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Hawks and Falcons of Ontario (Falcons appear below Hawk listings)

Hawks of Ontario -Hawks have relatively broad (width) and long (length) wings than other raptors. Most known for their soaring abilities. Hawks are at the top of the food chain with few natural enemies. All are predators relying on their hunting skills. Most have keen eyesight, excellent flying abilities and fast flying speeds. They are equipped with razor sharp talons. In Ontario there are 8 species of hawks, each distinct in its own way.

Cooper’s Hawk
Cooper’s Hawks can appear to be just a larger version of the Sharp-shinned Hawk. They are found in the breeding months in southern Ontario. They stalk feeders and feed almost exclusively on other birds. Their habitat is forests and wooded areas also nest in suburban wooded areas and backyards too. They primarily feed on small to medium-sized birds and small mammals. Females tend to be larger and more dominant over the males of this species.

Broad-winged Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk breed range is in Southern Ontario. Along the shores of The Great Lakes and forests in both the Spring and Fall each year. Broad-winged Hawks migrate in large flocks are called “kettles”.
Broad-winged Hawks have one brood each year with 1-5 eggs. They will build their nests with at least a half-mile of separation from other birds of prey. Their diet mainly consists of small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians.

Northern Goshawk
Northern Goshawks are large birds of prey. Is found year-round throughout most of the province of Ontario. They live in large forests and may be difficult to find. They are also known for fiercely protecting their nests and young and will attacking people who come too close. Northern Goshawks live and nest in forests high up in the trees. They are mostly opportunistic eaters with a wide range of prey including other birds, mammals, carrion, and insects.

Northern Harrier
The Northern Harrier is easily identifiable by its owlish facial appearance. Harrier is found in most of Ontario during the breeding season and in far southern Ontario year-round. Live in marshes, fields, and other wide-open areas. Northern Harriers hunt low over fields and marshes, gliding low to the ground. Harriers rely on their sense of hearing for hunting. Their diet consists of small mammals, birds, and occasionally insects.

Red-tailed Hawks
Red-tailed Hawks are the most common hawks in Ontario. A large hawks live in Southern Ontario all year long. The rest of Ontario have a breeding population of Red-tailed Hawks and these birds my fly further south in the winter. Red-tailed Hawks are most active during the day or early morning and are seen soaring or perched along the roadside on telephone poles. Their diet is of small mammals such as rodents and rabbits, sometimes snakes and birds.

Rough-legged Hawk
Rough-legged Hawks are the only Ontario hawks to have feathered legs all the way down to their toes. The plumage of males and females look quite different. They prefer open areas, marshes and fields, where they can hunt small mammals. Spend their winters in Southern Ontario and have a migratory range to Northern Ontario and northern Canada each year to breed.

Red-shoulder Hawk
The Red-shouldered Hawk breeds only in Southern Ontario. Their diet consists of small mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and occasionally birds. Red-shouldered Hawks are known for their loud and distinctive calls, often heard echoing through the forests. Red-shouldered Hawks live and nest in wooded areas and forests. They will often re-use the same nest year after year.

Sharp-skinned Hawk
The Sharp-shinned Hawk is the smallest hawk in Ontario, with a breeding range in most of Ontario. Though in Southern Ontario they can be found year-round. Sharpies migrate north to Canada and Alaska to breed each year, and south to Central America in the winter time. They are commonly seen stalking backyard feeders, preying on small birds and other small animals.


What is the difference between Hawks and Falcons?
Falcons are slender and generally smaller than Hawks. A falcon's head is short and rounded whereas a hawk's is pointier. Hawks are more wide-spead and there are twice as many species of Hawks in Ontario than Falcons. Falcons have a notch or "tooth" at the tip of their beaks to kill prey where- as Hawks use their talons. Hawks hunt larger animals were Falcons primarily prey on other birds. Falcons are faster and can reach speeds of up to 320 km/h. Hawks also live almost twice as long as Falcons.


Falcons of Ontario

Falcons are incredible birds of prey that are known for their speed and exceptional hunting abilities. Nothing on the planet is faster than a Peregrine Falcon have been recorded at speeds up to 320 km/h (200 mph). Falcons have a notch or "tooth" at the tip of their beaks to sever the neck of their prey to kill prey. They primarily hunt other birds.

Peregrine Falcon
Peregrine Falcons can be found everywhere in Ontario. Because of their fondness of nesting on the sides of tall buildings, these falcons are common in cities. There is little color differentiation amongst individual birds and sexes. females are larger than males. They primarily eat other birds including ducks, gulls, pigeons, and songbirds.

American Kestrel
The American Kestrel is the smallest falcon in Ontario and is roughly the size of an American Robin. American Kestrels falcons males and females look different. Alternate name, the Sparrow Hawk. They will take birds of that size right out of the air. To catch prey they will hover in the breeze from a relatively low height. Diet includes insects, invertebrates, small rodents, and birds.

Merlin Falcon
Merlin are small and are widespread across Ontario. They are not that common to observe. Habitat includes shrublands, grasslands, boreal forests, parks, cemeteries, coastal areas, and near rivers. Merlin migrate and move around. Mated pairs can work cooperatively, with one driving prey right into the claws of their partner. Merlin diet includes smaller birds sparrows, larks, pigion and insects, bats, voles, reptiles. They reuse other birds’ abandoned nest.

The Gyrfalcon, also known as the Gyr, is the largest falcon in Ontario. Birds of the Arctic, and breed on the sides of cliffs in Northern Canada and Alaska. Gyrfalcons range in colour from almost entirely white to very dark. Males and females show no color differences. Females are larger and bulkier than males. They migrate south to Ontario from the high Arctic. Diet include hares, squirrels, young foxes, lemmings, songbirds, shorebirds, seabirds, waterfowl, and even other raptors.

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