Hawks In Oregon: 10 Species To Be Looking For

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Due to its geographical location, Oregon boasts an incredibly varied landscape. From forested mountains and moist rainforests to fertile valleys and harsh deserts, there is a habitat for everyone and everything. Oregon’s wide spaces, arid landscapes, and natural mountains serve as excellent hunting grounds for hawks. The thick rainforests and heavily forested mountains provide shelter for them for months on end. Your chances of spotting a hawk in Oregon are quite high.

Animal life in Oregon thrives due to its wide-ranging climates, and because forests cover more than two-fifths of the state.

Numerous species of birds inhabit or migrate to the state during the breeding season. Though Oregon has a comparatively limited number of hawk species, those that are present can be seen in large numbers.

A good way to attract hawks is by knowing their diet. For example, if you want to attract a Swainson’s hawk, use grasshoppers as bait in an open, grass-covered area. Note that most species of hawk feed on small mammals and insects.

Whether you’re a hawk enthusiast or just want to get some cool shots of different types of hawks, we’re here to tell you all about the different species of hawks in Oregon and where you can find them.

Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo swainsoni
  • Weight: 24.4-48.2 oz
  • Length: 18.9-22.1 in
  • Wingspan: 48 in

Swainson’s Hawks can be found soaring across open country skies in the northern part of Oregon all summer long. They’ll migrate south during the winter.

They’re accustomed to numerous habitats, including farmland, but they mainly prefer open spaces, so you’ll likely spot them in grasslands, wetlands, or near farms. They’re also found in groups. 

They are medium-sized members of the Buteo genus. Buteo hawks are characterized by their large size and raptor’s diet. Raptors, or birds of prey, usually hunt and eat small mammals. 

Swainson’s Hawks come in two main colors. The light morphs have white chests and throats. The outer rims of their narrow wings are white, while the rest is dark. Their tails are greyish brown.

The dark morphs sport a dark brown color all over, except for a light patch on the underpart of their tail.

A Swainson’s Hawk’s diet changes depending on the season. When breeding, Swainson’s hawks live on a diet of rodents, rabbits, gophers, and other small mammals. When they’re not breeding, they have a more limited diet of insects, specifically grasshoppers.

Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

  • Scientific name: Accipiter cooperii
  • Weight: 7.8-24 oz 
  • Length: 14.6-17.7 in 
  • Wingspan: 24.4-35.4 in 

The Cooper’s Hawk belongs to the Accipiter family, which is a group of lightweight hawks famous for agility. As Cooper’s Hawks prefer both woodlands and open spaces, they can be found all over Oregon all year long.

The shape and size of male Cooper’s Hawks differ from that of the female. Female hawks are considerably larger, and males have a flatter head and a more rounded tail. The Cooper’s Hawk’s call is lower than the higher-pitched Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Cooper’s Hawks can be found in populated or suburban regions in search of bird feeders, as they prey on a variety of birds.

Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk

  • Scientific name: Accipiter gentilis
  • Weight: 22.3-48.1 oz 
  • Length: 20.9-25.2 in
  • Wingspan: 40.5-46.1 in

Like Cooper’s Hawks, Northern Goshawks can be found all over Oregon year-round. Although, they prefer dense forest areas. They’re defensive birds that will fight back if threatened. An experienced bird watcher can find one of these secretive birds with some effort.

They have rounded wings and long tails. They’re quite large and come in various colors that depend on their regional habitat. Mostly, though, they are dark grey with bright red eyes and a dark-colored head.

Northern Goshawks stalk for prey from mid-levels of trees. They approach their target at an accelerated speed, oftentimes tumbling through branches during flight. They are fierce birds that aren’t afraid of a fight.

Their diet mainly consists of small or medium-sized mammals, as well as medium or large-sized birds. Pigeons tend to be their favorite prey.

Ferruginous Hawk

Ferruginous Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo regalis
  • Weight: 34.5-73.2 oz
  • Length: 22.1-27.2 in
  • Wingspan: 52.4-55.9 in 

Ferruginous Hawks can be found in eastern Oregon, but only during breeding seasons. They’re partial to vast grasslands and open spaces.

Ferruginous Hawks tend to migrate south in the winter. However, a small number may remain in southern Oregon. 

The Ferruginous Hawk is considered the largest of its species. It’s found in two colors. Light morphs are rusty brown, with pale necks, heads, and chests, and a white tail. Dark morph birds are dark brown, with light parts on the upper and lower wings.

Ferruginous Hawks don’t mind the presence of people, so it’s more than possible to spot one around your neighborhood in backyards around bird feeders. 

