Wildcat Ridge Hawkwatch photo: Richard Keller

Color ID Chart made by Tom Gorman



Small to medium sized hawks which feed mainly on song birds, grasshoppers and the like. Their short rounded wings and long, narrow tail help them navigate quickly & easily through the forest and wood lands where they hunt.  In flight they are rapid and fast in maneuvering through the trees.






A medium sized ACCIPITER slightly larger then the common Crow. The “Coop” is very similar in markings and flight to that of the “Sharpie”.  However, the “Coops” tail is rounded and when soaring the wings are straight and long.  The head of the “Coop” extends much further out then that of the “Sharpie”. The wing beat is stiffer and somewhat slower then that of the “Sharpie” and it’s wing beat seems to originate from the shoulders while the rest of the wing remains stiff.





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A small ACCIPITER, somewhat larger then a Robin. Females are larger and similar in size and pattern to that of the male Coopers Hawk.  “Sharpies” have short rounded wings and long narrow tails which are straight & notched.  Also in flight the “Sharpie” has a appearance of the letter “T” because of it’s short head.  In flight their wing beat is very fast & choppy.  It looks like “flap, flap, flap, then glide” motion.  The “Sharpie” is also notorious for harassing other hawks.

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A very large and heavy accipiter, in some cases as large as a  Red Tailed Hawk. The wings are longer, broader and more tapered then that of other ACCIPITERS.  The tail is broader but still long like all ACCIPITERS. At a distance as it appears quite large you’ll think of it as possibly a BUTEO; however as it gets closer and acts like a ACCIPITER, you can then bet that it is a Northern Goshawk.  It is a uncommon migrant based on it’s availability of prey.


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Medium large size hawks with chunky body with broad wings, medium fanned tail. Generally soar on widespread wings and flap rarely. At times BUTEOS may act like a Accipiter.



A very small BUTEO with a stout & stubby appearance. Undersides of wings appear white with no markings and the tail is marked with broad white bands. When soaring the wings taper similar to a candle while other BUTEOS are squared or rounded. Wing beat is quick and choppy.  When migrating in kettles, there can be a few up to over 5000 in the kettle.



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Medium sized BUTEO generally in a long wings/tail appearance. Adults have prominent Rufus shoulder marks & obvious black & white patterns on the tail. Adults & immature have translucent crescent windows near the wing tips.  In flight they will flap often in a loose and snappy motion with somewhat a appearance of a Accipiter.






Long, broad heavy wings. Adult has rustic colored tail while immature have finely barred brown tails. Common markings: Dark belly band; dark leading wing edge marks and a comma on wrists.  Only BUTEO which will hover or “kite” in flight and when soaring will sometimes show a dihedral (slight “V”)







A very large BUTEO with long tapered wings. Two major phases of dark and light which vary a lot.  In dark phase they can appear like a Turkey Vulture but the tail has a dark terminal band on the white-ish tail.  The light phase have a quite broad and dark belly band, dark wrist patches and a dark terminal band at the end of the tail. Rough Legged hawks will hover while hunting.










Small to medium sized, with long pointed wings and continuous wing beats in flight.  flight is direct. tails are medium sized and tapered toward the tip. Very aggressive.






A small FALCON around the size of a Robin.  Simple field marks of the male are the Rufus back and blue wings with single wide black band on tail. Females are brown above with black spots and narrow banding of the tail.  Also the tell tale mark of the two “moustache” on the sides of the face.  Wings in flight are sickle shaped and the flight is somewhat wandering.  When viewing overhead the underneath of the trailing wings have white spots always on the male and at times on the female.

(Female on left / male on right)






A small to medium sized FALCON, a bit larger, stockier, darker and more powerful then the Am. Kestrel. Tail has narrow white bands and at a distance, a very dark colored FALCON. In flight the wing beat is steady and pumping; flight is steady and direct (does not wander). A small dark FALCON which travels very fast & is gone in seconds.





Very large FALCON with long, tapered wings. Blue backed & barred below. Flight is steady, fluid & rhythmic beats like that of a “bullwhip” action. When soaring the wings appear shorter, the tail is fanned and it then gives the appearance of a Broad Winged Hawk.






Northern Harrier

A medium sized, very slim, very long tailed Hawk.

It holds it’s wings in a slight “V” and since it is very light weight, it tends to rock side to side. It soars very well and flaps its wings in a very lazy fashion.  In flight it has lazy, long wing beats followed by a glide. Both male and female have a very bright white patch.  (Adult male left / female on right)






Very large Hawk close to the size of a EAGLE.  In flight the pattern is that of the letter “M” whereas the wings are pointed at the shoulder, (crooked like a gulls), long set back wings, long broad tail and short head. The chest and belly is white and the under wings are boldly marked black & white.  The OSPREYS tail is much longer then it’s head.  OSPREYS are known to travel in pairs and hunt over open water areas.












Large soaring bird of prey somewhat smaller then the TURKEY VULTURE. Wings are shorter and broader. The head is long & gray and the tail is short. Mainly dark colored with white patches at the ends of the wings.  Soar on flat wings and sometimes a very slight dihedral.  Wing beats are fast and choppy.











Very large, dark colored VULTURE, with a long tail, short stubby head. Adult heads are red and immature heads are grey.  In flight the head is not visible, wings are in a deep dihedral and it rocks from side to side.  Wings are two toned black/silvery.  Generally travel alone or in small unorganized flocks.








E a g l e s



Adult marks distinctive: white head, white tail, dark body and very long flat wings. Immatures are dark with varying amounts of white on belly back and wings. It takes 3-4 years for the Bald Eagle to reach adult plumage.  Very distinctive bird.








Has a small head as compared to the massive head of the BALD EAGLE. Adults are all dark w/exception of a few white tail feathers and the “golden” head color.  Similar in flight to a BUTEO when soaring.

(Immature on left / Adult on right)