The characteristic black-and-white tail bars help distinguish the broad-winged hawk from its kin such as red-tailed hawks. (Contributed photo by Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith)

I spend a fair amount of time every autumn talking about the migration and all the birds that are on the move. Songbirds, especially ones that we only see in spring and fall, get a lot of mentions as do the iconic waterfowl that complete the fall landscape. So it’s only fair to point out that our beautiful birds of prey also migrate seasonally, especially here in the northern U.S. And one of them is particularly well-known for its migratory habits and sought out by birders this time of year. This is the stout little raptor known as the broad-winged hawk.

Broad-winged hawks spend their summer breeding season in large tracts of forest in the eastern U.S. and southern Canada. They prefer to stay away from areas affected by human activities like logging and agriculture. These compact birds are bigger than crows and smaller than other well-known hawks like the red-tailed, and they have a more chunky shape than the Cooper’s hawk. None of these identification markers is really a big deal, though, because during the summer we rarely see them.

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Sarah Morris


Broad-winged hawks spend most of their time flying solo, but gather in “kettles” of thousands of birds to migrate through the Great Lakes on their way to Central America. (Contributed photo by Félix Uribe)

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