Hunting for details about types of hawks in Colorado? Here’s a seminal guide with four spectacular species of these raptorial birds!

Hawks are birds of prey that belong to the Accipitridae family. These awe-inspiring birds vary in size and inhabit different habitats like deserts, mountains, woodlands, grasslands, etc.

These birds often have features like curved bills, powerful legs, and sharp talons. Hawks are diurnal, and they’re stunning predators. They’re also known for their hallmark ‘dives’ when stalking prey for the kill.

There’s a lot more to this bird species than meets the eye, which is likely why they’re so appealing to birders the world over. But, today, this article will focus on hawks native to Colorado. So, residents of the Centennial State – this one’s for you!

Hawks – A Brief Introduction

There are at least 200 species of hawks worldwide, and 20+ of those are found throughout North America.

 hawks in colorado

As far as behavior is concerned, hawks are birds of prey and hunt with their claws. But, these birds aren’t aggressive by nature, despite popular misconceptions.

Hawks will typically build their nests high up in trees with twigs, sticks, moss, bark, etc. The species don’t abandon their nests throughout their lives unless the nest is damaged or destroyed. However, some hawk species do leave their nest if disturbed by humans.

4 Species Of Hawks In Colorado

The great state of Colorado is home to at least seventeen hawk species – which made deciding which one would feature in our guide super-difficult. Nonetheless, we’ve picked out four distinct and unique species that are sure to delight the avian-enthusiast inside you. Also, hawk identification Colorado is about to become a whole lot simpler for our readers because we’re going to include details regarding looks, behavior, and habitat!

1. Swainson’s Hawk – One Of The Farthest Migrating Hawk Species

Of all the types of hawks in Colorado, the Swainson’s Hawk is likely the only species that makes 6000-mile migration from the Prairies to South America.

 hawks native to colorado

These birds are extraordinary. Did you know Swainson’s Hawk flies about 125 miles per day while migrating? In Colorado, you have the best chance to observe this species around the mountains in the west or the plains in the east.

Adults of the species sport spotted underparts and dark brown feathers on the heads and chests. Another notable feature is that their wing-tips tend to reach their tails when they’re perched.

Juvenile Swainson’s Hawks are light form with light reddish feathers on the chest and white underbellies and faces.

As to diet, this species likes to prey on mice, gophers, squirrels, rabbits, voles, and songbirds. If you happen to live nearby the species, it’s a good idea to get some covers for your backyard birdfeeders, lest the thrushes in your lawn become a target for them.

2. Ferruginous Hawk – The Largest Hawk Types In Colorado

Coming in at a graceful second place on our list of Types of hawks in Colorado is the Ferruginous Hawk.

One of the features that make this species genuinely awesome to behold is that they’re the largest species of hawks – not just in Colorado but also in North America. That’s possibly its scientific name – Buteo regalis – means royal hawk.

 hawk identification colorado

The species tend to vary in form, with juveniles being light form. Adults can either be dark form – with dark brown overall feathers or light form with white underbellies, pale reddish tails, and deep brown wings.

The species are incredibly talented in nest-building and can build nests on cliffs, trees, or man-made structures.

If you’re trying to spot these birds in Colorado, try watching out for them from November through February. They tend to frequent grasslands and prefer wide-open spaces.

The Ferruginous Hawks have a preference for eating prairie dogs (which are a declining species). Unfortunately, that fact also threatens the Ferruginous Hawk population. Aside from prairie dogs, the species also hunt hares, rabbits, squirrels, and reptiles.

3. Red-Tailed Hawk – The Most Commonly Seen Of All Hawk Types

The Red-tailed Hawk species is the most widely distributed in North America, and that’s likely why it’s one of the easiest raptors to spot.

It also has a sizeable 16 sub-species that vary in size, tail markings, and color. For example, Harlan’s Hawk is a sub-species of the Red-tailed Hawk.

 types of hawks in colorado

The species is easy to identify, thanks to its red tail feathers, and that’s also where it gets its name from. Adults of the species also have white underbellies and yellow legs.

Red-tails are famous for their mating rituals where the males of the species attempt a series of fast dives and grab onto the females with their talons. Red-tails also mate for life and can even hunt in pairs.

The species prefer building nests on treetops or man-made structures. They also have a wide habitat range and frequent wide-open spaces, woodlands, deserts, etc.

The species’ diet consists of voles, rats, mice, reptiles, and birds like quails and pheasants.

4. Rough-legged Hawk – The Most Varied Hawk Type In Terms Of Plumage

Rough-legged Hawks boast of the most variance in plumage. That means some adults are pale with shades of white or cream, whereas others are almost completely black.

hawk identification

There’s plenty of sexual dimorphism in the species too. Adult males have thin dark bands near their tail tips and barred underbellies. On the other hand, females have a single dark band around the tail tips and wings with a dark trailing edge.

Rough-legged Hawks are sometimes described as ‘nomadic’ because they move around depending on the availability of their food source. The species spends much of its time in Canada and the Arctic regions but can be seen in Colorado during the winter.

These hawks prefer to eat a diet that includes squirrels, rabbits, birds, voles, and lemmings.

Read more about Birding Red Robins In Massachusetts And Connecticut – Complete Guide


There you have it, birdwatchers. We’ve provided you with ample details on some of the most unique types of hawks in Colorado. Each of the species on our list has a quality that makes it stand out. And, we’re hoping you’re definitely going to be looking out for these birds the next time you venture out to observe the local avian population.

If you have a favorite hawk species that frequent Colorado, don’t hesitate to share your opinion with us. We’ll be looking forward to hearing from you all. Till next time, keep your eyes on that horizon!

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