Meet the Animals

Discover the Majestic Hawks of Arkansas: From Mountains to Valleys

Arkansas: The Natural State and its Diverse HabitatNestled in the heart of the United States lies Arkansas, a state known for its breathtaking natural beauty. From the majestic Ozark and Ouachita mountains to its lush valleys and meandering mountain streams, Arkansas offers an abundance of natural wonders.

Its diverse habitat, ranging from timberlands to lowlands with rich black soil, provides a haven for a vast array of flora and fauna. In this article, we will explore the natural wonders of Arkansas, with a focus on its stunning landscapes and the magnificent hawks that call this state their home.

Arkansas – The Natural State

The Majestic Ozark and Ouachita Mountains

With their majestic peaks and serene beauty, the Ozark and Ouachita mountains dominate the landscape of Arkansas. The Ozarks, stretching across the northern region, boast stunning vistas and unparalleled opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.

From hiking along the Ozark Highlands Trail to exploring the depths of Blanchard Springs Caverns, nature-lovers will find endless adventure here. On the other hand, the Ouachita Mountains in the western part of the state offer a different kind of allure.

Known for their rugged terrain and sparkling rivers, the Ouachitas are a haven for anglers and whitewater rafting enthusiasts. Valleys, Streams, and Timberlands

While the mountains hold their charm, Arkansas is also blessed with picturesque valleys and mountain streams that weave their way through the state.

These valleys, nestled between the mountains, are known for their rich soil and abundant wildlife. The timberlands of Arkansas are vast and provide an important habitat for various animal species.

In these dense forests, diverse creatures find refuge, including the magnificent hawks that grace the skies.

The Magnificent Hawks of Arkansas

An Overview of Hawks

Hawks, belonging to the family Accipitridae, are birds of prey known for their sharp talons and keen eyesight. Arkansas is home to several species of hawks, each unique in their own way.

These birds come in various shapes, sizes, and colors, captivating bird enthusiasts and nature-lovers alike. From the majestic bald eagle to the stealthy Cooper’s hawk, each of these birds possess astounding abilities and behaviors worth exploring.

The Red-Tailed Hawk – A Distinguished Native

One of the most iconic hawks found in Arkansas is the red-tailed hawk. This magnificent bird of prey is native to North America and can be easily identified by its characteristic red tail.

As it soars through the sky, the red-tailed hawk showcases its circular flight pattern, scanning the ground for potential prey. Its diet consists mainly of small mammals, such as rodents and rabbits, making it an essential predator in maintaining the balance of Arkansas’ ecosystem.

When it comes to nesting, the red-tailed hawk builds its large, meticulously crafted nests on high structures like tall trees or cliffs. During the migration season, these hawks can travel thousands of miles, showcasing their incredible endurance.


Arkansas, the Natural State, is truly a haven for both nature enthusiasts and wildlife. With its stunning landscapes, including the Ozark and Ouachita mountains, breathtaking valleys, and captivating mountain streams, it offers a diverse habitat for a wide range of flora and fauna.

Among the majestic creatures that call this state their home are the awe-inspiring hawks, with the red-tailed hawk standing out as a distinguished native. Its distinctive features, diet, nesting habits, and migration patterns make it a fascinating subject of study for bird enthusiasts.

Next time you find yourself in Arkansas, take a moment to appreciate the natural wonders that surround you, and perhaps catch a glimpse of these magnificent hawks soaring through the sky.

The Red-Shouldered Hawk – A Suburban Dweller

Thriving in Suburban Areas

While hawks are often associated with remote wilderness areas, the red-shouldered hawk has found a unique niche in suburban environments. With its adaptability and tolerance for human presence, this hawk has successfully established itself in wooden swamps and deciduous forests near human settlements.

It is not uncommon to spot these magnificent birds perched on the branches of trees in suburban backyards or even along busy roadsides.

