How to Identify a Broad-Winged Hawk

Learn what an adult and juvenlie broad-winged hawk looks like and where to find them during breeding season and migration.

Broad-Winged Hawk Identification

broad-winged hawkCourtesy Sheryl Fleming

“I saw this hawk in the woods near my house. What hawk species is it?” asks reader Sheryl Fleming of Hoffmeister, New York.

Birding experts Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman say, “It’s a special treat to get a good look at this bird. The brown back and the wide black and white bands across the tail mark this as an adult broad-winged hawk.”

These compact buteos are approximately the size of a crow, measuring 16 inches long with a 34 inch wingspan. Look for dark blotches on the white chest and pale colored wings with dark tips.

Check out these essential hawk identification tips for birders.

Range and Habitat

17 Resephkeiderling Bbxnov20Courtesy Reseph Keiderling
Look for these birds of prey in wooded areas.

Kenn and Kimberly say, “Unlike the red-tailed hawks that can be seen in open country and along roadsides all year, broad-winged hawks are forest birds. They’re often hard to approach.

In summer, they live in wooded regions of the eastern United States and Canada, mostly east of the Rockies. In fall, they migrate to the tropics, going as far south as South America.”

ID Challenge: Cooper’s hawk vs sharp-shinned hawk.

Juvenile Birds

308487967 1 Anne Clump Bnb Pc 2022Courtesy Anne Clump
Juvenile broad-winged hawk

Immature birds have a streaked chest and a more finely barred tail.

Look for Swainson’s hawks in the summer skies.

Diet

These birds prey on small mammals such as chipmunks, frogs and lizards, small birds, and large insects.

Learn more about the foods hawks eat.

Call and Sounds

This forest-loving buteo is quiet, almost sedentary in behavior. But, in the breeding season, the pairs are conspicuous as they soar overhead, whistling p’ deeee, p’ deeee.

Why do crows chase hawks and owls?

Migration

Bird Species Profile: Broad-winged HawkRob Ripma
Broad-winged hawks migrate in large flocks called kettles.

These hawks are most often encountered during massive migration movements, sometimes with thousands flying together. These huge groups soar as one in tight circles. More than 1 million broad-winged hawks migrate through Veracruz, Mexico, during the fall in what is known as the River of Raptors.

Next, don’t miss simply stunning pictures of hawks.

Lori Vanover
Lori has 20 years of experience writing and editing home, garden, birding and lifestyle content for several publishers. As Birds & Blooms senior digital editor, she leads a team of writers and editors sharing birding tips and expert gardening advice. Since joining Trusted Media Brands 13 years ago, she has held roles in digital and print, editing magazines and books, curating special interest publications, managing social media accounts, creating digital content and newsletters, and working with the Field Editors—Birds & Blooms network of more than 50 backyard birders. Passionate about animals and nature, Lori has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural and Environmental Communications from the University of Illinois. In 2023, she became certified as a Wisconsin Extension Master Gardener, and she is a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology and sits on the organization's Publications Advisory Committee. She frequently checks on her bird feeders while working from home and tests new varieties of perennials, herbs and vegetable plants in her ever-growing backyard gardens.