful avian predators, Cooper’s Hawks primarily target other birds for sustenance. Employing swift bursts of speed and remarkable agility, they execute ambush tactics on their feathered prey. In urban regions, they often direct their attention to backyard bird feeders, earning a dual reputation as admired visitors and, at times, less-than-welcome guests among bird enthusiasts.

The adaptability of Cooper’s Hawks to urban settings offers a mix of challenges and opportunities for conservation. Urban expansion can trigger human conflicts and heighten risks of collisions with structures and vehicles.

Conservation initiatives prioritize harmonious cohabitation with these hawks by advocating responsible bird feeding practices and promoting awareness about the advantages of nurturing balanced ecosystems within urban contexts.

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

Residing within North America, the Sharp-shinned Hawk is a compact yet highly nimble accipiter. Its streamlined and slender physique enhances its ability to expertly navigate through thick forests and swiftly seize its prey. Notable characteristics encompass its truncated, rounded wings and a lengthy, squared-off tail. This avian species often harbours a secretive disposition, and its inconspicuous plumage serves as a clever camouflage within its wooded home.

This Sharp-Shinned Hawk sitting on a cut-down tree

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is notably recognized for its inclination toward concealed nesting behaviours, often selecting secluded spots within dense forests. Their nests are meticulously crafted using twigs and foliage, masterfully hidden to evade prying eyes.

Throughout the breeding season, they embrace solitude, except for their strong pair bonds. Their exceptional agility and adept manoeuvring abilities become evident as they navigate dense vegetation en route to their concealed nests.

Adept avian predators, these hawks primarily target smaller birds as their prey. Their keen talons and hooked beaks facilitate swift and effective capture. Employing rapid and surreptitious flights, they take their unsuspecting prey by surprise. Though predominantly forest hunters, they may venture into urban territories rich in avian populations.

Sharp-shinned Hawks have confronted challenges stemming from habitat loss and human disruptions. However, conservation endeavours emphasize the safeguarding of their wooded habitats and promoting awareness about the significance of upholding robust ecosystems.

The dedication of bird enthusiasts and researchers plays a pivotal role in monitoring their populations and ensuring their thriving existence in their natural enclaves.

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

The Broad-Winged Hawk, a forest-dwelling raptor, ranges across North America, from southern Canada to Central America during migration. With a compact build and rounded wings, it often displays a distinct broad white band on its tail. Its brown upperparts and streaked underparts facilitate camouflage.

This hawk is known for its high-pitched call that resonates through the woods, alerting other creatures to its presence.

A Broad-Winged Hawk taking off

The Broad-Winged Hawk’s nesting behavior is a testament to its reclusive nature. Constructing well-hidden nests in the heart of thick forests, these hawks prefer seclusion for raising their young. Their diligent parental care and cautious approach ensure the safety of their vulnerable chicks, making their nesting sites a remarkable display of avian devotion.

Feasting on small mammals and birds, the Broad-Winged Hawk is a swift and adept hunter. Its menu varies with the changing seasons, showcasing an adaptable palate that shifts from rodents to insects and back again. This dietary flexibility enables the hawk to thrive in diverse environments, making it a skilled opportunist of the avian world.

Due to habitat loss and pesticide usage, the Broad-Winged Hawk faced declines in the past. However, successful conservation measures have led to a resurgence of their populations. Vigilant monitoring of nesting sites and protected habitats have provided a lifeline for these forest-dwellers, reminding us of the pivotal role humans play in safeguarding the delicate balance of ecosystems.

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

The Rough-Legged Hawk inhabits the Arctic tundra, extending its breeding grounds across northern North America and Eurasia. This robust raptor boasts feathered legs that lend it its name.

During the breeding season, it features dark plumage with a pale head and throat, while the winter plumage is more variable, with varying amounts of white. Its unique adaptation of feathers on its legs helps it endure the harsh cold of its northern habitat.

A Rough-Legged Hawk sitting on the tip of a tiny branch

The Rough-Legged Hawk’s nesting habits mirror its hardy character. In the challenging Arctic tundra, it crafts nests atop rocky outcrops or on the ground. Its tenacity in facing the harsh elements during nesting season demonstrates its commitment to ensuring its offspring’s survival, even in the most demanding environments.