The Northern Harrier – A Master of Flight

The northern harrier, also known as the marsh hawk, is a hawk species that stands out from the others due to its distinct appearance and flight style. With a slim, long-tailed body and broad wings, it possesses a distinct silhouette as it glides low over open areas such as marshes, meadows, and grasslands.

Its diet primarily consists of small mammals and birds, making it a skilled hunter of rodents such as voles. This hawk can often be seen performing its characteristic low flight, with its wings held in a V shape, searching for prey below.

Cooper’s Hawk and Sharp-Shinned Hawk – The Accipiter Hawks

The Agile Cooper’s Hawk

The Cooper’s hawk, a medium-sized hawk known for its agility and speed, is a common sight across North America, including Arkansas. With a compact body and long tail, this hawk exhibits a rounded appearance.

Its back features a blue-gray color, while its underparts are pale with thin, reddish-brown horizontal bars. The Cooper’s hawk is an efficient predator and feeds primarily on small to medium-sized birds, such as doves and pigeons.

It is known for its hunting behavior, utilizing surprise attacks from concealed perches or launching itself with incredible speed in pursuit of prey. Unfortunately, due to habitat loss and hunting, the population of Cooper’s hawks has faced declines in certain regions.

The Nimble Sharp-Shinned Hawk

Similar in appearance to the Cooper’s hawk, the sharp-shinned hawk is a smaller and more nimble species of accipiter hawk. With a short, squared-off tail and a rounded head, this hawk adapts well to navigating through dense forests and woodlands.

The sharp-shinned hawk possesses a slate-gray back, while its underparts are pale with distinctive vertical reddish-brown bars. Its primary diet consists of small birds, such as sparrows and finches, which it efficiently captures in midair.

The sharp-shinned hawk can be recognized by its quick, agile flight and its ability to maneuver swiftly through tree branches. It builds its nests in trees, typically in dense woods, where it lays a clutch of 3 to 7 eggs.


As we continue to explore the diverse world of hawks in Arkansas, we encounter the red-shouldered hawk, a remarkable species that has successfully adapted to suburban landscapes. Thriving in wooden swamps and deciduous forests near human settlements, this hawk offers a glimpse of nature’s resilience amidst urbanization.

We then delve into the world of the northern harrier, an accomplished hunter with a unique flight style. Gracefully gliding over open areas, this hawk specializes in capturing small mammals and birds, playing a vital role in maintaining ecosystem balance.

Shifting our focus to the accipiter hawks, we encounter the agile Cooper’s hawk. With its striking appearance and remarkable hunting abilities, this medium-sized hawk feeds primarily on small to medium-sized birds, filling an important ecological niche.

However, it faces challenges due to habitat loss and hunting. Lastly, we discover the nimble sharp-shinned hawk, a smaller species with similar characteristics to its larger cousin.

Its ability to navigate densely wooded areas and capture small birds mid-flight showcases its incredible agility. Together, these hawks exemplify the diversity and adaptability of avian life in Arkansas.

Their presence in both urban and natural landscapes serves as a testament to the coexistence of wildlife and human communities. The wonder and beauty of hawks continue to inspire us to appreciate and protect the natural world around us.

The Broad-Winged Hawk – A Stealthy Hunter

A Closer Look at the Broad-Winged Hawk

The broad-winged hawk is a medium-sized hawk species that is predominantly found in North America during the breeding season, including Arkansas. This hawk possesses a compact body with a broad wingspan, allowing it to navigate through forests with ease.

Its overall appearance features a dark brown back, barred underparts, and a wide, banded tail. The broad-winged hawk is known for its distinctive call, a high-pitched whistle or a clear, two-note whistle.

The Regal Swainson’s Hawk

The Swainson’s hawk, named after William Swainson, an English naturalist, is a majestic species that passes through Arkansas during migration on its way to its breeding grounds in the Great Plains. This hawk boasts a slim body, long wings, and a white underpart that contrasts with a dark-brown back.