They hunt small or medium-sized mammals, mostly rabbits. They also eat squirrels, hares, and prairie dogs.

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Sharp-Shinned Hawk

  • Scientific name: Accipiter striatus
  • Weight: 3.1-7.7 oz 
  • Length: 9.4-13.4 in 
  • Wingspan: 16.9-22.1 in

Sharp-Shinned Hawks are a widespread species that can be found throughout North America. Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks look remarkably alike with some small differences. Cooper’s Hawks have a flatter head.

They prefer thick, wooded areas, but since they mainly prey on smaller birds, they can also be found in populated areas near bird feeders where wild bird populations can be found. Their hunting preferences also help to keep local bird populations healthy by culling the weaker and sicker among them.

Sharp-Shinned Hawks are of the smallest known hawks in terms of size. They’re often brownish-grey in color with pale chests.

Zone-Tailed Hawk

Zone-tailed Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo albonotatus
  • Weight: 4-5 oz 
  • Length: 18 to 22 in 
  • Wingspan: 11–14 in 

The Zone-tailed Hawk can be quite a find if spotted. It’s quite small in size, and can easily be mistaken for a common bird. More so, it’s an uncommon species to find in abundance.

The best places to find Zone-tailed Hawks are warm and dry, such as desert mountains or open landscapes.

Zone-tailed Hawks are quite similar to turkey vultures in appearance. They’re mostly black with grey wing-rims.

When hunting, Zone-tailed Hawks soar around and circle their prey just as vultures would. Their diet consists of lizards, mammals, and small birds. 

Red-Tailed Hawk

Red-Tailed Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo jamaicensis
  • Weight:  24.3-51.5 oz
  • Length: 17.7-25.6 in
  • Wingspan: 44.9-52.4 in

The Red-Tailed Hawk is the most common species of hawks in North America. You are more than likely to come across one if you’re paying attention.

These common hawks can often be found on the roadsides and open fields of Oregon, but they can also adapt to all kinds of climates.

They’re large-bodied raptors with prominently broad wings. They’re famous for their red tails and are often found in a brownish color.

Red-Tailed Hawks often prey on small mammals and rodents, but their diet can vary depending on the climate and location.

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

  • Scientific name: Circus hudsonius
  • Weight: 10.6-26.5 oz 
  • Length: 18.1-19.7 in 
  • Wingspan: 40.2-46.5 in 

Northern Harriers are a cold-climate species of hawks. They fly to Oregon during the winter so that they can be near wetlands and prairies. They can be found all over Oregon, with non-breeding populations more common in Central and Western Oregon.

Northern Harriers are colored mainly in shades of brown, and they have a pretty wide wingspan.

Like owls, Northern Harriers rely on their keen sense of sound and vision when hunting. They fly low when searching for prey. They don’t have a specialized diet, their diet varies depending on the location or season. They mostly feed on rodents or insects.

Rough-Legged Hawk

Rough-Legged Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo lagopus
  • Weight: 25.2-49.4 oz 
  • Length: 18.5-20.5 in 
  • Wingspan: 52.0-54.3 in 

Rough-Legged Hawks, like the Northern Harrier, don’t mind the cold. Take a trip to the Smith & Bybee between October and March to catch a glimpse of a Rough-Legged Hawk in Oregon.

They’re called “Rough-Legged” because of the feathers on their legs that go down to as far as their feet. The extra layer of feathers helps them stay warm in arctic regions.

Rough-Legged Hawks come in light and dark morphs. Individual birds vary, but the former has pale chests with dark edges, and the latter have dark chests with pale edges. They’re hard to miss.

They prey on small mammals, with lemmings and voles being their favorite prey. 

Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

  • Scientific name: Buteo lineatus
  • Weight: 17-27 oz 
  • Length: 15 to 23 in 
  • Wingspan: 52.0-54.3 in 

Red-shouldered Hawks prefer the cover of the woods. They can be found year-round in the forests of Oregon.

These American Hawks can be identified by their red color. They also have brownish heads, red-orange chests, pale bellies, and a tail that can fan out, marked with narrow white bars.

They avoid larger prey, their diet typically includes small mammals such as voles, gophers, mice, and favorably chipmunks.

Wrap Up

Now that you have had a good glimpse at the species of hawks that are found in Oregon, you know just what to look for! If you’re hawk hunting, you can attempt to lure them out of the trees with bait. With a little luck, more than one might show up, then you’re in for quite the show! Don’t forget the camera!

Look out for other birds in the state such as the Dark-eyed Junco, Black-capped Chickadee, and Anna’s Hummingbird.

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