15 Different Types of Hawks in Mississippi

Types of Hawks in Mississippi

Mississippi is home to a wide variety of wildlife, and its bird population is no exception.

In particular, the state has many species of hawks that inhabit its forests, prairies, wetlands, and other habitats.

If you’re a bird enthusiast, you’re sure to be interested in learning more about the different types of hawks in Mississippi. 

Our blog post will provide an overview of the various types of hawks in Mississippi and some interesting facts about each type of bird.

Let’s get started! 

1. Sharp-Shinned Hawk

The Sharp-Shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) is first on our list of types of hawks in Mississippi. It is a small bird of prey found throughout Mississippi. 

These types of hawks in Mississippi typically have a bluish-gray back and wings, a light-colored chest, and a white neck ring.

They measure about 12 to 16 inches long, with a wingspan of 20 to 25 inches. It is one of the smallest hawks found in North America.

Sharp-Shinned Hawks can be found year-round in Mississippi but migrate south in the fall and winter months.

They prefer to live in open deciduous forests but can also be found in cities, parks, and other developed areas.

These types of hawks in Mississippi feed mainly on small birds, such as sparrows, warblers, and thrushes.

They are also known to take small mammals and reptiles occasionally. These hawks are not commonly seen since they hunt during the day and roost at night.

Disturbed or threatened, they fly away quickly and silently with rapid wing beats.

They are known for their agility and maneuverability in flight due to their slim body shape and relatively long tail.

2. Northern Goshawk

The Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis) is also on our list of types of hawks in Mississippi. It is a large bird of prey native to Mississippi and can be found in the state’s northern areas. This powerful hawk is the largest member of the Accipitridae family and is characterized by its long wings and tail and dark coloration with white underparts. 

It is an incredibly agile flier, and its diet mainly consists of small mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Although it is not a common species, it is often seen perched on tall trees in search of food or during its seasonal migrations. 

3. Cooper’s Hawk

The Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) is a medium-sized bird of prey native to Mississippi and can be found throughout the state. This hawk is easily recognizable by its broad, rounded wings, short tail, and distinctive reddish-brown bars on its underparts. 

It prefers to hunt in wooded areas and dense vegetation, and its diet mainly consists of small mammals and birds. The Cooper’s Hawk is known for its swift and agile flying abilities, making it a very efficient hunter. 

Cooper’s Hawks are relatively large hawks from the Accipitridae family and native to Mississippi. They typically measure around 16 to 24 inches long with a wingspan between 28 to 37 inches. A slate gray upper side, rusty-colored breasts, and a white underside generally characterize adult birds. In addition, they have yellow eyes and a reddish-brown tail with dark bands.

The Cooper’s Hawk is an agile hunter that primarily feeds on small mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles. They hunt by surprise, waiting for prey in trees or on perches and quickly swooping to catch it. They can be found in forests, woodlands, urban areas, and farmlands throughout Mississippi and tend to migrate south during winter.

Cooper’s Hawks are often confused with the smaller Sharp-Shinned Hawk, but the main difference is that Cooper’s Hawks have a thicker neck, larger feet, and a larger head than the Sharp-Shinned Hawk. They make excellent additions to any backyard bird-watching list in Mississippi due to their stunning plumage and interesting hunting habits.

Cooper’s Hawks are relatively large hawks from the Accipitridae family and native to Mississippi. They typically measure around 16 to 24 inches long with a wingspan between 28 to 37 inches. 

A slate gray upper side, rusty-colored breast, and a white underside generally characterize the adult types of hawks in Mississippi. In addition, they have yellow eyes and a reddish-brown tail with dark bands.

4. Red-tailed Hawk

The Red-tailed Hawk(Buteo jamaicensis)  is a large bird of prey native to Mississippi and can be found throughout the state. This hawk is easily recognizable by its broad, rounded wings, white-tipped tail, and distinctive red coloring on its back and wings. Its diet mainly consists of rodents and small mammals, which it hunts from a perch or while in flight. 

These types of hawks in Mississippi are commonly seen soaring above open fields and grasslands in search of food, and their vocalizations can be heard for miles. The Red-Tailed Hawk is the most common type of hawk found in Mississippi. It is a large, long-winged raptor with brown plumage and a dark red tail. It typically resides in open fields, woodlands, and near rivers or streams. 

They are well-known for their slow, wide glides over open fields, where they can be seen hovering and soaring on updrafts of air in search of prey. The Red-Tailed Hawk has various prey items, including small mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. They also scavenge for carrion when available. 

During summer, they feed more on larger mammals like rabbits, skunks, and groundhogs. During winter, they switch to smaller prey items like rodents and birds.

The Red-Tailed Hawk is an important part of Mississippi’s environment as it helps control populations of small mammals that can damage crops and spread diseases. They are also important species to keep watch on because their population numbers can be an indicator of changes in the environment. For example, when their numbers decrease significantly, it can indicate a decrease in prey availability or increased pollution levels.