Some individuals even exhibit a cinnamon or rufous color on their breast. Swainson’s hawks are primarily insectivorous, feeding on a variety of insects, especially grasshoppers, though they also consume small mammals and reptiles.

This hawk is known for its perching behavior, often found sitting on fence posts or tree branches, patiently waiting for prey.

The Rough-Legged Hawk and the Northern Goshawk

The Rough-Legged Hawk – A Visitor from the Arctic

Unlike other hawks, the rough-legged hawk has a distinctly different appearance, marking it as a unique species. Its most notable feature is its feathered legs, which extend all the way down to its talons.

This adaptation allows it to withstand the cold temperatures of its breeding ground in the Arctic. Sporting a dark-brown back and a light-colored underpart, this hawk is well-suited to its habitat.

The rough-legged hawk is known for its hovering flight pattern as it hunts, scanning the ground for small mammals, such as voles and lemmings. During the winter, these hawks migrate south, including Arkansas, in search of more abundant prey.

The Mighty Northern Goshawk

The northern goshawk, a formidable and powerful hawk, is native to the forested regions of North America, including the boreal forests of Arkansas. With a robust build and striking appearance, this hawk stands out in its habitat.

Its body is primarily dark gray, while the underparts are lighter, featuring fine white barring. The northern goshawk is an ambush predator, often surprising its prey from concealed perches and swiftly closing in for the capture.

It is an efficient hunter that preys on a variety of birds and mammals, including squirrels and rabbits. Nesting high up in the trees, the northern goshawk constructs a sturdy platform of sticks and branches, where it lays its eggs and raises its young.


As we delve further into the world of hawks in Arkansas, we uncover the intriguing characteristics of the broad-winged hawk, a stealthy predator with its distinctive call that echoes through the forest. We then explore the regal Swainson’s hawk, named after the famous naturalist William Swainson, and marvel at its slim body and elegant perching behavior.

In our exploration of the rough-legged hawk, we encounter a visitor from the Arctic, donning feathered legs to adapt to its frigid breeding grounds. Its unique appearance and hovering flight pattern captivate us as we observe this hawk in search of prey.

Lastly, we immerse ourselves in the realm of the mighty northern goshawk, an imposing figure in the forested regions of Arkansas. Each of these hawks contributes to the rich tapestry of avian life in Arkansas, with their distinct appearances, diets, and habitats.

From the stealthy hunters to the resilient migrants, they remind us of the remarkable diversity and adaptability of these magnificent birds. Arkansas, with its diverse landscapes and thriving ecosystems, remains a sanctuary for these awe-inspiring creatures, offering us endless opportunities to observe and appreciate the beauty and wonder of hawks in their natural habitats.

The Ferruginous Hawk – A Majestic Raptor

A Closer Look at the Ferruginous Hawk

The ferruginous hawk, one of the largest hawks in North America, is a majestic raptor that can occasionally be found in Arkansas. This impressive bird possesses a robust body with a wingspan that can reach up to four feet.

Its appearance features a pale, almost creamy color on the head and underparts, which transitions into a beautiful rust-colored back and wings. This unique color pattern gives the bird its name, as “ferruginous” means rust-colored.

The ferruginous hawk is renowned for its striking appearance, making it a captivating sight for bird enthusiasts.

Nesting Activities and Threats to the Ferruginous Hawk

The ferruginous hawk engages in intriguing nesting activities, creating large nests made of sticks and lined with softer materials like grass and feathers. These nests are usually built on clumps of shrubs, trees, or cliffs to provide protection for the eggs and the young.

The female hawk typically lays a clutch of two to six eggs, which incubate for about four to five weeks. Despite its beauty and impressive nesting habits, the ferruginous hawk faces several threats to its population.

Habitat loss poses a significant challenge, particularly due to the conversion of grasslands into agricultural fields or urban areas. In addition, the use of pesticide and rodenticides can directly impact the hawk’s prey species, reducing the availability of food.

