10 Types Of Hawks In Wisconsin

Welcome to Wisconsin, home to a diverse range of hawks that soar through the skies with grace and power. Whether you’re an avid bird watcher or simply enjoy observing these majestic creatures in their natural habitats, Wisconsin is the perfect place to spot a variety of hawk species.

In this article, we’ll delve into the world of hawks and explore 10 of the most common types found in this beautiful state. As you explore Wisconsin’s natural landscapes, keep an eye out for the iconic Red-tailed Hawk with its distinctive rusty-red tail feathers.

Key Takeaways

  • Wisconsin is home to a diverse range of hawk species, including the Red-tailed Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Harrier, and Bald Eagle.
  • Red-tailed Hawks are known for their beautiful plumage, unique hunting technique, and conservation efforts to protect them.
  • Cooper’s Hawks prey on smaller birds and have a significant impact on the ecosystem.
  • Sharp-shinned Hawks have a sleek and agile appearance and face threats from habitat loss and other human activities. Northern Harriers have a distinct hunting technique and are known for their distinctive white rump patch, while Rough-legged Hawks are known for their hunting behavior.

1. Red-tailed Hawk

You’ll be amazed by the majestic presence of the Red-tailed Hawk, Wisconsin’s most common hawk species. These birds of prey can be found soaring high above in the sky, searching for their next meal.

Red-tailed Hawks are known for their beautiful plumage, which ranges from dark brown to a reddish-brown color. One interesting fact about their behavior is that they are monogamous, meaning they mate for life. They also have a unique hunting technique where they perch on high branches or poles, waiting for their prey to come into view.

Unfortunately, Red-tailed Hawks have faced threats from habitat loss and human interference.

To combat these issues, conservation efforts have been put in place to protect their habitats and promote awareness about their importance in the ecosystem.

2. Cooper’s Hawk

The Cooper’s hawk, known for its striking blue-gray back and rusty-red breast, is a frequent visitor to bird feeders and suburban backyards.

This medium-sized hawk is a skilled predator, preying on smaller birds such as sparrows, doves, and jays. Its hunting technique involves a rapid and agile pursuit of its prey, using its sharp talons to capture and kill its target.

Despite its predatory nature, the Cooper’s hawk has a conservation status of Least Concern, with stable populations in North America.

The Cooper’s hawk’s diet and hunting habits have a significant impact on the ecosystem. As a predator of smaller birds, it helps to regulate populations of these species, preventing them from becoming too abundant and potentially causing ecological imbalances.

However, it can also have negative effects on bird populations, particularly in urban areas where bird feeders attract large numbers of small birds. As such, it is important for bird enthusiasts and conservation organizations to strike a balance between feeding backyard birds and ensuring the survival of the Cooper’s hawk and other bird species.

3. Sharp-shinned Hawk

If you’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse of it, you’ll notice how the sharp-shinned hawk’s long tail and short wings give it a sleek and agile appearance as it darts through the trees in search of its prey.

These birds of prey are commonly found in Wisconsin, especially during migration periods. They are typically found in dense forests, where they can easily maneuver through the trees and hunt small birds and mammals.

Sharp-shinned hawks have a varied diet that includes small birds, rodents, and even insects. They’re also known to feed on other raptors, such as smaller hawks and falcons.

Despite their hunting prowess, sharp-shinned hawks face threats from habitat loss and other human activities.

Fortunately, conservation efforts have been put in place to protect these birds and their habitats, including the creation of protected areas and the use of sustainable forestry practices.

By taking these actions, we can help ensure that future generations will be able to appreciate the beauty and agility of these magnificent birds in the wild.

4. Northern Harrier

Spotting a Northern Harrier in flight is a breathtaking experience that leaves you in awe of their graceful movements and unique hunting style. These hawks are commonly found in open habitats such as marshes, grasslands, and agricultural fields.

They are known for their low, slow flight over the ground, which allows them to spot prey such as rodents, birds, and insects. Northern Harriers have a distinct hunting technique called ‘owl-like’ or ‘disking’.

This involves flying low over the ground in a circular pattern, creating a ‘disk’ of wind that flushes out prey.

They also have the ability to hover in place, which gives them a clear view of their surroundings and potential prey. These hawks are also known for their distinctive white rump patch, which helps distinguish them from other hawks in flight.

Overall, the Northern Harrier is a fascinating species to observe in the wild, with unique hunting techniques and habitat preferences.

5. Broad-winged Hawk

Flying through the forest, you might catch a glimpse of a Broad-winged Hawk soaring high above. These hawks are known for their broad wings that help them to soar effortlessly in the air.

The Broad-winged Hawk is a migratory bird that can be found in Wisconsin during the breeding season, which is from April to July. During the winter months, they migrate to Central and South America.

The Broad-winged Hawk prefers to nest in deciduous and mixed forests, where they can find plenty of cover and prey. They build their nests in trees, usually in the crotch of a branch, and line them with bark and grass.