Adorned with feathered legs, the Rough-Legged Hawk is built for the hunt. Its prey of choice consists of small mammals like voles and lemmings, which it scans the tundra for with keen eyesight.

This raptor’s ability to endure frigid temperatures and secure its next meal underscores its role as a skilled and resourceful predator.

Rough-Legged Hawks are subject to ongoing monitoring due to potential threats posed by climate change on their Arctic breeding grounds. Conservationists work to preserve their tundra habitats while fostering awareness about the vital interconnectedness of these environments and the creatures that depend on them.

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

Found in boreal forests and woodlands of North America, Europe, and Asia, the Northern Goshawk is a formidable bird of prey. With a steely gaze and striking size, it is often a slate grey colour with bold white “eyebrows.”

Its powerful build and long tail aid in manoeuvring through densely wooded areas. This hawk is known for its aggressive behaviour during nesting season, defending its territory with remarkable agility.

A Northern Goshawk in flight

The Northern Goshawk’s nesting behavior is a masterclass in adapting to its wooded realm. Crafting large nests in the heart of coniferous forests, these raptors maintain their authority over their territory with fierce dedication. Their aerial displays and tenacious defence of their nests serve as a testament to their prowess as woodland sentinels.

With a taste for mammals, birds, and even the occasional reptile, the Northern Goshawk holds a versatile palate. Its ability to swiftly navigate through dense foliage grants it access to a varied menu, making it a skilled opportunist capable of thriving in intricate woodland ecosystems.

Northern Goshawks have faced challenges due to habitat loss and human interference. As a result, conservationists have engaged in habitat restoration efforts and educated the public about these apex predators’ crucial role in maintaining ecological equilibrium within their forest domains.

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

Swainson’s Hawk is a migratory species that spans the Americas, from North to South, with nesting regions across North America and wintering grounds in South America. During migration, it showcases a distinctive light-phase and dark-phase plumage.

In flight, its graceful, slender wings and pale underparts stand out against the sky. This hawk’s lengthy journeys have made it a symbol of endurance and adaptation to changing environments.

A Swainson’s Hawk sitting on a pole

Swainson’s Hawk showcases its sociable side during nesting season. These hawks are known for their colonial nesting behaviour, often sharing nesting sites with other hawks of their kind. This communal approach not only fosters a sense of camaraderie but also provides collective security against potential threats.

The Swainson’s Hawk boasts a diverse diet, ranging from insects and small mammals to birds and reptiles. Their migratory nature leads to seasonal variations in their menu, reflecting their ability to adapt to changing food availability during their impressive journeys between North and South America.

Swainson’s Hawks have faced threats from habitat loss and pesticide exposure during their South American wintering grounds. Conservationists have been working to raise awareness about the importance of preserving these hawks’ breeding and wintering habitats, while also advocating for sustainable agricultural practices to mitigate pesticide-related risks.

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

Inhabiting the open grasslands of North America, the Ferruginous Hawk is renowned for its large size and striking colouration. Its plumage includes a mix of rusty orange and white, while its legs and beak are a deep yellow.

This hawk’s striking appearance and preference for open terrain make it easily recognizable. Its specialized diet and nesting habits reflect its adaptation to living in vast, open landscapes.

A Ferruginous Hawk showing off its huge wings

The Ferruginous Hawk’s nesting behavior echoes the vastness of its open grassland habitat. Constructing bulky nests on cliffs or in trees, these hawks claim a commanding view of their surroundings. Their dedication to safeguarding their nests reflects their adaptability to the expansive landscapes they call home.

With a penchant for larger prey, the Ferruginous Hawk predominantly targets ground squirrels, rabbits, and even reptiles. Its specialized hunting techniques and strong talons are suited to capturing these substantial meals, solidifying its role as a top predator in the grasslands it inhabits.

Ferruginous Hawks have faced challenges due to habitat fragmentation and human disturbance. Conservation efforts focus on preserving their grassland habitats and minimizing disturbances during the sensitive nesting season. The recovery of their populations underlines the positive impact of targeted conservation initiatives.

