How to Identify Hawks

The best time to see the most hawks is when they are migrating. The largest numbers are seen in the fall at most locations. Looking at hawks in flight, even with binoculars, quickly reveals the limitations of standard birding field guides. Many times you might see little more than a dark silhouette moving through a lighter sky. Colors and frequently patterns of contrast might not be visible. How can people identify flying hawks? What you can see are relative size, shape, and behavior. This has led to the development of introductory silhouette guides and special hawk field identification guides that are very helpful in the field.

We encourage you to explore the resources listed below to see what might be best for you, including resources on hawk identification, migration, and natural history. Each resource has different strengths.

Next, find out WHEN it’s a good time to hawk watch! >