9 Types of Hawks in New Jersey

Types of Hawks in New Jersey
Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

Hawks are powerful, captivating birds that can be found all across New Jersey.

Different types of hawks in New Jersey region, such as Cooper’s hawk, red-tailed hawk, and sharp-shinned hawk, each with fascinating characteristics. 

From their agile hunting strategies to their distinct vocalizations and plumage patterns, discovering the types of hawks in New Jersey can offer NJ birders a thrilling opportunity to experience nature like never before.

1. Osprey

by bob in swamp is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Osprey, often referred to as a “Fish Hawk” or “Sea Hawk,” is one of the most iconic types of hawk in New Jersey.

This species of fish-eating hawk can be found along the coasts and rivers of the Garden State, where it forages for its preferred prey – small fish.

The Osprey’s adaptations for eating its fishy prey make it an especially interesting species of hawk. 

The Osprey has large feet and long, curved talons designed to easily grasp and clamp down on slippery prey.

It also has bars on its talons that aid in increasing surface area contact with its catch and powerful legs covered in feathers that act like a wetsuit by keeping them dry while they search for food in its wet habitat.

The eyesight of an Osprey is impressive; they have binocular vision, allowing them to scout out prey both on land and underwater with incredible accuracy. 

 When the nesting season comes around, Ospreys build large stick nests along waterways full of potential food sources.

They will also reuse old nests year after year until they become too bulky or topple over due to heavy winds or inclement weather conditions.

In addition to fishing, these types of hawks in New Jersey will also scavenge roadkill, bird eggs, and other wildlife when water levels are low during drought. 

Though currently protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, many areas of New Jersey face threats from human interference, such as habitat destruction from mining activities near waterways and degrading water quality due to contamination from fertilizer runoff into local streams and lakes.

If you take time outside this summer to look up into the sky or at your local shoreline, you may spot one of these beautiful types of hawks in New Jersey swooping in for a meal!

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 New Jersey.

It is a small bird of prey that can easily be found in New Jersey.

These raptors are characterized by their mainly dark plumage and a noticeable bluish barring on the underside. 

Typically, adult types of hawks in New Jersey have long and dark tails with rounded tips and yellow legs.

Males tend to be smaller than females, so careful observation is needed when the identification of individuals is desired.

These hawks hunt by an ambush from a low perch or within dense vegetation, often dashing out quickly to capture prey using their sharp talons and curved beak.

Their diet mainly consists of birds, other small animals, large insects, and berries. 

Although their range extends throughout eastern North America, they make the most frequent visits to New Jersey during migration periods from August through October, when plenty of food sources are available for them due to an influx of migrant species

3. Northern Harrier

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

New Jersey is a haven for bird watchers, and the Northern Harrier is one of the most common types of hawks in New Jersey.

This species of hawk thrive in New Jersey’s wetlands and grasslands, providing stunning views to nature enthusiasts as they soar across the sky. Here are two paragraphs about this unique raptor found in New Jersey. 

 The Northern Harrier is a large raptor with broad wings, long legs, and a distinctive owl-like facial disc.

In flight, it looks almost kite-like as its wings tilt back and forth as it navigates through its habitat.

Adults have slate gray upper parts and light buff or white underparts with diagonal streaks on their breasts. Their tails are also light white underneath and darker gray along the top. 

Northern Harriers typically build their nests near wetlands or grasslands, where they can easily hunt small animals such as voles, mice, shrews, and lizards with their sharp talons.

They also eat insects such as caterpillars and beetles. The adults feed by swooping low over areas of open ground where the small game can be surprised with little warning — making them particularly suited to hunting in New Jersey’s lush woodlands and marshy habitats.

As they fly, they will circle high into the air while calling out their signature whistles before diving down again in search of food. 

In New Jersey, Northern Harriers can be seen seasonally from March to September when the birds are breeding or migrating from further south.

Birdwatchers should watch for them stalking their prey or just soaring overhead in search of carrion — but always respecting these types of hawks in New Jersey distance when watching them!

4. Northern Goshawk

Northern Goshawk 
by dobak is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The Northern Goshawk is one of the six species of hawks native to New Jersey.

This medium-sized bird of prey can vary in size but typically measures 15-20 inches long with a wingspan up to 39 inches across.

They are unique and easily distinguishable, as they possess gray heads with white cheeks and yellow legs that contrast against their black upper body feathers. 

During spring months, the plumage will be accented with white bars at their shoulders and tails.

Northern Goshawks primarily hunt small mammals, such as mice, voles, rabbits, and birds; they also occasionally feed on reptiles or amphibians. 

These types of hawks in New Jersey generally build their nests in tall coniferous trees, available in large numbers throughout New Jersey’s forests.

They mate for life and produce two to four eggs each season from mid-April through June.

