What Are Some Ways to Identify Different Types of Hawks?


Quick Answer

Since many hawks are sighted from a distance and in flight, the best way to identify them is by wing shape. Accipiters have a more pointed, contoured shape while buteos are straight and broad. From there, birders can use other clues, such as head size, to narrow down the specific species.

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Full Answer

A field guide is an excellent tool to help identify hawk species. Some focus on raptors, while others are more general. Internet guides to bird identification are also available, although they can be difficult to use while observing the bird in the field.

If the hawk is close and stationary, markings are also a good way to identify the species. Most hawks have distinctive coloring and marking that separate them from other species.

Tail shapes can also provide valuable clues. Accipiters tend to have longer and thinner tails, while buteos have short, broad ones.

Environment can also help with identification. Buteo hawks tend to excel in open spaces and spend a lot of time flying. Their body shape and flying style lets them fly for long distances with minimal effort. Accipiters evolved in more forested areas and excel at quick movements and agile navigation between trees. While accipiters can soar for long periods when required, they usually flap their wings more often than buteos and have shorter glides.

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