These factors, combined with potential collisions with man-made structures, have put the ferruginous hawk at risk. However, conservation efforts, such as the preservation of grasslands and the reduction of the use of harmful chemicals, play a crucial role in the protection of this magnificent species.

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The Ferruginous Hawk: A Majestic Raptor of the Open Fields

As we continue our exploration of the hawks in Arkansas, we encounter the magnificent ferruginous hawk, one of the largest and most striking raptors found in North America. This impressive bird’s appearance is truly awe-inspiring, with its robust body and large wingspan.

The ferruginous hawk’s plumage presents a beautiful transition of colors, from the pale and creamy head and underparts to the rich, rust-colored back and wings. Its name is derived from the Latin word “ferrum,” which means iron, owing to its unique and beautiful rust-colored pattern.

Unlike many hawks, the ferruginous hawk prefers open habitats, making it well-suited to the expansive grasslands and prairies. Here, it can soar through the skies and search for prey with its keen eyesight.

Its diet primarily consists of small to medium-sized mammals, such as rabbits, prairie dogs, and ground squirrels. The ferruginous hawk is an opportunistic hunter that can also target birds, reptiles, and even insects when necessary.

In terms of nesting activities, the ferruginous hawk displays impressive architectural skills. The female hawk constructs a large nest made of sticks, which is lined with softer materials like grass and feathers.

These nests are often built on clumps of shrubs, trees, or cliffs, providing safety and protection for the eggs and the young chicks. The female typically lays a clutch of two to six eggs, which she diligently incubates for approximately four to five weeks.

While the ferruginous hawk’s appearance and nesting habits are fascinating, this majestic raptor faces significant threats to its population. The conversion of grasslands to agricultural fields or urban areas has resulted in habitat loss, depriving the hawk of its crucial nesting and foraging grounds.

Additionally, the use of pesticides and rodenticides can indirectly impact the ferruginous hawk by reducing the availability of its prey species. The accumulation of toxins in the food chain can have detrimental effects on the hawk’s health and reproductive success.

Furthermore, collisions with man-made structures, such as power lines or wind turbines, present a risk to the ferruginous hawk and other birds of prey. These collisions can result in injury or even death, highlighting the need for responsible infrastructure planning and mitigation measures to protect these magnificent birds.

Conservation efforts are vital to safeguard the future of the ferruginous hawk and ensure its continued presence in Arkansas and beyond. Preserving and restoring grassland habitats, promoting sustainable agricultural practices, and reducing the use of harmful chemicals are crucial steps in protecting this remarkable species.

Moreover, raising awareness about the importance of raptors and their role in ecosystems can inspire communities to take action in their conservation. In conclusion, the ferruginous hawk’s majestic presence and striking appearance make it a true symbol of grace and power in the open fields of Arkansas.

Adapting to the vast grassland habitat, this impressive raptor showcases its hunting prowess, predominantly feeding on small mammals. However, it faces various threats, including habitat loss, pesticide use, and collisions with man-made structures.

By prioritizing conservation efforts and promoting responsible environmental practices, we can ensure the survival and prosperity of the ferruginous hawk, preserving its beauty for generations to come

In this comprehensive exploration of hawks in Arkansas, we have delved into the diverse habitats and unique characteristics of these magnificent birds. From the iconic red-tailed hawk to the adaptable urban-dwelling red-shouldered hawk, each species demonstrates the remarkable adaptability and resilience of these avian predators.

Furthermore, the article has highlighted the importance of conservation efforts to protect hawks and their habitats, addressing threats such as habitat loss and human-made structures. By appreciating and safeguarding these majestic creatures, we can ensure the preservation of their beauty and the harmony of our natural ecosystems.

Let us remember to cherish and protect the hawks that grace our skies, fostering a world where both wildlife and humans can thrive together.

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