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Hawks in South Carolina: 6 Common Species


Whether you are a bird enthusiast or have seen lots of hawks in South Carolina, you might be wondering which kinds of hawks dominate the skies of the Palmetto State. Seeing these beautiful creatures roaming around or on their perch is always exceptional and fun. Unfortunately, native Americans considered raptors the messenger of bad omens.

But, then...

You know better, and your love for birds has always left you wondering how many types of hawks are in South Carolina? Well, you're not alone; in this article, we'll elaborate more on the hawks in SC.

The Different Hawks of South Carolina

South Carolina is home to different types of hawks that can be found flocking the suburban and urban areas where there is no shortage of food. Therefore, it's no surprise why they are everywhere in the SC more particularly the Caesars head state park.

There are 6 different kinds of resident hawks in SC and they are as follows:

1. Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk
Cooper's Hawk

You can find lots of Chicken Hawks in South and North America, but this medium-sized hawk is the only one native to Canada and Mexico but frequents South America.


Despite being popular, you can easily mistake it for a small-sized Sharp-shinned hawk. Their blue-gray backs and black caps are identical to the Shark-shinned hawks, but you'll notice the rufous colored chests when they spread their wings. 

To differentiate them, you will have to wait for the Accipiter cooperii (which is its scientific name) to land and compare their body sizes.

Behavioral Pattern

Since they aren't native to South Carolina, their population in SC only grows during the breeding season. Just like the other members of the genus Accipiter, they are famously agile; therefore, they dominate the skies in the world's wooded habitats. 

Their flying agility has earned them the local name "the Big Blue Darters." Seeing them chase after small birds like the blue jays at extremely high speeds and accuracy can be very entertaining. Their taste for small birds is the main reason why you can find them near your feeder.

2. Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk
Red-Tailed Hawk

Despite being a migratory hawk, the Red-tailed hawks breed everywhere on the continent, including in Alaska and Canada. Its love for chicken makes this 1 of the 3 American birds known as Chickenhawks.

It rarely preys on chicken, though. 


The Red-tailed hawks are rich brown with a beautiful cinnamon-red tail, but you'll be amazed by their pale brown feathers when they spread their wings. Unlike the adults, the tail of the young ones is brown and banded.

Behavioral pattern

They are South Carolina's winter visitors, so you should expect to find them flying high while perching on telephone poles. Being carnivores, you can find them scanning their prey while perched on fences and telephone poles. 

An interesting fact about this Chickenhawk is that it constructs nests in South Carolina between February and March. 

Funny enough, they don't start laying eggs in a designated nest until they have used it for three years. 


Their primary diet includes rats, rodents, rabbits, a few insects, and squirrels.

3. Red-Shouldered Hawk

Hawks are known to resemble each other in one way or the other. Therefore, you shouldn't be surprised if I tell you that the Red-Shouldered hawk resembles the red-tailed hawk with the former being smaller than the latter. 


This colorful creature's body is covered by feathers with a checked black, brown, and white pattern. Unfortunately, the red shoulders can't be seen when it's flying - you have to wait for it to perch to identify it.

Watch This!


Being a resident hawk breed, you can find them roaming the state's flooded swamps, mixed forested regions, and wooded stream banks all year long. In fact, locals have spotted them perched on top of cars, fences, posts, mailboxes, and suburban territories even in South Carolina. 


Speaking of food, hawks love meat. They prey on small mammals but at times they also feed on amphibians, lizards, and snakes. 

Behavioral Pattern

There is nothing more magical about this hawk than its hunting routine. They are known for dropping directly from the sky onto their prey and rarely miss. 

4. Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier
Northern Harrier

Harriers resemble hawks, but the Northern harrier is the most owl-like hawk on the planet; you can easily mistake it for the Eastern screech owl. Several diurnal hawks on the earth, but only this harrier is native to the United States. 


Being one of the largest native South Carolina birds, identifying this owl-like hawk is relatively easy. Their long tails and wings and huge white rumps make spotting them from a flock of hawks easier.

Behavioral Pattern

Like owls, they are known for their flight; therefore, they rely on both their visions and hearing when hunting; plus, they can subdue giant creatures by drowning them. Unlike most hawks, this species flies low when looking for food.


These raptors prey on snakes, reptiles, frogs, and rodents, just like vultures.

5. Sharp-Shinned Hawks

Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Sharp-Shinned Hawk

South Carolina is home to tens of thousands of hawks, but did you know that the continent's smallest hawk species frequents this state? Sharp-shinned hawk is actually the United States' smallest hawk. 


Despite having short wings, long legs, long tails, and small bodies, they are still very powerful. What they lack in size, they make up for it in their long toes and claws that can easily impale and hold onto prey. 

Behavior Pattern

Unfortunately, they don't have a breeding range in South Carolina; therefore, they tend to migrate north in winter. So before visiting this state, you should consult the hawk migration association to find out when they will be in SC. 


A huge percentage of their diet includes the small birds found in SC, so they do help maintain the songbirds' population.

6. Broad-Winged Hawk

Broad-Winged Hawk
Broad-Winged Hawk

As its name suggests, this hawk is known and loved for its broad and widely shaped wings. Unlike most multicolored hawks, the broad-winged hawks' bodies are covered by brown feathers, but their black and white tail does help them stand out.

They're also known as "kettle" since their swirling flock appears stirred by an invisible spoon.s

Behavioral pattern

Even though they love nesting in dense forests, they can be easily found near water bodies. They consider humans enemies; Hence, you can never find them anywhere near urban regions.

Most Broad-winged hawks form breeding pairs that last for years, while others will breed with different species, but they can be monogamous.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who Is in Charge of Monitoring the Migrating Hawks of South Carolina?

The Caesars head hawk watch is a group responsible for counting these migrating raptors at Hawk Mountain. Hawk watchers examine the wildlife, mainly migratory hawks. Since it's made up of volunteers, joining this group can be the best way to monitor the hawks of SC.

Is a Peregrine Falcon the Fastest Bird on the Planet?

Yes, the peregrine falcon has the highest diving speed when in flight. It can attain a rate of about 186 miles per hour, which makes it the world's fastest animal.

What Is the Smallest Hawk in North America?

The American Kestrel is actually the most common and smallest falcon on the continent. Being a native of North America, it can be found everywhere on the continent, including the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

Read Also: North Carolina Hawks


The hawks of South Carolina state guarantee every bird watcher a memorable experience, especially during the breeding season. Therefore, if you want to see most of the Native American hawk species, you should visit North Carolina. They can also be found in the suburbs. Moreover, most of them breed in South Carolina.

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