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Hawks in Connecticut: 8 Common Species to Watch

Written by Garrett Hayes

Last updated on Mar 27th, 2024
Hawks in CT

Every fall, several birds of prey migrate across the Nutmeg State in thousands from their breed spots to winter habitats miles away. The fall migration starts in late August and peaks in October. All Connecticuters and tourists would see many raptors all over the state.


Have you ever wondered how many hawk species are native to Connecticut? There are several hawks in Connecticut, but only 8 species call this state home. So if you want to learn more about them, please read on…

8 Types of Hawks in CT

As aforementioned, there are eight types of hawks in CT, but did you know that thousands of birds of prey migrate to Connecticut during the migration season?

Connecticut has a temperate climate.

It's one of the few American states with mild winters and warm summers. This makes it an ideal spot for several wintering birds during the migration season.

Where Can You Find CT Hawks?

Fortunately, there are many places you can find hawks in Connecticut, including the 2 national parks and 139 state parks. Therefore, Connecticut can be an exceptional destination for bird watchers come winter. But where and when you can see these raptors differs.

The Hawks of CT

1. Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Even though they're highly migratory, these hawks can be seen in certain parts of the state all year round. The Sharp-shinned hawk is not quite common, though. They only make up about 2% of the hawks in CT.

An interesting fact about these Connecticut hawks is that they're the smallest hawks in CT.

They're smaller than crows and a bit bigger than the Jays. Plus, the females are bigger than the males. The females have smaller heads, rounded wings, and long tails with square ends.

The adult sharp-shinned hawk has a red-orange breast and blue-gray feathers on its back, plus some dark bands on its tail. These birds are monogamous, and a breeding pair will have a single brood composed of 3-8 eggs per season.

Like other raptors, the sharp-shinned hawk is a pursuit hunter who feeds on some small songbirds. The sharp-shinned hawks are quite secretive and prefer forests with tall trees, but they can be seen flying across the edge of a forest.

The sharp-shinned hawk can also speed through a dense forest at a very high speed to catch small birds and other small species. 

You can find them near bird feeders where they prey on smaller birds, so if you have an issue with them, you can remove the feeder for a few days, and they will disappear. If you want to see these birds, then you should visit the southwestern parts of the state in winter.

2. Cooper's Hawk

As one of the most common hawks in CT, Cooper's hawks can be found primarily in dense woods, but they have been seen on fence posts in leafy parks and suburban regions for the last few years. They're more common than the Sharp-shinned hawks.

So you should look out for Cooper's hawks on the edge of a forest, and in the suburbs, you can find them near your feeder looking for easy meals.

Despite having huge heads, it is considered a medium-sized creature with a long tail. When in flight, they appear to have short wings. 

They have slate-grey feathers on their back wings and red ones on their breasts and bellies that create a barred pattern.

Thanks to their color, Cooper's hawk and Sharp-shinned hawk are quite similar in size, and differentiating them can be quite tricky. The key difference between the two is that Cooper's hawk has a huge head.

In terms of behavior, a few are known, but after the male performs the bowing display, they build a nest together. They nest on taller trees and feed on small mammals and medium-sized birds. Most of these raptors have been seen in the southern parts of Connecticut.

3. Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk
Northern Goshawk

As their name suggests, these raptors are quite common in the north. Most of them live in Connecticut all year round, while some only visit the state during the breeding seasons.

It is a very secretive creature that lives in huge forests. Plus, the northern goshawk is known to be very aggressive if anyone tries to get too close to it.

They have the same color patterns as most raptors, but they have dark wings, dark backs, and pale bellies. Northern Goshawks are bigger than most species of hawk, including the Cooper's and Sharp-shinned hawks; in fact, their size ranges between that of a goose and a crow.

The Northern Goshawk feed on a wide range of prey, including amphibians, small mammals, and birds. They're known for either pursuing their prey on foot or using some gliding flights.

Just like most species of hawk, the Goshawks are monogamous, and they create a breeding pair after performing a sky dance together.

You can find a Northern Goshawk in several parts of the state, but most of them have been sighted in the southern half of CT.

4. Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-Shouldered Hawk
Red-Shouldered Hawk

Another exceptional hawk found in CT known for its loud cack-cack calls is the red-shouldered hawk. They're medium-sized creatures whose size ranges between a swan and a crow with a banded tail.

In terms of color patterns, they're distinctly marked with white and dark checkered wings and a red barring on their breasts.

The red-shouldered hawks are territorial creatures known for even attacking crows and the Great Horned Owls.

At times they can even attack human beings who get too close to their nests. Plus, red-shouldered hawks can become even more aggressive during the breeding season.

An interesting fact about these birds is that they can only be found in the western states, so they are year-round residents of the CT. During the mating seasons, the males perform a sky dance in the breeding grounds, including several dives to attract the females.

