8 Types of Hawks in Maryland

Types of Hawks in Maryland
Photo by Janson_G on Pixabay

Are you a bird-watching enthusiast in Maryland? Or have you ever seen different types of hawks in Maryland flying over the sky and wondered which species it might be? 

Maryland has an abundance of wild birds due to its location in the United States, from migrating songbirds during spring and fall to some of the most impressive raptors that can be found anywhere.

Hawks are one type of raptor found across the state, but there are several types of hawks in Maryland’s borders. 

From red-tailed and Cooper’s hawks to sharp-shinned and broad-winged hawks, our article will discuss the types of hawks in Maryland and help you recognize them when you’re on your next birdwatching adventure!

1. Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk 
by AcrylicArtist is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Red-tailed Hawk is first on our list of types of hawks in Maryland. It is a common species of hawk found in Maryland.

This medium-sized bird is easily identifiable by the dark brown upperparts and reddish tail feathers derived from its name. 

These types of hawks in Maryland can be found flying high above open fields and marshland, searching for small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and insects.

During certain times of the year, the Red-tailed Hawk can also be seen soaring gracefully over forests and woodlands as it scours for food. 

As temperatures drop in winter, these birds migrate south for more suitable climates. The Red-tailed Hawk offers a spectacular vision to anyone lucky to witness them in flight.

2. Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk
by Becky Matsubara is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is also on our list of types of hawks in Maryland.

It is a common resident in Maryland and other areas of the Mid-Atlantic and upper eastern United States.

It is often seen perched high on trees or flapping at low levels while hunting for prey. 

As with most raptors, they are predators that hunt small birds and rodents as their primary food source.

The adult Sharp-shinned Hawks have noticeably short wings and long tails, giving them an elegant look to help chase down prey.

They have bright yellow eyes, slate gray feathers on their backs, and reddish coloration underneath them. 

During migrations in the spring, these types of hawks in Maryland can be found all over Maryland, flying in flocks of up to 20 individuals.

They prefer densely wooded areas where they can easily hide from human presence, making it easier to find their meals without much competition from other types of hawks in Maryland.

3. Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier 
by RS2Photography is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Northern Harrier is a species of Hawk native to Maryland and is a common sight throughout the state.

With its distinct silhouette, long wingspan, and white-ish head with a black patch around the eyes and beak, it’s easy to identify one in flight.

Let’s look at the Northern Harrier’s habits, habitat preferences, and what makes this bird such an interesting species! 

The Northern Harrier is commonly seen throughout Maryland and can be found hovering above fields during its migration season from mid-September until early November.

Its diet primarily consists of small rodents, but Northern Harriers are also known to feed on small birds or even insects.

They typically hunt low over open fields in search of prey, using their excellent eyesight for scouting and their highly developed sense of hearing for tracking down mice or voles beneath the grass. 

While they prefer open areas such as marshes or meadows, they can also be found nesting near wooded wetland habitats offering plenty of cover from predators.

In addition to their impressive hunting skills, Northern Harriers have been observed displaying courtship strategies while in flight that involve spiraling high into the sky before making wide circles in stunning displays of aerial agility. 

This adaptation allows them to find food more efficiently while impressing potential mates with their amazing acrobatics!

These incredible types of hawks in Maryland are considered one of our most treasured wildlife resources by residents of Maryland, something we should all take time out of our day to appreciate!

4. Cooper’s Hawk

Cooper's Hawk
by Charles Patrick Ewing is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) is one of the midsize types of hawk in Maryland.

It prefers dense woodland and suburban habitats but regularly visits open fields and meadows foraging. 

These birds feed mainly on small rodents, birds, reptiles, and insects.

Look for them stalking ground animals from low perches or soaring high over the forest in search of prey.

The Cooper’s Hawk has powerful hooked beaks and long narrow wings adapted well for hunting through thick underbrush.

The feathers of male adult birds are light blue-gray with a reddish barred chest, while females have brown above and buff-barred below. 

Juveniles are much darker than adults, showing overall dark barring on the exterior feathers.

In Maryland, the Cooper’s Hawk can be found mostly during the spring migration season between mid-April through mid-May.

5. Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk 
by dobak is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Northern Goshawk is a large, raptorial bird of prey native to Maryland and other northeastern states.

It is the largest hawk in that region and can be easily identified by its gray head, white throat, black-spotted chest, and orange-barred tail. 

Unlike other types of hawks in Maryland, these birds typically hunt from the ground up and feed mainly on solitary mammals like rabbits or squirrels.

These birds live in heavily wooded areas like deciduous forests with tall trees for perching. 

They use their sharp talons to snatch prey from hiding in dense vegetation. The bird’s cry consists of harsh shrieks, creating an intimidating presence during mealtime!

6. Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk 
by Andy Morffew is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) is next on our list of types of hawks in Maryland.

It is a species of hawk found throughout Maryland and across North America.

The red-shouldered hawk characteristically has brown upper parts with white bars and reddish barring on the underside of their wings. 

These types of hawks in Maryland are medium to large, with a wingspan ranging from 44 to 56 cm (18-22 inches).

They like to reside along wooded streams and wetlands and prefer habitats such as deciduous woodlands with open understories; there, they hunt during the day for prey, such as small rodents, frogs, insects, and reptiles.

Red-shouldered hawks have adapted well to living near humans, so sightings of these birds are becoming more frequent in suburban areas.

7. Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk
by USFWS Mountain Prairie is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Rough-legged Hawk is a species of hawk found in Maryland.

This raptor has fairly long wings and a distinctively feathered leg for which it is named. It usually feeds on small rodents, such as lemmings, voles, and moles. 

However, it will supplement its diet with large insects and berries during the summer months.

Like other types of hawks in Maryland, the Rough-legged Hawk prefers to build its nest high up in trees or on cliffs with ample prey.

Due to its remote habitat preferences, the Rough-legged Hawk remains somewhat elusive to human observers.

Still, those fortunate to encounter this magnificent species never forget their first sighting of one of nature’s most impressive predators.

8. Osprey

by bob in swamp is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This is the first on our list of types of hawks in MarylandThe Osprey, also known as the Fishhawk, is a common type of hawk in Maryland.

This majestic bird of prey lives near waterways year-round and populates several territories throughout the state.

Here are two paragraphs to provide insight into this impressive species. 

Ospreys are medium-sized hawks throughout the U.S., mostly from Massachusetts down to Florida on the eastern coast.

Ospreys have white heads with black streaks along the sides of their face and neck.

Their wingspan is approximately four feet across, and their beak is distinctly curved for their appetite for fish, for which it has become famously known as “the fish hawk.” 

Ospreys inhabit areas near water sources like rivers and lakeside habitats.

They often build stick nests high in trees or man-made structures like power poles or telephone towers overlooking bodies of water that are perfect fishing spots for them.

They hunt by hovering over bodies of water while searching for prey before plunging feet into the water to catch fish beneath the surface with their talons. 

The Osprey’s diet consists almost exclusively of fish; however, they occasionally eat invertebrates such as crayfish, frogs, small birds, and reptiles.

In Maryland, they can sometimes be spotted during spring migration when they migrate from southern states to start new territories in Maryland or further north.


In conclusion, there are main types of hawks in Maryland, including the red-tailed hawk, Cooper’s hawk, sharp-shinned hawk, American kestrel, broad-winged hawk, northern harrier, osprey, and bald eagle.

Each type of hawk has unique identifying characteristics that distinguish them from other birds of prey.

The presence of such a variety of these majestic types of hawks in Maryland is an important part of Maryland’s rich and diverse ecology.

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