They lay 2-3 eggs per clutch, which hatch after about a month. The young hawks fledge after about 4-5 weeks and become independent after another 4-5 weeks.

If you’re lucky enough to spot a Broad-winged Hawk in Wisconsin, take a moment to appreciate their graceful flight and unique nesting habits.

6. Rough-legged Hawk

The Rough-legged Hawk, with its distinctive feathered legs, is a bird of prey that can be seen perched on telephone poles during the winter months.

This hawk is known for its hunting behavior, which involves hovering over fields and meadows in search of prey.

The Rough-legged Hawk’s habitat includes tundra and northern forests, and it’s known to migrate to Wisconsin during the winter months.

In terms of behavior, the Rough-legged Hawk is known for its hunting style, which involves hovering in the air before diving down to catch its prey.

This hawk can be seen hunting small mammals such as voles, mice, and shrews. The Rough-legged Hawk is also known for its nesting habits, as it prefers to build its nest on rocky cliffs or high trees.

Overall, the Rough-legged Hawk is a fascinating bird that can be observed in its natural habitat during the winter months in Wisconsin.

7. Bald Eagle

Now that we’ve discussed the Rough-legged Hawk, let’s move on to another fascinating bird of prey that calls Wisconsin home: the Bald Eagle.

You may have already spotted one of these majestic birds soaring high in the sky, or perched atop a tree overlooking a body of water.

But did you know that the Bald Eagle has a unique habitat and nesting behavior?

Bald Eagles prefer to live near bodies of water, such as lakes, rivers, and coasts. They build their nests, also known as eyries, in tall trees near the water’s edge. These nests can be massive, measuring up to 13 feet deep and 8 feet wide, and can weigh up to a ton!

Bald Eagles are also known for their loyalty to their partners and their nests. They often mate for life and return to the same nest every year, adding to it and maintaining it for years to come.

Despite their iconic status as a national symbol, Bald Eagles were once on the brink of extinction due to habitat loss and hunting. In Wisconsin, the population was down to just 108 breeding pairs in the 1970s.

However, thanks to conservation efforts, their population has rebounded to over 1,500 breeding pairs in the state today.

These efforts include habitat restoration, strict hunting regulations, and the banning of harmful pesticides like DDT. As a result, the Bald Eagle is no longer listed as an endangered species and continues to thrive in Wisconsin’s diverse ecosystem.

8. Osprey

If you’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse of an Osprey in Wisconsin, you might mistake it for a Bald Eagle at first glance. However, a closer look will reveal distinct differences between the two.

Ospreys are smaller in size and have a more compact body shape. They also have a distinctive white head and chest, dark brown back, and wings that are slightly bent at the elbow.

Ospreys are known for their unique hunting behavior, which involves diving into the water to catch fish with their sharp talons.

They are highly adaptable birds and can be found nesting near lakes, rivers, and other bodies of water.

Due to habitat loss and pesticide contamination, Ospreys were once threatened in Wisconsin. However, conservation efforts have helped to increase their population, and they are now considered a species of least concern.

These efforts include the installation of nesting platforms and the reduction of pesticide use near waterways.

9. American Kestrel

Get ready to be amazed by the American Kestrel, a fierce and diminutive bird of prey that can be found throughout North America.

The American Kestrel is the smallest falcon in North America, measuring only about 9 to 12 inches in length and a wingspan of 20 to 24 inches.

They have a distinctive appearance with their reddish-brown back and tail, blue-gray wings, and white or buff underparts with black spots.

Kestrels are known for their unique hunting behavior. They have the ability to hover in mid-air by rapidly flapping their wings, which allows them to spot their prey from high above.

Once they have located their prey, they will dive down to catch it with their sharp talons.

Despite their small size, kestrels are fierce predators and can take down prey that is larger than themselves. However, these birds are facing a decline in population due to habitat loss and other factors.

Conservation efforts are underway to protect kestrels and their habitat, which will ensure their survival for future generations to enjoy.

10. Merlin

You’ll be fascinated by the Merlin, a small but mighty falcon that can be found throughout North America. It has a wingspan of about 20 inches and a sleek, grayish-blue plumage that allows it to blend seamlessly into its surroundings.

The Merlin is known for its agility and speed, making it a skilled hunter of small birds and insects.

Merlin behavior includes a unique hunting technique where it will often fly low to the ground and use surprise attacks to catch its prey.

They’re also known for their territorial behavior, fiercely defending their nesting sites and hunting grounds.

The Merlin habitat ranges from open fields and grasslands to forested areas, making it a versatile bird that can adapt to different environments.

Overall, the Merlin is a fascinating and impressive hawk that is worth watching out for during your next birdwatching adventure.

Brian Koller

Growing up on a farm in eastern PA, I’ve grown fond of wildlife and the woods and learning about the critters and firewood and everything else in-between. I made this site to share my experiences and knowledge.

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