5. Broad-Winged Hawks

Broad-Winged Hawk
Broad-Winged Hawk

As their name suggests, this hawk's most identifiable feature is its broad, round-shaped wings. They have reddish-brown heads, and their wings are covered with brown feathers, while their bellies have pale feathers. Being migratory creatures, you may not see a broad-winged hawk in Connecticut all year round.

Unlike the other hawks of CT, the broad-winged hawks stay away from human beings, so you may never see them in the suburbs.

But you can find broad-winged hawks in various woodlands where they stay near water bodies.  

There are many broad-winged hawk scientific facts out there, and my favorite is that it is considered one of the earliest birds to initiate migration. They leave the northern parts of their habitats as early as August. Plus, they have a beautiful, strongly banded tail.

But during the breeding season, you can find the broad-winged hawks in CT building their nests. Most of these birds are monogamous, while others mate with several individuals every year. But even if the monogamous ones stay together for years, the broad-winged hawk doesn't interact with other larger birds outside the breeding seasons.

6. Red-Tailed Hawk

Unlike most species of hawk, the red-tailed hawk has the widest range in the United States, so you can find them everywhere in the CT, but they are more common in the central parts of the state.

Even though their name suggests that the red-tailed hawk has a red tail, this hawk doesn't have a vivid red tail.

They have a reddish appearance from their rusty brown feathers instead. You can find the red-tailed hawk in the open woodlands but they've been known to nest in other denser regions when necessary.

Being territorial creatures, the red-tailed hawk can be very aggressive and defensive when other birds get near their nests. Red-tailed hawks have been known to fight and chase other hawk species, eagles, owls, small mammals, and even other birds. In fact, this bird is a known hen hawk that preys on poultry.

The red-tailed hawks are monogamous, and they can only mate with others when their partner dies.

7. Rough-Legged Hawks

Rough-Legged Hawk
Rough-Legged Hawk

As their name suggests, the rough-legged hawk gets its name from its rough legs that are covered by messy, smattering feathers. In fact, they are considered one of the biggest birds of prey in the United States.

The rough-legged hawks are normally seen in open grassland when they nest in an open region. And being a predator, the rough-legged hawk loves hunting at dawn and Dusk, but it's still active all day long.

While they can stay monogamous during the mating season, these creatures have minimal courting display, which is effective and quick.

A mating pair can be seen nesting in winter outside the breeding season. These migratory birds cannot be found in Connecticut all year long. Plus, they can also be seen in eastern Connecticut outside the mating seasons, which is mostly in winter.

8. Northern Harrier

Last but not least is the Northern Harrier which can only be found in places with low vegetation like the wetland and grassland areas. In fact, their long, slim tails can be seen gliding over these regions.

They have a white belly covered with some tiny brown patches of feathers, while the wings have some dark slate colors. Northern harriers are slim with long broad wings; their size ranges between a goose and a crow.

The males are gray and the females brown above and white underneath; they come with a white rump patch.

An interesting fact about the Northern harriers is that they fly with the tips of the wings always higher than their bodies, creating a V-shape.

When hunting, the Northern harrier loves using their hearing to track their prey, including several small birds and small mammals like ground squirrels and the voles, by following vole scent marks.

Unlike most of the birds on our list, these creatures are not always monogamous; in fact, the males mate with a maximum of two females in the mating season. These birds are defensive of their nests, and they can chase away any bird, including other hawks that come near them.   

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are Hawks Protected in Connecticut?

Cooper's hawks and red-tailed hawks have known raptors that consume pigeons as one of their key diets. These species are protected by the federal migratory bird's treaty act. Therefore, you can be fined for killing these birds.

Where Does the Broad-Winged Hawk Spend Winter?

Despite being native to Connecticut, the broad-winged hawk winters in central and southern parts of Central America. But a small percentage of the population, particularly the younger hawks, love wintering in the Lower Mississippi Delta, coastal Texas, and Florida.

What Is the Difference Between a Red-Tailed Hawk and a Red-Shouldered Hawk?

When you see these birds, the first difference you will notice is that the red-tailed is a bit larger than the red-shouldered hawk, with slower wing beats and broader wings. Unlike the red-shouldered hawks, which are rusty-bellied, the red tails have a dark belly band.

What Do Hawks Consume in CT?

Connecticut is home to some large birds that mostly feed on mammals; therefore, you should not bother them when they come to your backyard. They mostly consume rabbits, rats, ground squirrels, and voles.


Despite being home to 8 hawk species, millions of hawks love wintering in Connecticut, thanks to its unique weather. Therefore, with the right details, you can identify these birds even from their pictures, even those that look alike. 

The red-tailed hawk is the most common hawk in CT while the sharp-shinned hawk is the smallest. The large hawks are called the rough-legged hawk.

These birds of prey are considered a good omen, so you should know that you're safe if you see one flying. It means that you will get a reliable stream of ideas. Why don't you head to Connecticut and introduce some luck in your life?

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