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If you’re a birdwatcher or nature enthusiast in Tennessee, then you’re in for a treat! Tennessee is home to a diverse range of hawk species, each with their unique features and behaviors. Whether you’re an expert or a beginner, observing these majestic birds in their natural habitat is a sight to behold.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to ten types of hawks that call Tennessee their home and explore their fascinating characteristics.
Keep reading to learn more about the other eight types of hawks that you can spot in Tennessee.
- Tennessee is home to a diverse range of hawk species, including 10 different types.
- The Red-tailed Hawk is a common and recognizable hawk in North America, known for its impressive hunting skills, but its population has been threatened due to habitat loss and human interference.
- Cooper’s Hawks prefer to hunt in wooded areas and prey on smaller birds, while Sharp-shinned Hawks are skilled hunters that prey on small birds and mammals.
- Northern Harriers, Broad-winged Hawks, Swainson’s Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, and Ferruginous Hawks are also found in Tennessee, each with their own unique characteristics and hunting habits.
1. Red-tailed Hawk
The Red-tailed Hawk’s sharp, piercing gaze and rust-colored tail can be spotted soaring high above the Tennessee landscape. These birds are one of the most common and recognizable hawks in North America.
They are known for their impressive hunting skills, often swooping down to catch prey such as rodents, snakes, and small mammals.
When it comes to behavior, the Red-tailed Hawk is a solitary bird, except during breeding season. They are territorial and will defend their nesting area fiercely.
Unfortunately, the Red-tailed Hawk’s population has been threatened, primarily due to habitat loss and human interference.
Conservation efforts have been put in place to protect these birds, including the preservation of their natural habitats and the implementation of laws to prevent hunting and trapping.
With these efforts, it’s hoped that the Red-tailed Hawk population will continue to thrive in Tennessee and beyond.
2. Cooper’s Hawk
You’ll love spotting a Cooper’s Hawk because they’re so swift and agile in flight. These birds are medium-sized, with a length of 14-20 inches and a wingspan of 27-36 inches.
They have a dark blue-gray back, wings, and tail, with a reddish-brown breast and white underparts with fine brown stripes. The head is rounded with a dark cap and a yellow eye.
The distinguishing feature of Cooper’s Hawks is their short, rounded wings and long tail, which helps them maneuver through dense trees and catch prey.
Cooper’s Hawks are found in a variety of habitats, including deciduous and coniferous forests, wooded suburban areas, and riparian woodlands.
They prey on small to medium-sized birds, such as robins, jays, and doves, as well as small mammals like squirrels and rabbits. They hunt by stealthily flying through the trees and surprising their prey with a sudden burst of speed. Cooper’s Hawks also occasionally catch prey on the ground or at bird feeders.
If you’re lucky enough to spot a Cooper’s Hawk, watch as it quickly disappears into the trees, a true testament to their speed and agility.
3. Sharp-shinned Hawk
Spotting a Sharp-shinned Hawk can be difficult, but if you’re patient and observant, you’ll be rewarded with a glimpse of this small and agile bird of prey.
The Sharp-shinned Hawk is known for its sharp and pointed wings, which help it navigate through dense forests and chase after its prey.
This hawk is a skilled hunter, often preying on small birds and mammals. It is known for its quick and sudden movements, swooping down on its prey with precision and speed.
During migration, Sharp-shinned Hawks can be seen flying in flocks, soaring through the air in a V-formation. They typically migrate during the day and will stop to rest and hunt along the way.
These hawks are known to migrate long distances, with some traveling from as far as Canada to Mexico. It’s believed that they migrate to avoid harsh winter weather and to find better hunting grounds.
Overall, the Sharp-shinned Hawk is a fascinating bird of prey with unique behaviors and migration patterns.
4. Northern Harrier
If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the Northern Harrier gracefully gliding over open fields and marshes.
Also known as the Marsh Hawk, this bird of prey is one of the most distinctive hawks in Tennessee. It is easily identified by its long, narrow wings, and its white rump patch that is visible in flight.
Northern Harriers are known for their unique and fascinating behavioral characteristics. Unlike most hawks, they hunt by flying low over open fields and marshes, using their keen eyesight and hearing to detect their prey.
They are also known for their distinctive flight pattern, which involves a series of flaps followed by a glide.
As for habitat preferences, Northern Harriers are commonly found in open fields, grasslands, and marshes. They are often seen in the winter months, hunting for small mammals like voles, mice, and shrews.
5. Broad-winged Hawk
The Broad-winged Hawk can easily be recognized by its short, broad wings and distinctive tail pattern while soaring over forested areas.
This small but fierce hawk is a common sight in Tennessee during the fall migration, as they travel in flocks of thousands of birds.
During the rest of the year, they can be found nesting in deciduous or mixed forests throughout the eastern United States and Canada. Broad-winged Hawks typically build their nests in the forks of trees, using sticks and twigs to create a sturdy platform. They tend to prefer areas with a dense canopy cover, as this provides both protection and shade for their young.