Sadly, populations have been heavily impacted due to habitat destruction caused by overzealous logging practices within areas where these birds are found.

As a result of this degradation, Northern Goshawks require protection if we wish to ensure the continued health of the species within our state and beyond for generations to come.

5. Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk
by jimthompson is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Red-shouldered Hawk is one of the most commonly seen types of hawks in New Jersey.

It is a large, handsome bird that inhabits woodlands and wetlands across the state.

These birds hunt small mammals such as mice and voles and smaller birds, reptiles, amphibians, and other animals that comprise their varied diet. 

They are typically habitat generalists, meaning they can inhabit various habitats, including wetlands, woodlands, fields, and even urban areas.

The Red-shouldered Hawk has distinctive reddish-brown shoulders contrasted with light gray feathers on its upper body.

It gets its name from these unique markings on its wings. The call of this species is a loud kieeeee-ah!

6. Broad-winged Hawk

Broad-winged Hawk
by Moschell is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The Broad-winged Hawk is one of the most common types of a hawk in New Jersey.

It can be seen during migration, usually as singles or small groups. This species is characterized by its relatively short size and large wingspan.

The males are typically uniformly dark on the upper wings, while females are slightly lighter than their male counterparts. 

Broad-winged Hawks inhabit various habitats in New Jersey, including upland forested areas, streamsides, wetlands, fields, and pastures.

They typically hunt by sitting atop trees or hunting from high perches that offer a good view over the surrounding area.

They mainly prey on small mammals such as mice and voles and smaller birds such as sparrows and woodpeckers. 

These types of hawks in New Jersey also have an interesting migration pattern.

Instead of migrating alone for long distances, broad-winged hawks often form huge flocks with hundreds or thousands of individuals flying together during autumn before dispersing again to find winter quarters further south.

This unique migration makes them particularly easy to spot during fall hawk watches in New Jersey and other eastern states–although that doesn’t mean they don’t migrate elsewhere for shorter periods throughout the year! 

Broad-winged Hawks are beautiful raptors that give birders a spectacular show every fall when they gather and migrate through New Jersey for better hunting grounds and warmer climates during cold winter months farther south.

Watching them soar through the sky can be an unforgettable experience any birder should take advantage of if they ever get the chance!

7. Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk
by Jon David Nelson is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Rough-legged Hawks are a type of hawk found in New Jersey.

These majestic types of hawks in New Jersey boast impressive wingspans of up to fifty inches and migrate south in the winter months, returning to the state during autumn and spring. 

During these times, they can be seen soaring through the skies in search of prey, such as voles and mice, which they spot from high above, then swoop down to hunt.

As their preferred habitats consist mostly of open fields or prairies, Rough-legged Hawks can often be seen in coastal areas of southern New Jersey with plenty of open space. 

They are also typically found within moist meadows and shoreline bogs with good visibility. In addition to this, they may even nest in a garden if it offers enough cover!

8. Cooper’s Hawks

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

Cooper’s Hawks are a species of hawk found throughout most of the United States but especially abundant in New Jersey.

Their diet consists mostly of small birds, and they can be seen soaring in search of prey during summer. 

Cooper’s Hawks typically live among open woodlands and hunt for small animals among trees and tangles.

They like to roost in pines and other thick conifer stands in suburban areas. 

Cooper’s Hawks feature a reddish-brown back with white underparts and a light head with black stripes on their faces and backs that give them their signature look.

This species of hawk is larger than most songbirds, weighing between two to two and a half pounds, with a wingspan around four feet wide.

With their sharp eyesight, fast reflexes, and stealthy movement among branches, these majestic types of hawks in New Jersey make a great addition to any backyard bird-watching experience!

9. Red-tailed Hawk

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

Lastly, The Red-tailed Hawk is a type of hawk found in New Jersey, often seen soaring over open fields or perched upon telephone poles and other tall structures.

It is one of the most common types of hawks in New Jersey, and its distinctive coloration makes it easily recognizable. 

It has a reddish-brown back with white horizontal stripes along its breast, while its tail is long and pale gray-brown at the base, with several red markings near the tip.

This species usually feeds on small mammals and birds but sometimes takes insects and reptiles. 

The Red-tailed Hawk typically nests in trees near open fields or meadows and can regularly be seen kiting around thickets at the edges of woodlands and soaring high in the sky searching for prey.


The types of hawks in New Jersey are incredible. These avian predators call the Garden State home from Sharp-shinned Hawks to Broad-winged hawks.

But beyond the species listed above, several raptors, such as Red-tailed and Cooper’s Hawks, are unique to this area.

Each of these types of hawks in New Jersey adds to the remarkable biodiversity found in New Jersey that makes it an ideal place for birdwatchers and nature lovers alike.

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