5. Marsh Hawk

The Marsh Hawk(Circus hudsonius)  is a small species of hawk found throughout Mississippi. It is common in marshes, meadows, and grasslands throughout the state. Its brown upper body can identify with white streaks and its rusty-red tail. 

The Marsh Hawk has a distinctively short, rounded wingspan and feeds on small mammals, reptiles, and insects. It typically hunts from low perches, diving quickly and silently onto its prey. In the breeding season, it nests in thick vegetation near wetlands and lays 3 to 5 eggs. The Marsh Hawk is a protected species in Mississippi, so it is important to take caution when observing them in the wild.

6. White-Tailed Hawk

The White-Tailed Hawk (Geranoaetus albicaudatus) is a large, powerful hawk found throughout the United States. They can be seen soaring above open fields and wooded areas in Mississippi. 

These majestic types of Hawks in Mississippi have a wingspan of up to 56 inches and weigh up to 4 pounds. They are easily identifiable by their white tail feathers and chestnut-colored underparts.

White-Tailed Hawks usually hunt by swooping down from high altitudes in search of small rodents. They will also eat insects, reptiles, amphibians, and other birds. These types of Hawks in Mississippi have an incredibly wide range of habitat preferences, often found nesting in tall trees or foraging for food in open meadows and wetlands.

White-Tailed Hawks are also very vocal, often using a series of low hoots to communicate with one another. These types of Hawks in Mississippi are highly territorial and fiercely defend their nests during the breeding season. They will aggressively dive and attack intruders, often chasing them off their territory. These stunning birds are a true symbol of the Southern countryside and can often be seen gracefully gliding above the Mississippi landscape.

7. Red-Shouldered Hawk

The Red-Shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) is a medium-sized prey bird inhabiting the southeastern United States, including Mississippi. This hawk is typically between 15 and 22 inches long and has a wingspan of around 32 to 43 inches. It has a barred reddish-brown back and upper wings with a white breast and belly, yellow legs, and a hooked beak. 

The Red-Shouldered Hawk is an excellent flier, usually seen soaring or gliding in search of food. This species prefers to inhabit hardwood forests and can often be spotted perched atop tall trees. These hawks are most active during the day and hunt primarily for small mammals such as mice, voles, and squirrels. They will also feed on other small animals, reptiles, amphibians, and occasionally, fish. 

The Red-Shouldered Hawk breeds in Mississippi during the spring and summer months. During this time, they built nests in tall trees of sticks and twigs lined with softer materials such as moss, grasses, and feathers. The female types of Hawks in Mississippi lays 2 to 4 eggs in each clutch, and both parents will help with incubation duties. The young are born blind and deaf and are completely dependent on their parents for food and protection until they can fledge.

8. Gray Hawk

Gray Hawks (Buteo plagiatus) are next on our list of types of Hawks in Mississippi. They are found in the south-central United States and can be spotted in Mississippi. This species of hawk is medium-sized, with long wings and a long tail. Their coloring is a mixture of white, brown, and gray, making them difficult to spot amongst trees. 

Gray Hawks prefer open woodlands, meadows, savannas, and other open habitats. They use their keen eyesight to hunt small mammals and other birds on the ground and in the air.

In addition to hunting, Gray Hawks also eat fruits and nuts. In the fall, they gather in large flocks to migrate to Mexico and Central America. They can sometimes be found further north than their breeding range during the winter months. In the springtime, they migrate back to Mississippi and resume breeding.

Gray Hawks are solitary creatures, and their nests are built high in tall trees. They usually have 1-4 eggs that hatch within 30 days of being laid. The young Hawks remain in the nest for around 8 weeks before the flight. This species of hawk is considered rare in Mississippi due to its limited population numbers. Despite this, they can still be seen flying above the landscape occasionally.

9. Rough-legged Hawk

The Rough-Legged Hawk(Buteo lagopus) is a medium-sized bird of prey that can be found in Mississippi during the winter months. It has a distinctive white head and neck, dark wings and tail, and a light-colored belly with dark barring. This hawk’s legs are longer than most other hawks, allowing it to perch in low vegetation and scan for prey from the ground. 

The Rough-Legged Hawk is a very adaptable predator, capable of hunting small rodents and large birds. During the winter months in Mississippi, this hawk can often be seen in open grasslands, farmlands, and woodlands. 

These types of Hawks in Mississippi migrate south from northern Canada and Alaska in late fall, spending the winter in Mississippi before heading north again in spring. They typically arrive in late November and depart in March. During their stay, they can often be seen perched on fence posts or poles, scanning for prey with their keen eyesight.