These hawks are also known for their monogamous mating habits, with pairs remaining together for multiple breeding seasons.
Overall, the Broad-winged Hawk is a fascinating species to observe, with their unique characteristics and behaviors making them a beloved part of the Tennessee wildlife community.
6. Swainson’s Hawk
With its striking appearance and impressive hunting skills, Swainson’s Hawk is sure to leave you in awe. This bird of prey is a medium-sized hawk with a wingspan of about 4 to 5 feet. It has a distinctive white bib on its chest and a reddish-brown back.
Swainson’s Hawk can be found in Tennessee during its migration season, which is from late March to early May and from late August to early November. If you’re lucky enough to spot a Swainson’s Hawk in Tennessee, here are some interesting facts about this bird:
- Swainson’s Hawks are known for their long-distance migration, which can span up to 14,000 miles round trip. They breed in North America and spend their winters in South America.
- Their diet consists mainly of small mammals, such as rodents and rabbits, as well as birds and insects. They are also known to eat reptiles and amphibians.
- Swainson’s Hawks are considered to be beneficial to farmers, as they eat rodents that can damage crops.
Overall, Swainson’s Hawk is a remarkable bird with fascinating migration patterns and diet preferences. Keep an eye out for this impressive hunter during its migration season in Tennessee.
7. Red-shouldered Hawk
Get ready to be amazed by the beauty and grace of the Red-shouldered Hawk, a majestic bird of prey found in the eastern regions of North America.
These hawks are medium-sized with a wingspan of around 3 feet, and they’re easily recognizable by their reddish-brown shoulder patches.
They have a striking appearance, with dark brown and white feathers on their body, and a distinctive rusty-red tail.
Red-shouldered Hawks are typically found in wooded areas near water sources, such as swamps, rivers, and lakes. They build their nests high up in the trees, and often return to the same nest year after year.
These hawks are skilled hunters, and their diet includes small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. They’re known to hunt from a perch, swooping down to catch their prey with their sharp talons.
Overall, the Red-shouldered Hawk is a fascinating bird that plays an important role in the ecosystem. Their habitat and diet are closely linked, making them a vital part of the food chain in the eastern regions of North America.
Keep an eye out for these beautiful birds next time you’re out in the woods!
8. Ferruginous Hawk
Now that you know about the Red-shouldered Hawk, let’s dive into the world of Ferruginous Hawks. These majestic birds of prey are a sight to behold with their striking white underparts and rusty-red upperparts. Unlike the Red-shouldered Hawks, Ferruginous Hawks are known for their larger size, with a wingspan of up to four feet.
If you’re lucky enough to spot a Ferruginous Hawk in Tennessee, you’ll likely find them in open grasslands and prairies, where they can feast on their favorite prey – small mammals such as rabbits, ground squirrels, and prairie dogs.
They are also known to hunt larger prey like snakes and birds, but small mammals make up the majority of their diet.
Ferruginous Hawks are a crucial part of their ecosystem, as they help to control populations of small mammals that could otherwise cause damage to crops and other plants.
Unfortunately, like many species of birds of prey, Ferruginous Hawks have faced challenges due to habitat loss and human activity. In response, conservation efforts have been put in place to protect their habitat and ensure their survival.
These efforts include working with landowners to implement grazing practices that benefit the hawks’ habitat, as well as monitoring populations and enforcing regulations to prevent harm to the birds.
By working together, we can help to ensure that these magnificent birds continue to thrive in Tennessee and beyond.
9. Rough-legged Hawk
You’ll be amazed by the beauty of the Rough-legged Hawk, with its stunning plumage and impressive hunting skills.
These hawks are easily identified by their broad wings, feathered legs, and dark patches on the wrist. Their plumage varies from light to dark, with a distinctive white tail and a dark belly band.
Rough-legged Hawks are also known for their piercing gaze, which helps them spot prey from high altitudes.
Rough-legged Hawks are migratory birds that breed in the Arctic tundra and winter in the southern parts of North America, including Tennessee.
They start their journey south in late summer and return to their breeding grounds in the spring. During migration, they can be seen in large numbers, soaring high in the sky, and occasionally perching on trees or utility poles.
Their migration patterns are closely tied to the availability of food, particularly small rodents like lemmings, voles, and mice.
As you observe the stunning Osprey soaring high above, you can’t help but be impressed by their remarkable hunting abilities and distinctive appearance.
These birds of prey, also known as fish hawks, are well-known for their ability to dive into water and catch fish with their sharp talons.
In fact, their unique hunting style has led to the evolution of certain adaptations, such as reversible outer toes and nostrils that can be closed to prevent water from entering their respiratory system.
The Osprey is found throughout Tennessee, often near bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, and coastal areas. They prefer to build their nests on high structures, such as trees, power poles, or even man-made platforms.
These birds are also known for their strong migration habits, often traveling up to 160,000 kilometers in a single year.
Despite their impressive abilities and widespread distribution, Osprey populations have faced some challenges due to habitat loss and pollution. However, conservation efforts are underway to protect these majestic birds and their habitats.