Hawks are birds of prey, which means they feed on smaller animals rather than insects. Thirteen known birds of prey make Maryland their home for at least part of the year. Of these, eight are classified as hawks. Because of the number of hawks that migrate to and through Maryland, hawk-watching is a popular pastime.
The Northern Goshawk is a large, powerful raptor that feeds on animals the size of a small squirrel and as large as a crow. This defensive nester has been known to attack anyone it feels may be a threat to its home, including people. The adult Northern Goshawk is identified by its long tail, white eyebrows, expansive rounded wings and a stripe that runs through its eyes. Its blueish-gray feathers might appear silver at first glance, making it easily recognizable.
The Red-Shouldered Hawk is known by its red coloring, barred chest design and pale wingtips. This medium-sized hawk is often seen chasing crows in an effort to steal their food or defending its nest and young from the Great Horned Owl. The noticeable sound made by the Red-Shouldered Hawk is a defiant "kee-aah" sound which is projected repeatedly. Their prey includes small mammals such as frogs and mice.
Although the Rough-Legged Hawk is native to arctic regions, it makes its home in Maryland during the winter months. When observed in flight, the underside of the Rough-Legged Hawk is an amazing blend of light feathers with black-tipped wings and black wrists. This bird is one of three American hawks to have completely feathered legs. It makes its home on cliff ledges when possible and has been known to use bones as building materials.
The Broad-Winged Hawk is a smaller hawk with broad, pale wings and a red-barred chest similar to the Red-Shouldered Hawk. These birds migrate in large flocks, called kettles, during the fall and winter months. Kettles can range from just a few to thousands of Broad-Winged Hawks traveling together. Rather than build their own nests from scratch, these hawks are known to remodel nests previously inhabited by squirrels or crows.