The United States has a sizable hawk population, with approximately 25 species spread out across the country. Because different states have different food sources and climate, species will spend their time in various places throughout the year.
Wyoming is one of the states with a considerable number of hawks. In this article, we will be looking at a few species that spend at least part of the year in the state.
Scientific Name: Buteo jamaicensis
Length: 17.7 inches to 25.6 inches
Weight: 24.3 ounces to 51.5 ounces
Wingspan: 44.9 inches to 52.4 inches
The Red-Tailed Hawk is relatively large compared to other hawks, and it is the most common hawk in the whole of North America. This particular species ranges in Southern and Eastern Wyoming for the entire year, but only appears in the rest of the state during the breeding season.
Red-Tailed Hawks love to soar overhead and perch in trees and on telephone wires, so they are easy to spot. They feed mostly on small or medium-sized mammals, so you won’t commonly see them stalking your bird feeder.
Scientific Name: Accipiter cooperii
Length: 14.6 inches to 17.7 inches
Weight: 7.8 ounces to 24 ounces
Wingspan: 24.4 inches to 35.4 inches
Cooper’s Hawks are permanent residents of Wyoming, and you’ll see them for most of the year in the state. They only breed in the northern parts of Wyoming, however.
These hawks look quite similar to Sharp-shinned Hawks, with the main difference between the two being their sizes. However, just like the Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk loves to prey on other birds and can bring chaos to the backyard in your feeder.
Scientific Name: Accipiter Striatus
Length: 9.4 inches to 13.4 inches
Weight: 3.1 ounces to 7.7 ounces
Wingspan: 16.9 inches to 22.1 inches
The Sharp-shinned Hawk, also known as the Sharpie, ranges in Wyoming all year round. These birds have gained notoriety for stalking bird feeders and preying on songbirds, which form the bulk of their diet.
They are the smallest hawks, not only in Wyoming but in all of North America. They are, however, a big nuisance in backyards. If you spot a Sharpie in your backyard, take down your bird feeder for a few days until the hawk moves on.
Scientific Name: Accipiter gentilis
Length: 20.9 inches to 25.2 inches
Weight: 22.3 ounces to 48.1 ounces
Wingspan: 40.5 inches to 46.1 inches
Northern Goshawks are year-round residents of most parts of Wyoming, but they are a little rarer in eastern Wyoming since only non-breeding populations live there. This hawk is larger than both the Cooper’s Hawk and Sharpie.
The name ‘Goshawk’ comes from old English for ‘Goose Hawk,’ which it got because it preys on smaller birds. A Northern Goshawk is easy to identify from its gray color, red eyes, and white stripes that look like eyebrows, right over the eyes.
Broad Winged Hawk
Scientific Name: Buteo platypterus
Length: 13.4 inches to 17.3 inches
Weight: 9.3 ounces to 19.8 ounces
Wingspan: 31.9 inches to 39.4 inches
The Broad Winged Hawk is mainly in Northeastern Wyoming and has a tiny breeding population there. However, one of its breeding areas is the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota. The park extends into eastern Wyoming.
Broad Winged Hawks fly from South America during the breeding seasons, flocking to their breeding grounds in North America in the hundreds of thousands.
Once in the United States, they tend to fly to the Eastern United States and large portions of Canada. These birds are relatively rare in Wyoming except in the small area mentioned above.
Scientific Name: Buteo swainsoni
Length: 18.9 inches to 22.1 inches
Weight: 24.4 ounces to 48.2 ounces
Wingspan: 48 inches
Swainson’s Hawks have a breeding range throughout the state of Wyoming. They are pretty easy to spot, especially during summertime, when they love to perch on utility poles and stalk prey on the ground.
These birds travel in large flocks called ‘kettles’. Kettles are very easy to spot because they can contain thousands of birds. This flocking happens in April and September when they migrate to and from the United States. Interestingly, Swainson’s Hawks have one of the longest migration routes of all American raptors. They can travel between Alaska and Southern South America.
Scientific Name: Buteo Regalis
Length: 22.1 inches to 27.2 inches
Weight: 34.5 ounces to 73.2 ounces
Wingspan: 52.4 inches to 55.9 inches
The state of Wyoming is a breeding-only range for the Ferruginous Hawk. This bird is one of the two only hawk species to have feathers down to their toes. The other species being the Rough-legged Hawk. They are also the largest North American hawk.
The Ferruginous Hawk sightings are common, and you can see them perching on utility poles or soaring high overhead. The majority of them have light underbodies and are mostly pale in appearance.
There are, however, ‘dark morph’ Ferruginous Hawks, which are darker in appearance, though they are only a small percentage of the overall population.
Scientific Name: Buteo lagopus
Length: 18.5 inches to 20.5 inches
Weight: 25.2 ounces to 49.4 ounces
Wingspan: 52 inches to 54.3 inches
Opposite to the Ferruginous Hawk, the Rough-legged Hawk has a non-breeding range in the state of Wyoming. The best time to spot one is during winter since they migrate to northern Canada and Alaska to breed each summer.
This bird is the only other hawk species (along with the Ferruginous Hawk) with feathers covering their legs.
Though they have a reputation, not all hawks attack bird feeders, but you can protect your backyard if you know which species are nearby.
If you want to watch hawks in their natural habitat, you can find some species throughout Wyoming. While some are rare unless you know where to look, others are commonplace. You can see hawks in Wyoming at any time of year.