Are you going on a bird-watching trip to Indiana and want to know what to look for? Or, perhaps you live in the State and simply want to know what wildlife you share your home with?
Either way, you’ve come to the right place!
Here, we’re going to look at 7 species of Hawk you can spot in Indiana.
Some of these are winter visitors, while others are year-round residents. Some are also easier to spot than others.
Whatever the case, one thing is for sure – by the time you’ve finished reading you’ll know exactly what and where to look out for when it comes to finding these birds of prey.
Let’s start by looking at one of Indiana’s year-round residents.
The Red-Shouldered Hawk can be identified by its dark and white checkered wings, red barring across its breast and, of course, its namesake red shoulders.
It also measures around 22-inches in length and has an average wingspan of around 39-inches.
If you think you’ve spotted a Red-Shouldered Hawk but you’re still not 100% certain, put an ear to the sky and listen out for its famous call.
This is a series of short bursts that result in a “cack-cack-cack” noise.
The best place to spot a Red-Shouldered Hawk is along the edges of forests near a source of water, such as a river or stream. Here, they hunt for snakes, frogs, and small mammals.
The Red-Shouldered Hawk is also a pretty resourceful bird of prey and, rather than going to the effort of constructing a new nest each breeding season, it will reuse the same one year after year.
The female Red-Shouldered Hawk will lay up to 5 pale-blue eggs in this nest.
The mating couple will raise them together until their chicks are fully fledged, and they’ll then go their separate ways.
The smallest species of Hawk in Indiana, the Sharp-Shinned Hawk is one of the hardest to find.
They are not only migratory but also remarkably similar in appearance to the Cooper’s Hawk (which we’ll take a closer look at a little later).
The Sharp-Shinned Hawk is around 11-inches in length, and has an average wingspan of 19-inches.
Its blue-gray upperparts, red-orange breast, and dark-banded tail can be identified.
It also has quite a long tail comparable to its size with a square end, and short, rounded wings. It’s head is quite small as well.
Although extremely secretive, the best place to try and find a Sharp-Shinned Hawk is along the edges of forests.
They are particularly fond of setting up home high up in coniferous forests, constructing huge nests that can be as large as 2 ft wide and 6-inches deep.
The Sharp-Shinned Hawk also hunts in this habitat, using their incredible speed and agility to maneuver through dense vegetation and tree branches and snatch smaller songbirds in mid-flight.
They have also been known to feed on songbirds visiting bird feeders when food is scarce is their preferred habitat.
The Red-Tailed Hawk is one of Indiana’s most common birds of prey, and it can be found soaring high in the sky all year round.
It’s also one of the easiest species of Hawk to spot, thanks to its hunting habit of circling above open areas along the roadside.
It’s often spotted perched atop telephone poles as well, scouring the area for its prey.
As you may have guessed from its name, the Red-Tailed Hawk has a distinctive, red-colored tail which is short and wide.
They can also be identified by their brown upperparts, pale underparts, and broad wings that are round at the end.
Size-wise, the Red-Tailed Hawk measures around 20-inches long and has an average wingspan of 48-inches, although females are larger than males.
The Red-Tailed Hawk constructs its nest high up in the canopy of trees, although it has also been known to nest and roost in tall buildings of urban areas.
Their food consists of reptiles, small mammals, and smaller songbirds.
Another common bird of prey that can be found in Indiana all year round, the Cooper’s Hawk is mostly spotted along the edges of forests.
Here, they soar through the sky hunting for small mammals and medium-sized songbirds. They also nest in these areas, constructing a new nest on top of an older one or in dense clumps of mistletoe.
As we mentioned earlier, the Cooper’s Hawk is incredibly similar to the Sharp-Shinned Hawk in appearance.
Both species have a blue-gray back, red-barred breast, and black-banded tails. The only real way to tell them apart is by size.
The Cooper’s Hawk is larger, measuring around 15-inches in length and with an average wingspan of 35-inches.
They also have a much larger head, which extends further beyond the wings than the Sharp-Shinned Hawk.
Cooper’s Hawk are renowned for their habit of snatching smaller birds from feeders, especially when food becomes scarce in their natural habitat.
If you’ve had this issue recently, don’t worry – there is an easy fix. Simply remove your feeders for a couple of weeks.
It won’t take long for the Hawk to realize there’s nothing worth eating in your backyard and, better still, it won’t take long for your feathered friends to start arriving again once you reinstall your feeders.
The Broad-Winged Hawk is a migratory bird of prey, spending the spring and summer in Indiana before heading South for the winter.
They are also more abundant in the South of the State, and the best time of year to spot them is early fall.
This is because, before they start their long migratory journey, hundreds of Broad-Winged Hawks gather together to perform an aerial display called a “kettle”.
The Broad-Winged Hawk is a stocky bird of prey, measuring around 15-inches in length and with an average wingspan of 35-inches.
It can be identified by its red-brown head, barred breast, and banded tail that is short and square. It also has fairly broad wings, hence its name.
Their preferred habitat is mixed woodlands near a source of water. Here, they hunt for snakes, young turtles, frogs, and small mammals.
They also nest in these areas and, rather than build their own, will reuse the nest of another animal such as a squirrel or crow.
Once settled, the female Broad-Winged Hawk lays up to 3 eggs and incubates them for around two weeks.
Once hatched, the couple will raise their young together before helping them fledge and going their separate ways.
The Northern Harrier is one of Indiana’s winter visitors, migrating to the State from Northern States and Canada where it spends its spring and summer breeding.
It’s most often spotted soaring across marshes and grasslands, hunting close to the ground for small birds and mammals.
Measuring around 18-inches long and with an average wingspan of 43-inches, the Northern Harrier can be identified by its long, broad wings.
Colors differ between sexes, with the male Northern Harrier sporting gray upperparts, white underparts, and white patch on the rump.
The female Northern Harrier doesn’t have the white rump patch, and is covered with brown feathers.
Both sexes have the same flight habit, however, positioning their wings high above their body to create a V-shape.
Rough Legged Hawk
The final species of Hawk that you’ll find in Indiana is the Rough-Legged Hawk. This bird of prey is another winter visitor to the State, having spent its breeding season in the Arctic.
Most are spotted North of the State but, even then, they are still a pretty rare sight.
Despite their name, the Rough-Legged Hawk doesn’t actually have rough legs. Instead, it’s its leg feathers that give them this rough-looking appearance.
These serve an important role in keeping them warm in the cooler, Arctic temperatures. The Rough-Legged Hawk also appears in two color variations; light and morph.
Their preferred habitat is marshes and open fields, where they hunt for small mammals including mice, voles, and ground squirrels.
They also nest and roost on high cliff edges, but are usually sighted perched on top of poles, scoping the surrounding area for prey.
During the breeding season, the female Rough-Legged Hawk lays up to 5 pale blue eggs and incubates them herself for around two weeks.
Once hatched, the mating couple will feed and raise their young together until they are fully fledged. After this, they’ll go back to solitary life until the next breeding season.
As you can see, there are 7 species of Hawk for you to spot in Indiana at any given time of year.
Some, like the Rough-Legged Hawk and the Sharp-Shinned Hawk are harder to find.
Others like the Red-Tailed Hawk can be spotted as you drive along the road.
Wherever you spot these magnificent birds of prey, one thing is for sure; Indiana is home to some of the most incredible wildlife you could ever hope to find.