10. Zone-Tailed Hawk

The Zone-tailed Hawk (Buteo albonotatus) is a medium-sized raptor found in the southwestern United States, from California east to Texas and south to Mexico. It has a wingspan of about 36 inches and weighs about 2 pounds. 

Its coloring combines light gray upperparts and white underparts, with dark barring on its tail, resembling a Turkey Vulture’s tail pattern. It usually hunts for small mammals and other birds but eats snakes, lizards, frogs, fish, and insects. 

Like other types of Hawks in Mississippi, the Zone-tailed Hawk catches its prey by flying low over fields or along ridges. When it finds an animal, it swoops and grabs it with its talons before returning to a perch. 

The Zone-tailed Hawk is also known to steal food from other birds. It nests in tall trees and breeds during the summer months. The female will lay two to three eggs in a stick nest near the tree’s top. This species is listed as Near Threatened due to habitat loss and hunting pressure.

11. Swainson’s Hawk

Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni) is the largest and most widespread of the Mississippi hawks. It is a bird of prey that prefers open areas such as grasslands, agricultural fields, and woodlands near water sources. 

Its white underside, reddish-brown shoulders can recognize as Swainson’s Hawk, and wings barred with black and white. These types of Hawks in Mississippi have long, pointed wings and are often seen soaring high above the ground. They feed primarily on small mammals and insects but will also take carrion and even hunt for other birds. Swainson’s Hawks nest in trees or on cliffs and lay 2-4 eggs.

Swainson’s Hawk is one of the most common migrating hawks in Mississippi, though it is not always seen during migration. It usually arrives in the state during April or May and departs for its wintering grounds in August or September. This species has been monitored as part of The Mississippi Kite Project since 2010 and is considered an important indicator of habitat health. Due to their beautiful plumage and majestic flight, Swainson’s Hawks are popular among falconers and bird watchers.

12. Ferruginous Hawk

The Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis) is one of the most widespread hawks in Mississippi and can be seen in most open areas across the state. It is a large, powerfully-built hawk with brownish-red to dark gray upperparts and white underparts, though some may have reddish highlights. Their distinctive V-shaped tail can identify them. 

Ferruginous Hawks typically hunt for small mammals like ground squirrels, rabbits, mice, and voles in open grasslands, fields, and deserts. They are often seen perched atop posts or soaring high in the sky searching for prey.

Ferruginous Hawks migrate south yearly and in winter in southern parts of the United States, including Mississippi. During the winter, they can be found in areas with open grasslands and shrublands where they can find ample food sources. Though they may not stick around year-round, Ferruginous Hawks remain a common sight in Mississippi throughout the year. Their distinctive tails and powerful flight can easily spot them.

13. Short-Tailed Hawk

The Short-Tailed Hawk is a small, mainly brown and white, North American bird of prey. This species of hawk is found across much of the southern US, including in Mississippi. It is a forest-dweller, usually inhabiting wooded areas near rivers or other bodies of water. It has bright yellow legs and feet and a barred chest, making it quite easy to identify. 

Short-Tailed types of Hawks in Mississippi are mainly active during the day and are known for their aerial displays when hunting. They typically feed on small birds, reptiles, amphibians, and insects. While it is uncommon to find this species in Mississippi, it is not unheard of.

14. Harris’s Hawk

The Harris’s Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus) is one of the largest hawks found in Mississippi and is commonly seen hunting for prey in open fields and woodlands. The Harris’s Hawk has a reddish-brown body with white markings on its belly and tail and a white-tipped black crest. 

This species is also distinguished by its large yellow eyes, long and powerful legs, and strong talons that they use to catch and eat small mammals, birds, and lizards. In recent years, the Harris’s Hawk has been seen more frequently in Mississippi, providing an exciting sight for birdwatchers.

15. Broad-Winged Hawk

The Broad-Winged Hawk(Buteo platypterus) is last on our list of types of Hawks in Mississippi. It is a medium-sized hawk with a wingspan of 35 to 47 inches. They are one of the most commonly seen raptors in Mississippi and tend to migrate in large flocks. 

These types of Hawks in Mississippi have mostly dark brown feathers on their back and wings, with a lighter chest and stomach that is usually streaked with fine, vertical stripes. Broad-Winged Hawks typically live in open woodlands near rivers, lakes, and wetlands. They hunt for small animals, such as rodents and insects, and feed on berries and fruit. The call of the Broad-Winged Hawk is a loud whistle that carries a long distance.


If you live in Mississippi and you’re looking to spot some magnificent birds of prey, you’ve come to the right place! Mississippi is home to various hawks and other raptors, making it a great place for birders and wildlife enthusiasts. 

In our blog post, we have discussed the different types of hawks in Mississippi and their unique characteristics. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced birder, there’s plenty to learn about the fascinating and majestic types of Hawks in Mississippi of the Magnolia State!

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