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

The Common Black Hawk, predominantly found in southwestern regions of the United States, Mexico, and Central America, is a distinctive bird with its predominantly black plumage. Adults boast a distinctive white band on the tail, while immatures have mottled brown-and-black colouring.

It often inhabits riparian areas and can be seen soaring above water bodies. Its reliance on aquatic habitats showcases its role as a predator of water-dwelling prey.

A Common Black Hawk amongst the trees.

The Common Black Hawk’s nesting behavior exudes a bond with riparian habitats. Constructing nests in trees near water bodies, these hawks emphasize their reliance on aquatic ecosystems. Their choice of nesting sites serves as a testament to the intricate interplay between their lives and the waterways they inhabit.

As a piscivorous predator, the Common Black Hawk primarily feeds on fish, frogs, and aquatic invertebrates. Its specialized diet highlights its role in maintaining the balance of riparian food chains, illustrating the importance of their presence in these delicate ecosystems.

Common Black Hawks have faced habitat degradation and human disturbances along watercourses. Conservation efforts focus on maintaining the health of riparian habitats, while also raising awareness about the intrinsic value of these hawks in preserving the vitality of freshwater ecosystems.

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

Native to the Americas, Harris’s Hawk is known for its unique social behaviour and striking appearance. With chestnut shoulders, a white rump, and a contrasting dark tail, it’s instantly recognizable.

This hawk is notable for its cooperative hunting strategies, often seen in groups working together to capture prey. Its strong familial bonds and collaborative approach to hunting set it apart from many other raptor species.

A Harris Hawk sitting in a tree

Harris’s Hawk brings a touch of teamwork to its nesting behavior. These social birds often engage in cooperative breeding, with multiple individuals assisting in raising the young. This communal effort fosters strong bonds within the group and showcases the power of unity in the world of raptors.

With a diverse palate, Harris’s Hawk enjoys a menu that ranges from small mammals and birds to reptiles and even insects. Their adaptable hunting tactics and shared hunting strategies among group members underscore their prowess as versatile predators.

Harris’s Hawks have benefited from their ability to adapt to urban environments, which has allowed them to thrive despite habitat changes. While not currently facing significant conservation concerns, continued monitoring and awareness efforts are crucial to ensure their harmonious coexistence with humans.

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 is a raptor of subtropical and tropical woodlands in the southwestern United States, Mexico, and Central America. As its name suggests, it possesses predominantly grey plumage with a distinct white throat and black streaks on its belly.

Its long tail and agile flight make it well-suited for navigating dense vegetation. This hawk’s preferred habitat highlights its adaptability to warm, forested environments.

A close-up photo of a marked Gray Hawk

Gray Hawk’s nesting behavior is a testament to their adaptability to warm, wooded habitats. Constructing nests in dense foliage, often near water sources, these hawks prioritize accessibility to food and water while keeping their nests well-concealed from potential threats.

With a preference for small mammals, birds, and insects, the Gray Hawk demonstrates its agility and precision as a predator. Its ability to swiftly navigate through forested terrain enables it to secure its next meal and reaffirms its status as a skilled woodland hunter.

Gray Hawks are primarily threatened by habitat loss due to urbanization and deforestation. Conservation efforts revolve around preserving their woodland habitats and promoting sustainable land use practices. Their role in controlling rodent populations also underscores their ecological significance.

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 woodlands and open areas from the southwestern United States to Central America, the Zone-Tailed Hawk often mimics the appearance of vultures. With dark plumage and a banded tail, it’s known for its striking similarity to Turkey Vultures.

This mimicry is thought to provide it with some protection from potential predators. Despite its resemblance to vultures, it is a skilled predator with unique hunting behaviours that set it apart from its scavenging counterparts.

A Zone-Tailed Hawk in flight

The Zone-Tailed Hawk’s nesting behavior is a marvel of mimicry. Choosing nesting sites that resemble those of vultures, these hawks adeptly blend into their surroundings. This strategy serves as an ingenious disguise, potentially offering protection from predators while they raise their young.

