13 Different Types of Hawks in Montana

Types Of Hawks In Montana
Red-tailed Hawk” by Jon David Nelson is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Montana is home to various hawks, from the Red-tailed Hawk to the Northern Goshawk.

Each of these types of hawks in Montana has its own unique features, size, and behaviors.

In our blog post, we’ll explore the different types of hawks you can find in Montana and learn more about their habitats and habits.

We’ll also share tips on how to identify them in the wild. So if you’re curious about the types of hawks in Montana, keep reading!

1. Northern Harrier

The Northern Harrier is one of the most widespread types of hawks in Montana. It is a medium-sized hawk with gray upper parts, white underparts, a distinctive white facial ruff, and a long, thin tail. 

These types of hawks in Montana prefer to inhabit wetland habitats like marshes and meadows, though they can also be found in open fields and grasslands. They typically hunt in flight low to the ground or by hovering above their prey. 

Northern Harriers feed mainly on small rodents and birds, making them incredibly beneficial to local ecosystems. This species is listed as a Species of Special Concern in Montana due to habitat loss and degradation.

2. Red-tailed Hawk

The Red-tailed Hawk is also on our list of types of hawks in Montana. It is the most commonly seen hawk species in Montana and can be spotted soaring above fields, roadsides, and mountains. These types of hawks in Montana have reddish-brown tails and vary in color depending on their habitat.

These hawks are easily distinguished by their broad wings and long tails, which they use to soar on the air currents. Red-tailed Hawks can be found hunting during the day or night, as they feed on small mammals, reptiles, insects, and birds. They also scavenge for carrion when available. Red-tailed Hawks build their nests in tall trees near open areas and lay between 1-5 eggs.

3. Cooper’s Hawk

The Cooper’s Hawk is a medium-sized hawk that is native to Montana and is similar in size to the Red-tailed Hawk. These types of hawks in Montana have dark gray bodies, rust-colored shoulders, white chests, and yellow eyes. 

Cooper’s Hawks typically hunt by flying rapidly through dense woods and forests while searching for small mammals, birds, reptiles, and invertebrates. They build their nests in large trees near open fields and lay between 2-5 eggs. Cooper’s Hawks can also be found in city parks as they often perch on light posts and utility poles.

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is smaller than the other two species but still inhabits Montana. They have a square head, short tail, and blue-gray black and white breasts. 

Sharp-shinned Hawks feed mostly on small songbirds and hunt by stealthily flying through dense forests. They nest in large coniferous trees near open fields and lay between 4-6 eggs. These types of hawks in Montana will often travel in flocks during migration, making them easier to spot during winter.

The Cooper’s Hawk is one of Montana’s most common and recognizable hawk species. These types of hawks in Montana have distinctive round heads and short, rounded wings. They are relatively small hawks with a dark-brown upper body and light-colored head and breasts. 

The male Cooper’s Hawk has a blue-gray back and tail, while the female is slightly darker with a brownish-red back and tail. This species hunts mostly small birds, mammals, and reptiles and can often be seen perched in tall trees near open meadows or forests.

Cooper’s Hawks are generally found throughout Montana, but they tend to prefer more heavily wooded areas. They typically breed during summer, laying eggs in tree cavities or on large branches. Once they hatch, the young birds remain with their parents for a few weeks before dispersing. During the winter, these hawks migrate south, but some may remain in Montana, taking advantage of the milder climate.

Cooper’s Hawks are typically seen alone or in pairs and are quite aggressive when defending their territory. They are very vocal hawks who often call loudly when in flight or perched atop a tree. This species can survive in Montana for many years with the appropriate habitat and food sources.

4. Golden Eagle

The Golden Eagle is one of the largest raptors in Montana and can have a wingspan of up to 7 feet! They are mostly brown in color but have a distinctive white head with a yellow beak and yellow legs. 

Golden Eagles feed on large mammals such as rabbits and ground squirrels but will also take birds, reptiles, and fish if given the opportunity. These types of hawks in Montana build their nests high up on cliffs or large trees and lay between 1-4 eggs. The Golden Eagle is a threatened species in Montana due to habitat loss and poaching.

