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Hawk Watch

1. Sparrow hawk or Kestrel             9. Golden Eagle
2. Cooper's hawk                      10. Goshawk
3. Rough-legged hawk                  11. Broad-winged hawk
4. Pigeon hawk                        12. Red-tailed hawk
5. Red-shouldered hawk                13. Bald Eagle
6. Peregrine Falcon                   14. Turkey Vulture
7. Marsh hawk                         15. Osprey
8. Sharp-shinned hawk


Buteos have broad wings and broad, rounded tails, a design well suited for exploiting the lifting power of winds and thermals. These birds are commonly seen soaring and circling over woods and fields, watching intently for the telltale movements of small animals far below. The Broadwinged Hawk, with its conspicuous white and brown banded tail, is probably the best known example and the most numerous in migration.

Red-tailed hawk
Red-shouldered hawk
Rough-legged hawk
Broad-winged hawk


Accipiters prey chiefly on other birds. Their long, rudder-like tails and short, rounded wings are ideal for zipping about among trees and branches in pursuit of small songbirds. Over open woodlands, a characteristic flap-flap-flap-sail rhythm describes their flight. The Sharp-shinned Hawk, about the size of a Blue Jay, is a common and zesty migrant.

Sharp-shinned hawk
Cooper's hawk


Falcons are famous for speed, a function of their streamlined shape with pointed wings and tapered tail. The colorful, robin-sized Kestrel, or Sparrow Hawk, nemesis of grasshoppers, is a familiar sight in the autumn sky. But its larger cousin, the Peregrine Falcon, or Duck Hawk, a symbol of the quick and efficient killer, is probably the rarest of North American hawks.

Sparrow hawk (commonly called Kestrel)
Pigeon hawk (commonly called Merlin)
Duck hawk (commonly called Peregrine Falcon)

Reprinted from The Outdoor Communicator journal of the New York State Outdoor Education Association, 1980, Volume XI, Number 2.

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