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Harriers - Kites - Hawks 

Hawks is a term that has been used to describe a variety of birds including the broad-winged birds of prey and the short-winged true hawks.


The broad-winged birds of prey that are sometimes lumped into the hawk group and are found in Illinois are the Harriers and Kites. 



Harriers have long slender wings, a long tail, and long legs.  They have a pronounced facial ruff which helps them to hear and locate prey  in the long grass and reeds where they hunt.  They mostly hunt in marshes and wetland regions.  Their prey consisits of wading birds, small mammals, amphibians, reptiles and large insects.  Their quarter their hunting territory  with long gliding flights to which their wings are suited.  Their long legs hang low during these flights so they can quickly grab their prey by surprise. There are 13 species of Harrier.  The only one found in Illinois is the Northern Harrier, also knows as the Marsh Hawk or Hen Harrier.


Click on the picture below to learn more about the Northern Harrier

Kites are thought to be the oldest of the diurnal (awake during the day) birds from which all others evolved.  They are the least predatory of the birds of prey.   They feed mostly on carrion and invertebrates (snails, slugs, earthworms, and insects).  They do occasionally hunt but it's only on the very young or injured.  Soaring and low level gliding, followed by very fast, agile swoops are the main techniques of predation.  There are 19 different species in the kite family but only one of them is naturally found in Illinois, the Mississippi Kite. 


Click on the picture below to learn more about Mississippi Kite

True Hawks

This group has 61 species.  47 of these species belong in the Accipiter family.  7 of these species can be found in IL.  "Most of the Accipters are woodland or scrubland hunting birds.  Their short, borad, stong wings are suited to dashing between trees with great acceleration.  Their long tails help them to change direction quicly to follow their prey as they dart between the trees."  - Birds, Capturing the Wild Spirt of These Birds of Prey - Paul D Frost

The true hawks that can be found in Illinois include:

Red-Tailed Hawk                Broad-Winged Hawk                Red-Shouldered Hawk                Cooper's Hawk                Sharp-Shinned Hawk

  Northern Goshhawk                                                             Swainson's Hawk  

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