5. Rough-legged Hawk

The Rough-legged Hawk is also one of the most common types of hawks in Montana. It is usually seen during winter when it migrates from the northern tundra to the region. This large hawk can be identified by its brown upper parts, pale breast and tails, and feathered legs. Its long wings have a distinctively rounded shape and can reach a span of up to 56 inches. 

These types of hawks in Montana prefer open habitats with plenty of room for soaring and hunting. They often hunt over large fields or water bodies, looking for small mammals, birds, and even insects. The Rough-legged Hawk is a hardy species that can survive in even the harshest of Montana’s winter weather.

6. Red-tailed Hawk 

The Red-tailed Hawk is another common in Montana that can be spotted year-round. Its namesake is due to its bright red tail feathers, easily visible as it soars through the sky. 

These large types of hawks in Montana are also easily identified by their white breasts, dark backs, and a rounded wingspan of 48 inches. Red-tailed Hawks prefer open grasslands and woodlands where they can hunt for small mammals and birds.

They also enjoy scavenging carcasses of animals that have died or been killed by other predators. Red-tailed Hawks are incredibly adaptable and can be seen living in rural and urban settings.

7. Northern Harrier Hawk 

The Northern Harrier is a medium-sized hawk that can be identified by its distinctive long tail, curved wings, and white rump patch. This species tends to breed in grassy wetlands and meadows but may also live in wooded areas or forest edges during migration. 

Like other types of hawks in Montana, Northern Harriers will prey on small mammals such as mice and voles, insects, reptiles, and birds. They are quite agile in the air, gliding close to the ground while searching for their next meal. Northern Harriers are most likely to be seen in Montana during the spring and fall migrations when they pass through on their way to and from their breeding grounds.

8. Sharp-shinned Hawk

The Sharp-shinned Hawk is a small hawk found in Montana and is the smallest of North America’s accipiter hawks. They have slender bodies, long tails, and short, rounded wings. These birds are adapted for speed and maneuverability, making them excellent hunters.

The Sharp-shinned Hawk has a dark gray back, pale underparts, and red eyes. Its upper parts are slate gray, with rusty-red barring on its chest. Its beak and legs are dark, and it has yellow feet. 

During the breeding season, males have a distinctive white eyebrow stripe. They feed mainly on small birds, rodents, and large insects. In Montana, they nest in coniferous forests, often near a body of water.

9. Swainson’s Hawk

The Swainson’s Hawk is a medium-sized bird of prey found in Montana. It has a dark brown back and light brown underparts and can be recognized by its long wings and short tail. 

The wingspan of the Swainson’s Hawk can reach up to four feet and is typically seen soaring high above the plains of Montana. It feeds on small mammals, reptiles, insects, and carrion. When nesting, it builds a large stick nest in trees or on cliffs and lays two to four eggs.

The Swainson’s Hawk is an impressive species of hawk found in Montana. It is one of the few raptors that migrate to South America yearly, where it spends its winter months. During its migratory journey, this species can be seen soaring over the Great Plains in huge flocks numbering hundreds of individuals. Its impressive wingspan and large size make it easy to spot. 

The Swainson’s Hawk is an important species of hawk in Montana, and its presence positively affects the ecosystem. It preys upon small rodents, which helps to keep their population in check. In addition, they provide an important food source for other predators like eagles and owls. These types of hawks in Montana also help spread seeds from their food sources throughout their range, aiding in the dispersal of new plants and trees.

10. Ferruginous Hawk

The Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo ) is an impressive sight with its striking gray-brown plumage and size—it is the largest hawk in Montana. It usually inhabits dry open country, including grasslands, deserts, and shrublands. Its diet comprises small mammals such as ground squirrels, birds, reptiles, and insects. 

This species is particularly vulnerable to human disturbance, so it is important to be aware of its presence and give it space. The Ferruginous Hawk can be recognized by its broad wings, long tail, and short rounded head. Its underparts are light in color and heavily mottled or streaked with brown and gray, while its back is grayish-brown with a white rump. The bird’s facial disk is grayish-white, and its eyes are yellow. 

