Spotting Hawks in Vermont: Best Locations and Conservation Efforts

hawks in vermont

Vermont’s skies are a haven for a variety of bird species, but there’s something truly special about its hawks. These majestic raptors grace the Green Mountain State with their presence, captivating locals and visitors alike with their aerial acrobatics.

As an avid birdwatcher, I’ve spent countless hours observing these magnificent creatures. From the soaring Red-tailed Hawks to the stealthy Sharp-shinned Hawks, each species has its unique charm. In this article, I’ll share some of my experiences and insights on hawks in Vermont.

Overview of Hawks in Vermont

Dive into the world of Vermont’s feathered predators: the impressive hawks. These majestic creatures rule the sky with their keen eyesight and mind-boggling aerial expertise. From the Red-tailed Hawk to the Sharp-shinned Hawk, each species has a distinctive persona that adds a unique allure to Vermont’s natural landscape.

Vermont boasts a good number of hawk species. Some of the commonly spotted ones include:

  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Broad-winged Hawk
  • Northern Goshawk
  • Cooper’s Hawk

My most memorable experience comes from observing a Red-tailed Hawk, the most commonly sighted hawk across North America. Known for its broad, rounded wings and short, wide tail, it’s a sight you won’t easily forget. The Sharp-shinned Hawk, on the other hand, is the smallest hawk in Vermont, but don’t let its size fool you. Its impressive speed and agility when hunting are truly breathtaking to witness.

But it doesn’t stop there. The Broad-winged Hawk is a star in its own right. Boasting a wingspan that can reach up to 40 inches, their mid-air antics are a spectacular sight. The Northern Goshawk and Cooper’s Hawk are other notable mentions in Vermont’s wealth of avian raptors, each serving a significant role in the state’s robust ecosystem.

Through my years of birdwatching, I’ve found that each of these species has distinct nesting behaviors and hunting techniques. For example, the Sharp-shinned Hawks mainly feast on other birds, often surprising their unsuspecting victims in high-speed chases among the trees. On the other hand, Red-tailed Hawks prefer open fields where they can easily spot and swoop down on their prey, which typically includes small mammals.

In the table below, you’ll get a quick rundown of the five main Hawk species in Vermont:

Hawk SpeciesWingspan (inches)Preferred HabitatPrimary Prey
Red-tailed Hawk38-43Open fieldsSmall mammals
Sharp-shinned Hawk16.9-22.1WoodlandsBirds
Broad-winged HawkUp to 40ForestsSmall mammals

Popular Species of Hawks in Vermont

Vermont, home to a splendid array of wildlife, is particularly known for its prominent hawk species. These raptors rule the skies, their presence adding a dash of majesty to the picturesque landscapes.

The Red-tailed Hawk, with its iconic russet-red tail, is one that I’ve often seen perched high up on the roadside. Known for their vast wingspan of up to 56 inches, they are truly a sight to behold. Their primary habitats include forests, fields, pastures, and even urban spaces.

Next, the Sharp-shinned Hawk, one of the smaller members of the hawk family, though tiny, it’s magnificent in its own right. Perfectly adapted for hunting in forests with dense undergrowth, these approaches their prey in a fast, stealthy dash.

Now let’s talk about the Broad-winged Hawk, a regular in Vermont during the breeding season. You’ll usually find them in large deciduous or mixed forests. Their fascinating group migration, termed as kettles, is an incredible phenomenon that attracts birdwatchers annually.

The Northern Goshawk, another in our list, is a powerful, agile hunter, ruling the dense Vermont forests. Spotting one can be tricky due to their elusive nature, but it’s always worth the wait. Despite their power and agility, Northern Goshawks have an incredibly meticulous approach to nest-building.

Last, the Cooper’s Hawk, a bird expert at maneuvering through dense woodland. Observing them hunt is an amazing experience, their speed and precision are unmatched.

Here’s a quick snapshot:

Hawk SpeciesWingspan (in inches)Primary HabitatPrimary Prey
Red-tailed HawkUp to 56Forests, fields, urbanSmall mammals
Sharp-shinned Hawk17-22Dense forestsBirds
Broad-winged Hawk32-40Deciduous/mixed forestsSmall mammals
Northern GoshawkUp to 46Dense forestsBirds, rodents
Cooper’s HawkUp to 37WoodlandsBirds

From this, we can see how diverse and integral hawks are to Vermont’s ecosystem. Their varied hunting techniques, nesting behaviors, and habitats illustrate the complexity of these magnificent creatures.

Best Places to Spot Hawks in Vermont

As a seasoned birdwatcher, I’ve spent numerous hours observing the majestic hawks of Vermont. Here are some locations where you’re most likely to catch sight of these impressive birds.

Mount Philo State Park, a favorite locale for birdwatchers, is renowned for its bird-rich environment. This park provides an excellent opportunity to spot the soaring Red-tailed Hawk and the Cooper’s Hawk with their distinctive flight patterns.

Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge comprises various habitats such as wetlands, forests, and fields. It’s an ideal spot to see the Broad-winged Hawk in action, especially during migration season.

Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area, known for its extensive marshlands and open fields, is a hotspot for observing the elusive Northern Goshawk and the agile Sharp-shinned Hawk.

For those interested, there’s also the Hazelton Hawk Watch, an annual event that takes place each fall. It’s the perfect setting to witness the impressive group migration of the Broad-winged Hawk and many other species.

Trek out to these locations equipped with a good pair of binoculars and remember to maintain a respectful distance. These spots provide an unparalleled opportunity to observe these raptors in their natural habitat.

Take note, birdwatching doesn’t only mean sighting these hawks; it also means appreciating their hunting techniques, understanding their behaviors, and marveling at their flight patterns. And if you’re lucky, you might even spot a hawk nest or two!

So, don’t wait. Get your gear ready and head out to these fabulous locations to witness the spectacle of Vermont’s hawks. The adventure of a lifetime is waiting for you out there.

Conservation Efforts for Hawks in Vermont

In preserving hawk habitats, Vermont has been instrumental. The state has successful initiatives in place, leading the way in conservation efforts for these majestic birds.

One of the most notable efforts comes from the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Non-game Bird Project. This project includes surveys and long-term monitoring of several hawk species, particularly those that breed in Vermont. It’s aiming to detect population trends and evaluate the health of the state’s hawk populations. During their monitoring activities, project workers often identify and remedy threats to hawks’ habitats, contributing significantly to their conservation.

The Vermont Land Trust is another body committed to the cause. They work to conserve land that is critical for the survival of hawk species. By preserving these landscapes, they’re helping to ensure that essential habitats for hawks are not lost to urban development.

Moreover, the Audubon Vermont carries out important work, raising awareness about hawks and the challenges these birds face. They offer various educational programs to schools, equipping the younger generation to protect and appreciate these majestic creatures.

Not to be overlooked, scores of Vermont citizens participate in volunteer-based efforts. Every fall, the Hazelton Hawk Watch draws folks from far and wide. People volunteer their time to observe the Broad-winged Hawk’s group migration. This event provides vital data that contributes to the conservation of these birds.

While these efforts are making significant strides, there’s undoubtedly more work to do. The pressure on hawk habitats from factors like climate change and human interference continues to mount. So, the ongoing work of these projects, trusts and volunteer groups will play a crucial role in ensuring hawks continue to grace Vermont’s skies.

In light of these collective efforts, it’s important to remember that conservation isn’t just about protection. It’s about fostering a relationship with the natural world, where we, as observers, step in to support these birds, their habitats, and the ecosystems they rely on.

Then, perhaps one day, we’ll find that our efforts have served not only to protect hawks in Vermont but also to enhance our understanding of these magnificent creatures and the world they inhabit.

Tips for Birdwatching Hawks in Vermont

Let’s now dive into the heart and soul of this hawk-watching experience – the tips that’ll provide a solid foundation for your new hobby. With a bit of knowledge and some insider insights, you might just capture a glimpse of these majestic creatures soaring high in the Vermont sky.

First, knowing when to head out for your birdwatching adventures can make a significant difference. Spring and fall migration seasons, namely March through May and September through November, are optimal times to spot hawks. During these periods, hawks are more likely to be seen in large numbers, providing a spectacular view.

Where should you go to spot hawks? Mt. Philo State Park in Charlotte, Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area in Addison, and the trail to the Hazelton observation deck are among the best places. Their high elevations offer expansive views and a better chance of spotting different hawk species.

Investing in a good pair of binoculars is key for successful birdwatching. Smaller hawks can be difficult to see with the naked eye, particularly when they’re soaring high above. A quality, high-resolution pair of binoculars can ease this and provide clear, close-up views.

Next up is having patience. Birdwatching is a waiting game. Hawks don’t run on a schedule. They may appear in the morning, or they might fly by in the afternoon. Cultivate patience, appreciate the scenery, and most importantly, enjoy the calm before the soaring spectacle.

One important piece that many beginner birdwatchers often overlook is the act of blending in. Dress in muted colors that match the environment and move slowly, without abrupt gestures. Hawks possess keen eyesight, and sudden movements or bright colors could deter them from their regular flight paths.

Finally, networking with other birdwatchers could be very beneficial. In groups like The Vermont Bird Tours and the Hazelton Hawk Watch, you’ll encounter veterans who know the lay of the land and the habits of the hawks. They’re likely to share advice, experiences, and perhaps show you some favorite local spots.

As we journey through this captivating exploration of hawks in Vermont, we’ll continue to delve into what makes these creatures so astounding and how they impact and are impacted by their environment.


So there you have it. Vermont’s dedicated efforts to preserve hawk habitats are truly commendable. The work done by organizations like the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, Vermont Land Trust, and Audubon Vermont, along with the Hazelton Hawk Watch, is key in maintaining the health and survival of these majestic birds. And remember, birdwatching is more than a hobby, it’s a chance to contribute to conservation efforts. By following the tips provided, you’ll not only have an unforgettable birdwatching experience but also play a role in preserving Vermont’s rich biodiversity. So grab your binoculars, wear your patience hat and get ready to spot some hawks in Vermont. It’s time to appreciate the beauty of these creatures and the natural splendor Vermont has to offer.


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