When you're looking for types of hawks, there plenty of different ones that you might encounter. Hawks belong to a very busy family of raptors, of which there are estimated to be almost 300 different species around the world.
Buteo hawks consist of approximately 15 separate species, the most common of which is red-tailed hawks. Technically, the buteo genus also encompasses buzzards, which many bird watchers consider a very different class of bird. Scientifically, though, buzzards and hawks are close cousins, and both belong to the buteo genus. Hawks in this genus tend to be medium-sized and cover a lot of ground, instead of having a small, restricted hunting area. These hawks tend to have broad wings and a thick body.
Accipiter is the other genus of hawks commonly found in North America. Accipiter hawks tend to be smaller, and this group of species includes goshawks and sparrowhawks. These birds have smaller bodies than their buteo cousins, and short, rounded wings, compared with the broad wings of the Buteo family. Accipiter hawks tend to have a smaller hunting range. They prefer wooded and shrubby areas where they can ambush their prey for an easy meal.
The Red-Tailed Hawk is one of the most common hawks in North America. They live in many types of environments, in every region except areas covered by unbroken forest. Red-tailed hawks have a hunting pattern that forested regions don't support, so you rarely find them there.
These hawks have earned the nickname Chicken Hawk in the United States, although that moniker isn't necessarily a valid one. Red-tailed hawks prefer to prey on small mammals, such as rodents, but they will dine on small birds when rodents are scarce.
The Northern Goshawk
The Northern Goshawk is another hawk species common in North America. Most North-American Goshawks live in the same spot throughout the year, but those in the colder regions of Canada will migrate south for the winter. Northern Goshawks are medium-sized, as the hawk family goes, but they are the largest member of the Accipiter genus.
The Northern Goshawk has broad wings that are much shorter than those in the Buteo family of hawks. Northern Goshawks are much more at home in forested areas, with a hunting style that favors ambushing small prey rather than ranging far and wide like their opportunistic cousins.
The Broad-Winged Hawk belongs to the Buteo genus, but it shares many characteristics with its Accipiter cousins. They are one of the smallest Buteo hawks, putting them on par in size with larger Accipiter hawks. Like accipiters, broad-wings prefer wooded areas, placing them among the few Buteo hawks that will inhabit forests.
Broad-winged hawks are migratory. They summer in North America, but then migrate down to Mexico and the neotropical regions for winter. Broad-winged hawks dine primarily on small mammals that they ambush from cover, like the accipiters. They also dine on amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates.
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