Females types of hawks in Montana are generally larger than males. This species nests on cliffs or in trees during the breeding season. They also prefer tall shrubs and trees when hunting. 

During the winter, they migrate south to parts of Mexico, Central America, and South America. As populations have declined in the United States due to human disturbances, conservation efforts have increased in recent years. We must continue to protect this species, as it is a key part of our ecosystem and plays an important role in the food chain.

11. Northern Goshawk

The Northern Goshawk is a species of hawk found in North America, most commonly in Montana. It is known for its powerful appearance, with its broad wings, short tail, and fierce yellow eyes. The Northern Goshawk is also a large bird of prey, measuring up to 24 inches long and weighing over 2 pounds. Its preferred habitat is dense forests where it can easily hunt birds and small mammals. 

It also prefers hunting during the day, unlike many other species of hawk. The Northern Goshawk has a distinct mottled gray-brown coloration with white patches on the shoulders and tail. Its head is blue-gray, and its chest is white, giving it an impressive look. This species of hawk also has yellow eyes and sharp talons that are used for catching its prey.

Regarding behavior, the Northern Goshawk is a solitary creature that prefers to hunt alone. It has also been known to be highly territorial and will protect its territory from any intruders. During mating season, pairs will often build a nest together and share the responsibilities of raising their young. Overall, the Northern Goshawk is an impressive species of hawk and can be found in Montana if you know where to look!

12. Broad-Winged Hawk

The Broad-winged Hawk is a fairly common hawk species in Montana. These raptors can be easily identified by their dark brown back, white chin and throat, and rusty-red tails. The Broad-winged Hawk has a wingspan of up to 40 inches, which makes them the second smallest species of hawk in the region.

The Broad-winged Hawk is most often seen soaring high in the sky during summer as they migrate south for the winter. During migration, it is not unusual to see flocks of Broad-winged Hawks numbering in the hundreds. 

These types of hawks in Montana feed mostly on small mammals, reptiles, and insects. The Broad-winged Hawk is an important bird species in Montana, and its population has been increasing in recent years due to conservation efforts. Seeing these hawks in flight is amazing, so keep your eyes open for them during your next visit to Montana!

13. Red-shouldered Hawk

Lastly, The Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) is a medium-sized hawk commonly found in the western regions of North America. These types of hawks in Montana can be identified by their reddish-brown shoulders and tail, and they have a distinct black and white barred pattern on their chest. They prefer to inhabit wooded areas where they can hunt for small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and insects. 

Red-shouldered Hawks are usually seen soaring over open meadows and fields, looking for potential prey. Red-shouldered Hawks typically mate for life and build large stick nests in tall trees. Breeding pairs will produce 3–4 eggs each year, and both parents take turns incubating them until they hatch. Red-shouldered Hawks can often be seen in pairs or small family groups during migration, making them a popular sight in many parts of Montana. These types of hawks in Montana are becoming rare as their habitats become increasingly disturbed by human development. 

Conservation efforts such as habitat protection and maintaining healthy forests are essential for preserving Montana’s Red-shouldered hawks’ populations. These measures help ensure that these majestic birds can continue to live and thrive in the state.


As you can see, Montana is home to various hawks. These types of hawks in Montana of prey are essential to the balance of Montana’s ecosystem. If you’re lucky enough to encounter one, take the opportunity to appreciate its unique beauty and fascinating behaviors. 

The Cooper’s Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, and Golden Eagle are just some species that call Montana home. With careful observation and appreciation of these wonderful types of hawks in Montana, we can help ensure that they continue to thrive in our state for years.

Montana is known for its rugged beauty and abundant wildlife, and one of its most majestic creatures is the hawk. Hawks can be found throughout the state, from the valleys to the mountains and everywhere in between. 

In our blog post, we explored the different types of hawks in Montana. We have also discussed their characteristics, habitat, and diet so that you can become better acquainted with these incredible creatures. Whether you’re a lifelong Montanan or just passing through, you’ll learn something new about the many types of hawks that call Montana home.

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