Zone-Tailed Hawks are versatile hunters, targeting a range of prey from mammals and birds to reptiles. Their mimicry of vultures allows them to approach prey with less suspicion, making them a crafty and effective predator in their chosen habitats.

Zone-Tailed Hawks, while not facing significant conservation threats, benefit from efforts to protect and conserve their habitats. Public awareness campaigns highlight their unique attributes and behaviours, fostering appreciation for their role in maintaining healthy ecosystems.

13. Northern Harrier

  • Scientific name: Circus hudsonius
  • Life span: 5 – 7 years
  • Size: 18-24 in / 45-61 cm
  • Weight: 12.3-26.5 oz / 350-750 g
  • Wingspan: 40-48 in / 100-122 cm
  • Status: Least Concern

The Northern Harrier, known for its distinctive hunting behaviour, inhabits a broad geographical range that spans North America, Europe, and Asia. Its low, swooping flight over marshes and grasslands is a signature sight.

With an owl-like facial disk and white rump patch, females flaunt a rich brown plumage with streaks. Males exhibit a contrasting pale grey body and black wingtips. Its adaptability to diverse habitats and unique hunting style set it apart in the avian world.

A Northern Harrier in flight

Picking open spaces in marshes and grasslands, they create unpretentious nests camouflaged with surrounding vegetation. This choice doubles as a strategic move, granting their chicks a front-row view of potential prey movements. With a motherly touch, the females often serve as sole providers during the incubation period, showcasing an inspiring maternal dedication.

The Northern Harrier’s dining preferences lean towards a savoury selection of small mammals, birds, and the occasional amphibian. Their low-level hunting technique, executed with graceful swoops and agile glides, allows them to surprise their prey. This diet ensures a harmonious coexistence with their grassy habitats, where their hunting prowess keeps rodent populations in check.

These harriers have faced historical declines due to habitat loss and pesticide exposure. Luckily, conservation efforts have fluttered to their rescue. By preserving grasslands and wetlands, as well as advocating for sustainable land management practices, humans have played a pivotal role in reshaping the harrier’s story from one of vulnerability to one of triumph.

Where to find Hawks in New Mexico

New Mexico, with its diverse landscapes and sweeping vistas, offers a thrilling canvas for hawk enthusiasts to witness these majestic birds of prey in their natural habitat. To embark on this feathered adventure, keen observers should venture to open spaces, where hawks often ride thermals and scan the ground for prey.

Prime Hawk-Watching Areas in New Mexico:

  • Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge: This oasis in the Chihuahuan Desert hosts a plethora of waterfowl and raptors. Hawks, including Northern Harriers and Swainson’s Hawks, can be seen cruising over wetland areas.
  • Sandia Crest: Near Albuquerque, the Sandia Crest offers breathtaking panoramic views and is a hotspot for migrating raptors. In autumn, Broad-Winged Hawks and Peregrine Falcons can be spotted soaring on the updrafts.
  • Valles Caldera National Preserve: This vast volcanic caldera is home to diverse habitats and a variety of raptors. Keep an eye out for Red-Tailed Hawks and Golden Eagles soaring above the expansive grasslands.
  • Gila Wilderness: In the southwestern part of the state, the Gila Wilderness provides a rugged backdrop for hawk watching. Swainson’s Hawks and Zone-Tailed Hawks are among the species that call this region home.

Embrace the thrill of hawk watching in New Mexico’s boundless skies. As these birds gracefully navigate the currents above, you’ll find yourself enchanted by the intricate dance between predator and prey in this vibrant desert landscape.


In the vast expanse of New Mexico’s rugged beauty, the presence of hawks adds an awe-inspiring dimension to the landscape. These aerial predators, each with its distinct behaviours and habitats, remind us of nature’s intricate balance.

As we marvel at their soaring flights and keen hunting instincts, we’re reminded of the delicate interconnectedness of ecosystems. By safeguarding their habitats and embracing the art of hawk-watching, we contribute to preserving not just these magnificent raptors, but the wild spirit that makes New Mexico truly enchanting.

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