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Are you an avid birdwatcher in Missouri? If so, you’re in luck because Missouri is home to a diverse range of hawks. These majestic birds of prey are known for their sharp talons, keen eyesight, and impressive hunting skills.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to ten different types of hawks that you might encounter in Missouri.
- Missouri is home to a variety of hawk species, including the common Red-tailed Hawk, the monogamous Cooper’s Hawk, and the small but powerful Sharp-shinned Hawk.
- The Northern Harrier has a unique hunting style and is considered threatened in some areas due to habitat loss.
- The Broad-winged Hawk is one of the smallest members of the Buteo family and migrates to Central and South America for winter.
- The Ferruginous Hawk is the largest North American hawk and primarily found in open grassland habitats.
1. Red-tailed Hawk
You’re gonna love the Red-tailed Hawk, with its fiery red tail and fierce hunting skills.
This hawk is common in Missouri and can be easily spotted soaring through the sky. It is known for its hunting habits, preying on small mammals such as mice, rabbits, and squirrels.
The Red-tailed Hawk is a skilled hunter, using its sharp talons and powerful beak to capture its prey.
In addition to its impressive hunting skills, the Red-tailed Hawk is also recognized for its physical characteristics. It has a wingspan of up to four feet and can weigh up to three pounds.
Its feathers are brown and white, and it has a distinct red tail that is easily recognizable.
The Red-tailed Hawk is a remarkable bird and a sight to behold in the Missouri sky.
2. Cooper’s Hawk
Take a look at the Cooper’s Hawk, a fierce predator with a sleek, blue-gray back and rusty-red breast.
These birds of prey are known for their sharp talons and agile flight, making them one of the most skilled hunters in the sky. Here are four interesting facts about Cooper’s hawks that are sure to leave you in awe:
- Breeding Habits: These hawks are monogamous, meaning they mate with only one partner for life. They build their nests in tall trees, usually near the trunk, and use sticks, twigs, and other materials to create a sturdy platform. The female lays 2-5 eggs, which are incubated by both parents for about a month.
- Diet: Cooper’s hawks are carnivores, and their diet consists mainly of birds and small mammals. They are known for their aerial acrobatics, often chasing their prey through trees and bushes before swooping in for the kill. Their sharp talons and hooked beaks make it easy for them to catch and kill their prey.
- Habitat: These birds can be found throughout Missouri, but are most commonly seen in wooded areas and suburban neighborhoods. They prefer to live in areas with tall trees and plenty of cover, where they can hunt and nest without disturbance.
- Conservation Status: Cooper’s hawks are considered a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), meaning their population is stable and not currently in danger of extinction. However, they’re still vulnerable to habitat loss and other threats, so conservation efforts are still important to ensure their continued survival.
3. Sharp-shinned Hawk
The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a small but mighty predator that is often mistaken for a songbird due to its size. They’re typically only about the size of a Blue Jay, but their sharp talons and powerful wings make them a force to be reckoned with.
These hawks are known for their ability to swiftly and stealthily maneuver through dense forests as they hunt for their prey.
Sharp-shinned Hawks are often found in wooded areas, and they prefer to nest in tall trees with thick foliage.
They’re known for their aggressive behavior and won’t hesitate to defend their territory from any perceived threats. While they primarily hunt small birds, they’ve also been known to prey on small mammals, such as mice and squirrels.
Despite their small size, Sharp-shinned Hawks are skilled hunters and play an important role in the ecosystem of Missouri’s forests.
4. Northern Harrier
The Northern Harrier, also known as the marsh hawk, is a medium-sized raptor that can be found in a variety of habitats throughout North America. They are often seen flying low over open fields or marshes, gliding gracefully with their long wings and distinctive white rump patch.
These hawks have a unique hunting style, as they rely heavily on their keen eyesight and excellent hearing to locate prey. Behavior patterns of the Northern Harrier are quite unique.
They have a habit of flying low over the ground, often hovering in place as they search for prey.
They also have the ability to flap their wings rapidly while in flight, allowing them to stay in one spot for extended periods of time.
Preferred habitats of the northern harrier include grasslands, wetlands, and agricultural fields, where they can find an abundance of small mammals, birds, and insects to feed on.
Despite their widespread distribution, Northern Harriers are considered threatened in some areas due to habitat loss and other factors.
5. Broad-winged Hawk
Spotting a Broad-winged Hawk can be a thrilling experience, as these raptors are known for their distinctive high-pitched calls and impressive aerial displays during migration season. Here are some interesting facts about these fascinating birds:
- Broad-winged Hawks are one of the smallest members of the Buteo family, with a wingspan of around 3 feet.
- These hawks breed in the northeastern United States and Canada, and migrate to Central and South America for the winter.
- During their fall migration, Broad-winged Hawks can be seen in large groups, or kettles, soaring high in the sky as they ride thermal currents.
- Their diet consists mainly of small mammals, such as mice and voles, but they will also eat insects, reptiles, and small birds.
Broad-winged Hawks prefer to nest in deciduous forests, where they build their nests high in the trees. They are also known to use human-made structures such as power poles and cell towers as nesting sites.
These hawks are an important predator in their ecosystem, helping to control populations of small mammals and insects.
Keep an eye out for these impressive raptors during the fall migration season, and listen for their distinctive calls as they soar overhead.
6. Rough-legged Hawk
You’ll feel the rush of excitement as you catch sight of the Rough-legged Hawk soaring gracefully through the winter sky, with its beautiful feathered legs and piercing gaze.
This hawk is a winter visitor to Missouri, coming all the way from its breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra.
Its habitat preferences include open areas such as grasslands, fields, and marshes, and it can often be seen perched on poles or hovering in the air as it scans the ground for prey.
The Rough-legged Hawk’s prey selection includes small mammals such as voles, mice, and rabbits, as well as birds like grouse and ptarmigan. It has keen eyesight and is able to spot prey from high up in the air, then swoop down to catch it with its sharp talons.
Despite its name, the Rough-legged Hawk actually has feathered legs and feet, which help keep it warm in the cold tundra environment where it breeds.
If you’re lucky enough to spot one of these magnificent birds during its winter visit to Missouri, take a moment to appreciate its beauty and the impressive adaptations that allow it to survive in such a harsh environment.
7. Swainson’s Hawk
If you’re out in a grassy open field, keep an eye out for Swainson’s Hawk. It may be soaring high above you, its wings spread wide and tail feathers fanned out.
This species is known for its impressive migration habits, traveling over 14,000 miles from its breeding grounds in North America to its wintering grounds in South America.
Apart from its migration habits, Swainson’s Hawk is also known for its particular behavioral patterns. During breeding season, they build their nests on cliffs, trees, or even telephone poles, and fiercely defend them from predators.
They are also opportunistic predators themselves, preying on a variety of small mammals, reptiles, and insects.
If you’re lucky enough to spot a Swainson’s Hawk, take some time to observe its impressive hunting and soaring abilities.
8. Ferruginous Hawk
When you come across the Ferruginous Hawk, it’s large size and rust-colored plumage may catch your eye, but take some time to appreciate its crucial role in the ecosystem as a top predator.
This hawk is the largest of all North American hawks, with a wingspan of up to 4.5 feet and weighing up to 4 pounds. Ferruginous Hawks are primarily found in open grassland habitats, where they hunt for small rodents such as prairie dogs and ground squirrels.
Ferruginous Hawks have a unique hunting behavior, where they’ll hover in the air for extended periods, scanning the ground for prey. They’re also known to reuse old nests of other large birds, such as eagles and ravens.
Despite their impressive size and hunting abilities, Ferruginous Hawks face threats from habitat loss and degradation.
Conservation efforts for Ferruginous Hawks in Missouri include preserving and restoring grassland habitats, limiting land-use practices such as grazing and development, and monitoring populations to better understand their needs and behaviors.
9. Golden Eagle
The Golden Eagle is a formidable predator that plays a vital role in its ecosystem. With its impressive wingspan and powerful talons, this species of hawk can be found in Missouri’s grasslands, mountains, and forests.
They typically prefer open habitats with rocky outcrops or cliffs that they can use as nesting sites.
The Golden Eagle is a large bird, weighing up to 15 pounds and measuring up to 3 feet in length. Their wingspan can reach up to 7 feet, allowing them to soar through the sky with ease.
Their keen eyesight and powerful talons make them efficient predators, and they play an important role in controlling populations of prey species.
The Golden Eagle’s diet consists mainly of small mammals such as rabbits, squirrels, and prairie dogs.
They will also feed on birds, reptiles, and fish when available.
These hawks are powerful hunters and have been known to take down prey as large as deer and coyotes.
If you’re lucky enough to spot a Golden Eagle in the wild, be sure to watch from a safe distance and admire the beauty and power of this impressive bird.
10. Bald Eagle
You’ll be amazed by the majestic presence of the bald eagle, a symbol of American pride and freedom. These birds are one of the largest birds of prey in North America, with wingspans reaching up to 7 feet.
Bald eagles are easily recognizable with their white head and tail feathers, contrasting against their dark brown body feathers. They can be found near bodies of water, such as rivers, lakes, and coasts, where they can easily hunt for fish, their main source of food.
Their habitat stretches across most of North America, including Missouri. However, bald eagles were once on the brink of extinction due to habitat loss and hunting.
Thanks to conservation efforts, their populations have recovered and they are no longer considered endangered.
It’s important to continue to protect their habitats and ensure their survival for generations to come.